Good or Nice?

Most of you who have been clients know this story and I hope you will bear with me as I run through it once again.

Sometime in my late 20s I was sitting and complaining about my life to my Grandmother as she rocked and tended to her knitting. Eventually I ran out of breath and she stopped rocking, put her knitting in her lap, and looked at me over her half glasses.

“Edward,” she said, “you, like everyone else, needs to decide whether you are going to be a ‘good’ person or a ‘nice’ person. No one can be both.”

She resumed her rocking and knitting, leaving me to ponder what the hell that meant, until she paused once again, turned a jaundiced eye in my direction, adding,

“And by the way, Edward, you have very little potential for being a ‘nice’ person.”

Any number of our clients have failed to make the same choice that I needed to, “good” or “nice”? Pinned by wanting others to like us, and thinking we can control that, we become doormats for everyone in our personal relationships.

Yes, nice has its place. It’s what we are in our superficial relationships and, occasionally, self-protectively in professional ones as well. But “nice” has no place in our close personal relationships where it always leads to the out-of-balance problems we create and attract.

“Good,” on the other hand, is how we maintain balance and prevent others from taking advantage of us. Indeed, those who are inclined to exploit us, and others, will go looking for more vulnerable victims when you don’t prove to be the easy pickings you once were.

You might be surprised to learn that we do assertiveness training with 90% of our clients – even though virtually all of you are highly successful, and appropriately assertive, professionally. But personally? Or in family relationships? Not so much.

“Nice” is passive, really, and that leads to passive-aggressive drinking as a substitute for assertively creating a balanced relationship. “Nice” is a fear based response, the opposite of the anger based aggressive responses that are even less effective when it comes to creating the sort of intimate relationships that mitigate loneliness and isolation.

Remember, “good” is good for you and for those around you who are capable of, and interested in, a mutually satisfying relationship.

As usual, it’s your choice: nice, passive, drunkenly passive-aggressive, resentful and lonely – or good, assertive, intimate, balanced and sober? It is, after all, one or the other, and it is your choice.

Last week many of you clicked on the link to Lauren Krietsch’s article on What Happened When I Quit Drinking and we often note that in addition to her points:

Real friends stay, drinking buddies don’t (no loss that);

  • You have more money;
  • You lose weight:
  • You remember;
  • You don’t wake up feeling like, or wishing for, death (or as I phrased it, I didn’t mind the Arabs camping in my mouth overnight but I wished they’d left their camels outside).

Additionally there are a number of additional benefits as we age.

The biggest one may be that we are able to pay attention. Nothing adds to the decline of our physical, emotional, psychological, and general health as failing to pay increased attention to ourselves, our bodies, our activities, and our interests. At just when, with each passing year, we need to ramp up paying attention to all of these – and that need starts around 50 – most of us lull ourselves with another bottle instead.

Talk about a double whammy!

That’s right – we stop paying attention just as the need becomes greater, and we compound the downward spiral by sabotaging ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially by abusing alcohol.


As usual, the messages in here for all of us are pretty much the same:

  • We abuse(d) alcohol because it worked, not because we dumb, diseased, weak, or immoral, but it isn’t working for us anymore;
  • Alcohol became our coping mechanism for anything we were afraid to address, whether the realities of loneliness, boredom, aging, isolation, anxiety, etc., but now it’s time to address the causes – do so and the symptom will take care of itself;
  • It’s time to proactively manage our lives and relationships – passivity is going to kill us;
  • Life is a lot better, a lot more fun, and a lot more interesting, when we make ourselves available, we are engaged, and we are living in ways congruent with our beliefs, values, and abilities.

Isn’t it time for you to live an enhanced life instead of one diminished and demeaned by alcohol or “cults”?