Are you too nice? is it holding you back?

Are you too nice? is it holding you back?

Nice is complex – so being aware of where we sit on the spectrum is key to ensuring that our ‘niceness’ doesn’t hold us back.

In 1975, Psychologist Taibi Kahler identified five ‘drivers’ that motivate us. These drivers can be a positive force for good in our interactions with others, but when we are under pressure, their influence can become too strong ‘ exaggerated to a point where they may be holding us back.

One of these drivers is ‘please me’ ‘ a desire to connect with and support others. In other words, an intention to be nice – considerate, thoughtful, and courteous. This can make us popular ‘ a great team member who works hard to create harmony and someone we can rely on to be supportive and encouraging. Sounds like someone you’d want on your side, doesn’t it? 

But then there’s the over flexed version of ‘please me’ ‘ a super-nice conflict avoider who can’t say no, can’t commit to decisions, and can’t deliver feedback. This version of the driver doesn’t serve the best interests of anyone and could be heading towards burnout. This person may also be easily silenced in meetings, experience their ideas being disregarded, and even be a person whom others take for granted – endlessly taking on the tasks that no-one else wants to do. 

So ‘nice’ is complex… there’s a spectrum and it needs close attention. Being aware of where we sit along that spectrum is key to being sure that our ‘niceness’ is not holding us back. 

Here are four actions you can take, if you feel you’re being too nice:

Self awareness – start by noticing how you feel in certain situations and around certain people. For example – are you more comfortable communicating with your team, than with senior people at work? Do you find it easy to say ‘no’ when your boss asks you to take on more work? Do you worry about what others think of you? These are all signs that your ‘Please Me’ driver might be holding you back.

Find an ally ‘ someone who will support you speaking up in meetings and make sure that your contributions are recognised and who will help you understand what ‘too nice’ looks like from another’s perspective. 

Practice saying no ‘ this doesn’t have to be blunt. You can thank the other person and acknowledge their request before you decline it. You can follow a ‘no’ with a solution or an alternative option, but get comfortable with saying ‘I need to say no’.

Spread your good news – be deliberate about letting people know what you’ve achieved, however small. You can do this by email, social media updates or by making sure you find an opportunity to update people in meetings and presentations. Don’t let your niceness keep you a secret.

Whether it’s a difficult message or self-promotion, it’s possible to be nice and still get your message across. By noticing your ‘please me’ driver, you can manage it so that it works for you.

Janie Van Hool
Janie Van Hool

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