Posted on September 7, 2016
Niceness Recovery Step 4: Break the Nod-and-Smile Habit
Have you ever found yourself nodding non-stop with a fixed smile on your face while someone is berating or belittling you, fast-talking you to do something you don’t want to do, or having fun at your expense?
I call it “bobbleheading.”
Bobbleheads are those little statues with big heads moving up and down on top of their little bodies. They’re often caricatures of famous people. You’ve probably seen some of them this election season.
Bobbleheading is often a nice person’s first reaction to uncomfortable social situations with not-nice people. Nice folks go beyond the “fight or flight” response to “freeze and fawn.” If you paint on a plastic smile, nod, and act pleasant, the conflict will go away and life will be filled with harmony and happiness, right?
Not really. it just reinforces you’re still playing “N.I.C.E.” (Remember the acronym from an earlier post: nodding, invisible, compliant, exhausted.) It’s time to proceed to Niceness Recovery Step #4: Break the nod-and-smile habit. (For the first three steps in Niceness Recovery, read this earlier post.)
I faced my bobbleheading when a friend sideswiped me with unwarranted criticism. I started nodding and planning my escape. But this person was too important to freeze out and place on my “not-safe” list. Which meant scheduling a face-to-face to find out what the heck happened and to express the feelings hidden behind my nod-and-smile mask. I had to write it all down, pray, and practice. When we met, I stuttered and turned to my “cheat” sheet, but I expressed honestly how she’d impacted me. She heard me, asked good questions, and apologized. It was hard but worth it.
I’m trying to break my bobblehead habit. I still brain-freeze when cornered by confident, confrontational people with lots of words. But at least I try not to look like I agree with them. I have to give myself time to pause, process, and pray but, instead of shutting down, I’m learning to stand firm and speak up.
It’s still hard. It’s still worth it.
Because I don’t want end up a caricature of myself, a nodding mask of blandness. I want to be real. I want to be known. The goal of this not-nice yearlong adventure is not to turn nasty but to embrace courage and freedom.
In Galatians, Paul writes to Christians, who out of fear and confusion and peer pressure, were retreating to unneeded religious rules. Paul writes to my fellow bobbleheads:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
If I allow the opinion of others to enslave me, Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. (The Message) The only yoke I need is the one Christ promises is easy and light. A gentle neck brace reminding a recovering bobblehead to nod no longer.
As I wrote this, I thought, what if I’m the only bobbleheader out there? That’d be embarrassing. If you have ever bobbleheaded, how did you stop? I can use all the ideas out there.