Are You Too Nice?


“Every woman knows that there is being nice, and being a pushover, and it is not always easy for some of us to tell which side of that line we’re on until it’s too late.”

At least a week ago at this point, I came across the headline: A Daughter Too Kind for Her Own Good on the New York Times Motherlode blog. Unlike most of the hundreds of titles I read daily – between scanning Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress feeds and my own e-mail – this caught my attention. “What do you mean ‘too kind’,” I thought. Even without reading the article, I stopped to consider how I myself might be too kind.

See, I tend to lean on being nice and making friend to get what I want. I have a pretty hard time seeing the value in “playing hardball” or whatever you want to call what I usually consider being a jerk. Behaviors like yelling, being demanding about details and persistence until I get my way just aren’t part of my style. It actually makes me pretty uncomfortable.

So today, I finally sat down and read the article I bookmarked weeks ago to address my fear that I am, in fact, too nice. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the moments I, too, was told to be nice instead of standing up for myself and how that might impact my decision making skills today; my “seat at the table” – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Like the article said, “every woman knows that there is being nice, and being a pushover.”

Not sure what the line is between nice and pushover but as I watch social media comments erupt and feedback advice pop up every day, I can’t help but think this whole “being nice” thing is a sham and it’s playing out in the workplace. We have a generation of kids out there with a pile of plastic trophies instead of tactics for being honest and saying the hard thing, even if it isn’t the popular one. How do we teach young generations the value of being nice but not being a doormat?

We have to teach them about feedback. Accepting it. Shutting up to listen for a half a second. Doing something with that information. Developing a feedback style that reflects on the person they’re giving the feedback to in the first place. Teach them that being kind is ok as long as you’re being kind to yourself first.

I doubt it will ever be perfect. Giving feedback won’t always go smoothly but it has to happen. We have to coach through the uncomfortable instead of encouraging people to be nice.

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