If you are one of the many people who get told that they are too nice, hold on a minute. Just because your line manager or mentor has said this to you doesn’t mean you should change. Why?
- Nice works. Not in all situations I grant you, but there is a lot to be said for the benefits of being nice, particularly in the longer term (check out The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler).
- They could be biased. Many managers operate on their own model of success and miss the obvious reality that what works for one person may not work for another. “Nice people” being “not so nice people” is painful. Acting contrary to your own values creates a strain on your integrity and is also hard to pull off. So, not only can it be very painful to the person pretending to be “not so nice”, but it is also painful to watch — and rather unconvincing.
- Nice does not necessarily mean soft or weak. Finding ways to set boundaries, limits and learning to be more assertive can be quite easy for nice people without betraying their integrity (take a look at Crucial Conversations, Fierce Conversations and even Difficult Conversations — I’m sure there are more, just search “conversations” on Amazon!).
- Relationships can suffer much more when nice people turn not so nice. The shock and surprise can create greater bad feeling and also feelings of guilt on the part of the perpetrator (or is that traitor?).
So, if you are told you are too nice, by all means learn to assert yourself more, but also prepare a pushback — demonstrate and argue your case for staying the way you are. Here are a few ideas…
- List examples of where “nice” won the day for you in your role.
- Find examples of the loyalty benefit you have created within your network.
- Identify other senior figures in your organisation that have a reputation for doing great work and are regarded as nice people.
- Collect examples of public figures whose modus operandi is nice.
- Counter wise, find examples of the opposite which created bad results.
- Read The Power of Nice.
And finally, go on, you make a clear decision that you are prepared to take the consequences of retaining your niceness.
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