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  • Kirsten Blakemore

NICE (+*.*!) is a four letter word

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

I grew up to believe that being “nice” would get you places in life.  I avoided fights in elementary school, I had a good relationship with my Principle in High School and my employers all thought I’m a “nice” person.  But I recently had to question this nice thing.  I started with a company as an outsider and thought if I was nice, they would include me on projects…that didn’t happen and only recently do I understand why.

I have been working within different organizations all across a variety of industries and I hear a familiar pattern.  That is, I hear people say, “we have a nice culture.”  They would talk about how much they value being nice to people but then complain they have a passive aggressive culture too.  The more I dug into this, as it surprised me at first, the more the pattern became solidified.  On one hand they are nice, but the cost to being nice is passive aggressive behavior or worse.  So, I have been considering my own behavior and thinking, “what is nice?”  I believe in the context of what they are saying and what I have witnessed in myself, nice means “pleasing with a cost.”  In other words, I will be nice to you and in return I expect something back.  I either want for you to be nice back, have my back or some other return on the investment you deliver to me as a result of me being nice.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe kindness, respect and integrity are all worth striving for and demonstrating with self and others.  But nice, that’s a different ball game.  The next time you hear “oh they are nice,” (or some version of that) you may want to inquire as to the expectations that you have for people, if you are being nice, or that others have on you.  Better to be clear and know what you are signing up for before deciding to play nice back.

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