Damn right, I’m nice.

nice

Today I’m arguing the case for being nice. Already, I hear the minds blowing and sense the distaste swillin’. “Am I on Fistful of Talent?” Yeah, you are. So, suspend all snarkiness, and let’s proceed.

During our last conversation, a female client who’s also a friend remarked, “I know that being nice is important to you.” It was as if I’d lost credibility and my bad-ass stripes. Instinctively, I rushed to verify my worthiness. “I’m not always nice.”

WTF? Why did I feel a pressing need to say I wasn’t nice, as if nice were the 21st century equivalent of Hester Prynne’s scarlet “A“?

Historically, being nice has been a tightrope that women, in particular, had to walk.

Be nice, moms told us.  But not too nice, warned female bosses.

You’re not nice. You’re a pushy bitch,from male and female colleagues.

I’m 45 and my friend’s in her 30s. Was this a case of generational difference? Is being nice something the younger women don’t think about? Or do they think about it in different terms, no less disdainfully, labeling it accommodating and lacking in boldness and ambition? While I may have considered whether being nice at work is something I could afford, my friend may not have even considered being nice.

Or was this a case of “word baggage”? Initially, the word nice meant “wanton” (fancy that) and “dissolute.” But over time, it’s come to imply you’re milquetoast, ready to roll over and expose your nether regions for the office-equivalent
of a stomach rub or scamper under the desk, tail between one’s legs, at the slightest sign of disagreement or resistance. Was I reacting negatively to this insinuation?

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to my questions, but I do know I was left with a residual anger about nice being kicked out of bed for eating crackers. And a sense that it’s time to restore nice’s reputation. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think being nice gets in the way of doing well. I think being nice makes doing well possible. Even if we stick to the most basic definition of nice—being pleasant—I’d still argue that it’s what we want and need in companies and the world at large. Nice involves no assholes. Nice saves money.  Nice connects with employees, customers, and peers. And nice
is good for the economy
. When we toss in what “nice” currently means, we have the underpinnings of great products, customer service, leadership, and company culture:

  • Exacting in requirements or standards
  • Possessing, marked by, or demanding great or
    excessive precision and delicacy
  • Well-executed
  • Respectable, polite, kind

I’m a woman on a mission. And I’m going to be nice about it. Step aside or join in.

FOT Background Check

Fran Melmed likes to write everything in lower case letters over on her other blog, free-range communication, because she finds it more aesthetically pleasing... but we took away that freedom from her on FOT because the consistency of capitilization on this blog is more aesthetically pleasing to the editor. Her blog is an offshoot of context communication consulting llc, which Fran founded to help organizations communicate better on workforce issues... imagine that. Organizations not doing a good job communicating around workforce issues...

17 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Well said! Must agree — when did being nice turn into something to be pitied? I’m joining in!

    Reply
  2. Becki says:

    Thanks for a fantastic post…one that I can pass around to all my nice co-workers.

    Reply
  3. Becky says:

    Timely post….I like it.
    Ohh..btw, CNN took a different spin today. LOL
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/03/cb.nice.guys.finish.last/index.html?hpt=Sbin

    Reply
  4. Tim Sackett says:

    Fran -
    Yeah, you’re nice, but you’re not so nice that I want to punch you when I hear your voice! You know the nice gal in the office that is so nice you feel like going postal on the whole place. The problem with nice is that it often comes off as ignorant and at best naive. But given the choice, I’d rather hang out with all the nice SOB’s on FOT anyday!
    Great Post!

    Reply
  5. Kacy Oden says:

    This post truly resonated with me!! I was actually told in a review once that I was too nice. That it would hold me back. Well being a raving bitch was not an option for me so I stuck with nice. I am 42 years old and it has served me well in my career. Thank you again for your comments and perspective! @kacyoden

    Reply
  6. Fran Melmed says:

    heather & becki, the more, the merrier.
    becky, thanks for sharing that CNN piece. it calls out all that nice has become, but, in my view, really isn’t. don’t you think you can be nice & confront difficulties and controversies at work?
    tim, as a nice SOB, you know i’m going to disagree with you, right? that nice gal in the office is obsequious, submissive, generally lacking in backbone or chutzpah. see, i’m pleasantly stating my opinion and pointing out, with precision, why you’re wrong — in other words, being nice! ;)
    kacy, yeah, i think we carve our own path and the path that works for us. like most of us, i keep the raving bitch stuff for those who have to love and live with me. poor them.
    f

    Reply
  7. Nice guys finish last . . . :)

    Reply
  8. I believe in being nice and that people respond much better to a nice person than a mean one. I would say that it is also important to not be too nice but to voice your views and be bold. I think people respect the person who kindly speaks their mind and speaks up when they have something worth sharing. I have a tendency to say what other people are thinking but feel uncomfortable sharing because it could come across as not nice. But if tactfully said, it is always appreciated greatly.

    Reply
  9. fran melmed says:

    navigating gracefully,
    great blog name. and perfect for this conversation. being nice is not keeping your opinions to yourself for fear of reprisal, of being disliked, or passed over for promotion. being nice is navigating gracefully – with respect, candor, and clarity – business challenges, cultures, and relationships.
    f

    Reply
  10. Puma Disc says:

    I really wish I would of thought of that! I Wow- I absolutely love what you did with this tart. I bet it was heaven! It is gorgeous and I can only imagine how delicious it was!

    Reply

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