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How to confront your wife about small issues if you’re a Nice Guy [The Integrity Army]

 

This video is a sample from The Integrity Army group coaching led by Dan Munro. It showcases live 1:1 coaching of a man with Nice Guy Syndrome (sometimes known as People pleasing syndrome) – Andrew – who struggles to confront his wife and other people even when he feels safe about their reaction, but especially when he’s worried that confronting people will get a bad reaction.

In this session, we dive into why wanting to stop someone getting too emotional when confronting them creates a lot of anxiety for Nice Guys and people pleasers, and leads to avoiding confrontation and fear of conflict. We especially focus on how to build courage and how to have successful confrontations while also letting go of the outcomes.


 

To build a stronger relationship with your partner, talk to Dan about coaching

dan@brojo.org

 


Full transcript:

Dan Munro 

Andrew, you’re up first mate. So if you can unmute yourself

 

Andrew G 

Hello. I’m appearing here twice because I’ve got my laptop, so I can fight in the chat that my phone is a bit more reliable sound wise. As to why I’m there twice.

 

Dan Munro 

Makes me feel like this more people on the call. It’s good for me. Yeah. Cool.

 

Andrew G 

Shall we get into what I’ve chosen as my topic?

 

Dan Munro 

Please do. Yeah, let’s dive straight in.

 

Andrew G 

Okay, so I’ve sort of narrowed it down to this and I hope that I’ve worded it okay, I’m getting over my reluctance to engage in discussions that either could get uncomfortable and could result in conflict, aggression, discomfort. But some reluctance to engage, especially, I mean, especially if it’s already an aggressive or conflict situation.

 

Dan Munro 

All right. So we’ve got the idea of anticipating that it might be a conflict or very certain evidence that it already is one or perhaps you know the person well enough to know, how are they’re likely to respond.

 

Andrew G 

Yes, especially if someone’s spoken into me in a certain manner that I feel is not really kind.

 

Dan Munro 

Cool. All right. So we’ll oversimplify that as, perhaps, fear of confrontation. So I will ask, just to clarify, if you were to confront someone that for whatever reason you assumed is going to respond rationally and calmly, even though you’re being say assertive or setting a boundary, you’re giving them critical feedback, would the same fear come up? Or is this really about the people who you can’t predict?

 

Andrew G 

Yeah it actually is that even when I know that it’s not going to result in aggression or conflict. For example, if someone’s wearing a piece of clothing of mine, I don’t feel comfortable saying I don’t think you realize but that’s my hat that you’re wearing, it looks like yours, but it’s actually mine. That sort of thing is also on the radar.

 

Dan Munro 

Good, I’m glad I asked. Because that’s a significant point. Right? There’s the fear of other people’s reactions, which most people are kind of, it’s obvious why we might be afraid of that, from an uncomfortable awkward moment through to outright violence. But actually being afraid of just standing up for yourself with no negative response on the other side, that alone itself, giving you a fear response. Way more common than people even think about. Right. And I want to hold on to that, because I think that’s going to show us that your fear lies within you asserting yourself on it’s own. Other people having a bad reaction is on top of that. There’s already an underlying theme of you just saying, This is my, it’s my hat. Right? Even if the other person is gonna be fine with you saying that. Alright, so like I said, this is the shortest path coaching. So we’ve got the issue. What’s the goal? So if this issue is solved, you know, what does that mean for you? Where do you end up?

It will mean that I am able or I don’t have, I don’t have a fear of any engagement, even if it is going to result in considerable aggression. So the goal is going to be the I’m going to be able to set the main pain boundary or the outcome, I think.

 

Dan Munro 

Okay. The fact that you’re not entirely clear on the goal is probably part of this issue. What I’m hearing is there’s a so again, already into one of the reasons I think why this fear is coming up for you, in the goal there is some attachment to the outcome. So there is definitely a I’ll get a result that I want from the person not just that I’ll serve myself, but that it will go the way I prefer it to go.

I’m gonna say no, that’s me falling back or staying in comfort. But I would like to be able to engage in interactions, shall we say? No matter what the outcome.

 

Dan Munro 

Good.

 

Andrew G 

Does that sound right?

 

Dan Munro 

I think it’s important. Yeah, I think it’s…

 

Andrew G 

What I need to do is not be afraid of people disagreeing with me.

 

Dan Munro 

Okay, we’re getting closer to an outcome or, sorry, a goal that’s within your realm of power here. Okay? One of the reasons I wanted you to clarify that because if your goal is about the result in any way, the other person’s reaction in any way, you automatically lose power, which is one of the reasons we have fear. Fear comes up to say, don’t bother doing that, you can’t! Right? When you walk towards the edge of a cliff to jump off and fly, your body starts shutting down because it knows that you’re being stupid, that you can’t win this one. So when your goal is to control something that isn’t really yours to control, and deep down you know that, even if you’ve had some luck in the past, automatically a fear response or an anxiety response comes up. One of the ways for you guys to like help understand anxiety is it might be trying to tell you that you’re focused on something you can’t control. Very rare for anxiety to come up when you focus on something that you can do something about easily. Right? So often it’s the goal that gives us anxiety not all the situation, the situation’s fine if we didn’t have that goal, right? Being stuck in traffic is fine, if you don’t want the traffic to move freely. If you don’t mind being late, right? If you want to get there early, and you’re already running late, you’re gonna get anxiety because you can’t control the traffic. So the fear of standing up for yourself and the added sort of icing layer of fear of them having a very uncomfortable reaction. And then we’ve got the goal of you being able to assert yourself no matter how they respond, no matter how you know they’re going to respond or anticipate it, can’t anticipate it. But without fear. That’s actually not under your control. And what I mean by that is, surely with practice of anything, you can become less afraid, just from exposure therapy, but the idea that you will one day be completely fearless about confrontation. Not only is that not yours to control, it might not actually be a good idea. Maybe we should be a little bit vigilant when having a confrontation, a little bit concerned about possibilities when coming at someone assertively who may have an unpredictable reaction, maybe that’s a good time to have just a little bit of fear, right. So let me ask you this. Is being fearless a reasonable goal? Or is there something else that you can control better?

No, I think that being courageous is a better goal.

 

Dan Munro 

Okay,

To be able to feel fear and not have that shut everything down.

 

Dan Munro 

So what’s the difference between fearless and courageous?

Well, if you’re fearless you don’t feel fear, you don’t have an attachment, it’s not that you don’t have an attachment to outcome but you like I guess, essentially it means that you’re not being, you’re not challenged. Like that would mean that I’m not challenging myself at all. To have courage mean there’s uncertainty about whatever situation, whether it be you know, starting a new job, leaving an existing job, talking to a boss, talking to a partner. And in having that, you know, what if it doesn’t go well, and being able to actually still let go of that and go into into the situation to actually engage and I guess grow. Otherwise, I’ll just stagnate and go backwards.

 

Dan Munro 

So courageous is quite different to fearless isn’t it? Fearless, there’s no sense of challenge whatsoever. It’s comfortable. Courageous is actually moving in spite of an urge to not move, doing something even though you’re, you know, deeply concerned about how that’s going to play out.

 

Andrew G 

Yup that’s rings

 

Dan Munro 

The reason I got you to clarify that is because I think one of the problems is that underlying your fear of confrontation is not so much confrontations are scary, they are. They should be, right. The problem is you’re waiting to not feel fear. You’re assuming that that’s a prerequisite before you can act. Like bravery is the absence of fear, the absence of uncomfortable anticipated emotions or present emotions. And it’s like you’re sitting around like, OK once this feeling goes away, then I could speak up. How do I get rid of this feeling? But do you actually need to get rid of the feeling to be able to move? Does it stop you?

I’ll say I shouldn’t have to. But at the moment, it seems to be preventing me with dialogue about don’t rock the boat.

 

Dan Munro 

The voice says don’t rock the boat. And I’m assuming you have physiological maybe tension or heat or basically uncomfortable feelings.

Yeah, yeah. But I don’t know, whenever anyone says how do you feel in your body in any situation where they’re asking that it ends up being like a knot in my stomach. The main sensation, the feeling that I have.

 

Dan Munro 

So you got a knot in your stomach, a voice saying don’t rock the boat, or words to that effect. Maybe projections of this going back, like imagined disasters and so on in your head. But how does that stop your exactly? And how does that prevent you from moving?

Can I say I don’t know? I’m trying to understand the mechanism of preventing me, all I know is that that comes up and it’s just: can’t do it!

 

Dan Munro 

Well, what it sounds like

 

Andrew G 

Don’t know why?

 

Dan Munro 

You know what it sounds like? And I’m basing this on more than just our conversation, I’ve had this kind of conversation with hundreds of people. Is that the voice and feeling comes up, it feels like a command and you obey the command. But it’s not actually a physical force stopping you, you must obey the command for it to fully stop you.

Okay, but that makes sense. But I’m still no closer to answering the question as to how it actually does it.

 

Dan Munro 

Maybe it’s like a magic trick. Maybe it doesn’t stop you but you stop yourself.

 

Andrew G 

Yeah.

 

Dan Munro 

It’s like, if you imagine you’re coming up to a, let’s say you’re driving up to a intersection and somebody on the side of the road puts their hand up like that. And you stop the car. Did their hand stop you?

 

Andrew G 

No

 

Dan Munro 

Then why did you stop?

It would be because they will assuming that person’s probably wearing a policeman’s uniform or something because if a normal person that to be honest, I’d just go straight by them, so definitely been you know, the perceived authority. This person has a reason to be saying stop and therefore I will adhere to social convention and stop when it that person tells me to.

 

Dan Munro 

Perceived authority. I couldn’t have put it better. You’d only stop if you think you’re supposed to stop for this person, if they have what you give them authority. So a normal person could dress as a police officer. They have no legal authority but if you believe they’re one you’ll stop… and then you’ll probably get carjacked. So you have to believe that this is an authority figure that you have to obey. And that is exactly what you’re doing with the voice and the knot in your stomach. You’re treating it like a police officer. It doesn’t actually stop you. I have almost no doubt you were nervous to get on this call. There were some fear sensations about getting on this call today. So how come you’re able to do it? Why didn’t you stop?

Because this is a good opportunity to do something that a small thing but actually it’s a really big thing for me. But like I sent in that email to you I think I said: excited and terrified at the same time and I mean to be honest, my coffee is only just kicking in, it’s 6 in the morning you here anad I didn’t sleep much last night but it was just I was just on autopilot. Get up get on the call.

 

Dan Munro 

Terrified, you’ve been anticipating it. You’re physically at a low… still able to do it

I guess another thing is that I don’t have a fear of you

 

Dan Munro 

I don’t that if that’s an insult or a compliment?

Well, in terms of this is the kind of call, you won’t start ripping into me, you’re not going to embarrass me and ridicule me and hurt my ego.

 

Dan Munro 

Except you don’t actually know that. You told yourself that and you believe it. You happen to be right. But who knows, I could do it by accident. You took that risk anyway. You told yourself a different story about getting on this call than you tell yourself about asking the person to give you your hat back. And that is the only difference. The sensations were the same. The stakes were the same, the potential risk was the same. In fact, you’re on a group coaching call that’s being recorded. If I’m a bad person, I can do a lot more harm to you than the guy wearing your hat. You took that risk anyway. The idea that you lack courage is actually a bullshit story you tell yourself, disproven by the very fact that you’re here right now. If you really were the coward you think you are, I wouldn’t be talking to you. This would be too difficult. You think this is a “how to” problem. If it was a how to problem then you wouldn’t be here because you wouldn’t to figure out how to get on this call. Okay. So the answers are all there, you actually do know how to do this. What we have is a transfer problem. For some reason, when you get into another situation, you think it’s different to this and you react differently. You behave differently. It’s a little lie you tell yourself when you go to confront your partner about whatever it is, you tell yourself that’s different to getting on a group coaching call with Dan, when it’s actually not. There was a key difference. You said you were terrified and excited about this call. In other situations, you’re just terrified or anxious shall we say.

 

Andrew G 

Yeah.

 

Dan Munro 

Because you got something you want to get out of this call, right? You’re here with a goal, you’re here with value, you know, this is important to you. But you’re not looking at confrontations as the same opportunity.

Yeah very true. And this is the source of constant, frequent annoyance to my partner because she doesn’t love conflict but she loves I guess courageous conversations. Not stuffing around. And then when we try to have one I jut sort of shut down often. Sometimes I’m able to open up and be vulnerable and other times I’ve got the sort of I guess a part of me that thinks that sees her as a protector. Like a coddling mother protecting a little baby, except I’m not a little baby anymore.

 

Dan Munro 

Well, you got as somebody dressed up like a police officer with their hand up. But they’re not a police officer. They’re not really your mother. It’s just nonsense in your head. You will get more out of standing up for yourself in one of those situations you usually don’t than you will out of this call. So maybe that’s what you should be excited about. I mean, your wife has literally told you it would be good for our relationship so you can actually get an external win. I’m not even talking about the internal stuff, which is actually the important shit. Tell me if you did stand up, even if it was shaky and nervous and didn’t go the way you wanted but you finally stood up when you usually didn’t and you did it by conscious decision like, this is it I’m gonna go for it. How would you feel about yourself after that?

 

 

On the occasions that I’ve done it, Yeah, it feels that it’s empowering.

 

Dan Munro 

Is that a good reason to do?

 

Andrew G 

Well, yeah, because it means that I gain a shred of self respect.

 

Dan Munro 

So imagine if you gained a shred couple of times every day. Imagine what those shreds would add up to

 

Andrew G 

yeah

 

Dan Munro 

What’s worse? Pushing through the discomfort to have a shaky confrontation with someone, or how you feel about not doing that enough?

 

 

Hang on was it, which is better or which is worse?

 

Dan Munro 

Which is worse.

 

Dan Munro 

Which is worse?

 

Andrew G 

Oh doubtedly the feeling of not having addressed something, especially if it’s a recurring thing that is actually of no relevance whatsoever to the other person. It would potentially enable that behavior to stop or, Okay, I acknowledge it, but I’m not going to change it. But at least the conversations been had. Rather than having it brewing away in my head.

 

Dan Munro 

You have to let go that the conversation will have any effect on the other person. That’s the bit that ruins this for you. When that goal gets mixed up with the values based goal of you fucking being able to look yourself in the mirror and go, Fuck I did it today. Thank God, right? That’s the real reason to do this, the shit that you can control, the shit it doesn’t matter how they react, in fact the worst they react, the more points you get for having handled it, you know, for putting yourself in that situation. Basically, yeah, that’s how it works with confrontations, the worst it goes, the more bravery points you get. You can can almost end up hoping it’s a blowout… almost. But if you’re like, Yeah but it would be nice if it went well, you’re already fucked because those are two conflicting goals. One is about controlling yourself, the other is about controlling the other person. Soon as you think about controlling the other person, anxiety, because a lifetime’s experience has told you people are not predictable, they’re not controllable. Anyone can surprise you, anyone can shock you, and the real secret to winning confrontation is not caring if you lose.

 

 

Yeah, I’ve been there in the past after reading your book basically. I don’t know what happened but it dropped off. I guess I got attached to outcomes, again.

 

Dan Munro 

Yeah, that’s really common, iss a guy will make progress and then he’ll actually get a couple of outcomes and boom the attachment to outcomes comes back. It’s like our addiction comes back when we have a little taste of the drug you know. What you need is a constant reminder of why you’re doing this. You need to seek out confrontations that don’t even need to happen, for you. It doesn’t actually matter, you can pick the low hanging fruit, you can choose someone you know they’re going to be fine with it.

 

Andrew G 

I hear what you’re saying and it makes perfect sense but inside I’m going AHHHH

 

Dan Munro 

That’s your attachment to outcomes doing this because he knows that if you move forward with this there’s gonna be some rough times.

 

Andrew G 

Well the fact is that there are going to be anywhere regardless

 

Dan Munro 

Yes

 

Andrew G 

Well, it’s like I remember the first when was it? It was just before you left New Zealand I came along to the circle and that saying about Hard things now make for an easy life, easy decisions now make for a hard life. And it’s exactly that

 

Dan Munro 

You know I deal exclusively almost with nice guy syndrome which is really just human nature I’ve come to decide. I’m yet to meet somebody doesn’t have at least 200 of the traits but anyway, what we really struggle to accept with nice guy syndrome is that there isn’t an option that doesn’t have suffering. We hold out for that suffering free option you know,  what Glover calls the smooth problem free life. We’re just holding out like, where’s that, where’s the option where like nothing bad happens. See, we realize that you get a choice between bad and fucking horrible – those your real options. Okay, the good thing is you get to choose, it’s totally up to you which one of those you have. But horrible is the default if you don’t choose. Okay, there’s a range of horrible you know, there’s a range of unpleasant potential outcomes. And the longer you wait the least unpleasant ones start getting taken off the table, but the worst ones hang about. Until all your left with is just the worst. You ask anyone who’s procrastinated on something important what ended up as their final option when they did nothing, and it’s the shittiest thing isn’t it? Always, of all the possible things. They know they should have acted earlier. That’s always the story. So you got to understand you got two potential choices. This isn’t the third one we all confrontations go well and you feel fearless. That’s off the table and never existed. You’ve got feeling afraid, doing it anyway, sometimes getting a bad reaction and then feeling proud of yourself afterwards. And doing that a lot until your overall self respect builds to the point where this is actually fairly routine for you to do and you get good at it. That’s option one. Option two is option you’re currently living, back down, fucking loathe yourself – those are your only two options!

 

Andrew G 

Yeah, and then when backing down another layer of shit comes on top

 

Dan Munro 

Doesn’t it just? It stacks up.

 

Andrew G 

Yeah, yeah, very much. Without going into specifics, but yeah.

 

Dan Munro 

The beauty of this is this ends the second you choose even the tiniest, most small amount of discomfort conversation you can think of, and make it happen of your own accord by your own choice. You are allowed to back down after your first move. You’re allowed to quit if it gets too hard. Okay, I’ll give you full permission to bail out if it gets out of your control. Back down, pussy out, you do whatever you want after you say something. That’s it. You just have to get across the line. You have to go from zero to one, that’s it. You don’t have to go to a 10. Build up to a 10. 10 comes later okay. You don’t go into martial arts and go straight to black belt, you get a white belt and get your ass kicked a little bit right? You can go home early from the class ff people are too mean to you, it’s fine. It’s still doing a billion times more than someone who doesn’t do martial arts. I suggest choosing your partner. I suggest choosing something small, just say something, just make the other choice. You will not feel good about it. Are you okay with that?

 

Andrew G 

Yeah

 

Dan Munro 

That’s all you need to be. Your voice can change, your stomach can be in a knot, you can get your words wrong. You can get beaten in the argument, that’s all perfectly fine. That’s not a loss. Staying quiet, that’s the loss. And that’s it, you just gotta do one, then ask yourself, how do I feel about doing that? And then you decide the rest of your life after that

 

Andrew G 

I’ll just share for everyone else at the moment I’ve got this little voice going, But yeah but what what if what if What if what if? And it’s sort of Shut up! Or thank you but go away now, sit in the corner. And let me get on with this.

 

Dan Munro 

There’s two things I say that voice. I either say fuck off. Or I say let’s find out. Okay, The voice shuts up real quick if he knows that you’re going to respond with let’s find out. If it’s like what if this happens? you’re like oh good question. Let’s go see. Voice is gonna go Shit I didn’t mean do it! Fucking hell.

 

Andrew G 

okay

 

Dan Munro 

Another technique that people have found helpful, I don’t use it myself, is you can exaggerate the What if. So What if she gets angry at me? it’s like, oh, yeah, what if she actually finds a nuclear device and destroys the whole planet just because she was mad at me. And just go How many more what ifs you want to do bro? How far you want to take this? They’re all ridiculous. They’re all fictions. Have fun with it. Go as far as you like, doesn’t make a difference. None of them are true. Now understand you don’t have a how to problem. Do exactly what you did showing up for this call. Find a good reason to do it for yourself. Take a step with no obligation to go further, no obligation to win, be willing to lose. Go in as the underdog, the white belt against the black belt, prepare to get your ass kicked, go in resigned to defeat. Fuck it, defeat would be good for me. Because you might get a bit of a white swan event, it might go well, that’s nice, but it shouldn’t need to. Okay, can you follow through on that if you’ve got a specific idea that you can follow through with here?

 

Andrew G 

Yep. Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna get the… I have a closing example. There’s gonna be a complete… There’s no chance it’s going to be confrontational at all. So it’ll be Oh sorry, didn’t realise

 

Andrew G 

and yeah, I mean every day, things come up. But, yeah, can’t think of anything else in particular

 

Dan Munro 

you only need one

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