Our conditioning to be nice is deep. I’m a confidence coach for women. This is exactly what I help women rewrite the script on. Yet, even after spending years rewriting the script for myself, I fell prey to it not so long ago. Why did I slip backwards into the “be nice and smile” pit? Because the other person was being nice. So, I didn’t say anything.
I had decided to invest in myself and my business. This was a big decision. I was always an “I’ll just do it myself” kind of person. But there is a benefit to using other people’s expertise, and I decided it was time for me to do that. Based on a recommendation from an acquaintance, I hired a company to build my new membership/course website.
Warning signs were there early on. For example, the owner and I had a phone meeting where it was clear that she had not taken notes during the previous discussion because she didn’t remember some very basic aspects of what I wanted to put out there via my new website. But she seemed very nice, so I didn’t say anything.
Eight or nine weeks later, when it was supposed to be time for the site to launch, she was out of town. Her team was supposed to let me know what was going on but I heard nothing for more than a day. So, I wrote to the office associate who told me they were working on it and she’d get back to me. A couple of days passed with no word. But the office worker had seemed really nice. There were lots of exclamation marks in her email!!! So, I didn’t say anything.
The following week, still no website launch. The owner was back and telling me how sorry she was. There were snags, and well, you can’t predict all the problems you might run into at launch. The site launched soon after that and I informed all my current members how they could log into the new site. But then more problems arose, and I had to tell my members “just kidding!” It was embarrassing, but the owner meant well. So, I didn’t say anything else.
The website was finally up and members could use it again. But it was riddled with bad links, and typos, and other problems. I sent a punch list to the owner who forwarded it to her office worker to deal with. You see, the web designers were no longer working on my project. They had moved on to more important things, I guess. The office worker diligently completed the punch list but didn’t seem to notice that what she changed didn’t look like the other pages on the website. She was still very nice (still rocking the exclamation marks!!!), so I didn’t say anything. I just fixed it myself.
And that “do it myself” thing continued. Instead of planning and implementing marketing strategies for the new site, I spent the following weeks fixing and updating the things that I had paid for them to complete. In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I wrote to the owner. I told her there were aspects of the site that didn’t function correctly and I didn’t know how to fix them. I told her that I felt she abandoned me before the job was done. She called and told me how sorry she was that I felt that way. She said that when the launch went so poorly, it triggered the little girl in her that wanted to run away. The coach in me was caught off-guard by this. Suddenly, we’re talking about deep shit that has nothing to do with building a website. And when the conversation was over, my abandonment resumed. She did absolutely nothing to rectify the situation. I was alone with my website again. But she had confided in me about her little girl. I mean, that’s an attempt at being real, right? So, I didn’t say anything more.
Months passed and hours upon hours of my life were spent redoing things that they had done incorrectly. I finally became so frustrated that I wrote another letter to the owner. This time, I listed all the ways they had messed up and/or not come through for me. I re-described a major way the site was not functioning properly. I detailed the hours of work that I had done to make up for what they did incorrectly. And I told her that I deserved and insisted on receiving a partial refund. She replied by saying that I absolutely got my money’s worth but that she would give me a partial refund at a “great personal sacrifice” to her.
She did send a refund and that was that. No attempts to fix what I still paid thousands of dollars for. No owning up to how she let me down. It appeared to be more important to her to avoid the discomfort of my unhappiness than to address it. And since I hadn’t spoken up loudly enough along the way, I’m pretty sure she feels like she’s the victim in this story.
So, what’s the point of sharing this? Well, I think a lot of us do this. We don’t say anything. It’s easy to recognize the need to stand up for ourselves when someone is being a douchebag. But, when they’re nice, not so much. The truth is, though, she was never nice to me. She just wore a smile as she treated me like a pile of dog shit she stepped in. Nothing is nice about that.
More importantly, though, I think lots of coaches like to pretend they never stray from what they coach. I prefer to be real. I coach confidence because I was so challenged by it in the past. And I continue to have to check myself on it. We all deal with the same cultural conditioning. We all can be fooled by a smile. The first time I didn’t say anything, it was one time too many. So, let me ask you, what are you not saying anything about right now? And are you ready to speak up?