On Being Too Nice

Updated: May 10

We all know that person who is oh so nice to everyone and everything. Here's why too much of that can be a problem.




First, let us talk about a concept called being too agreeable. Notice that i include “too” in the previous sentence because being agreeable is a good thing but being too agreeable can be a bad thing, a very bad thing.


What is being too agreeable? Like you guessed its essentially in simple terms being a yes (wo) man. Pretty much having no opinion that is contrary to a group.

Oh she’s such a nice woman, doesn’t cause trouble, she’ll make a great wife and mother
“That one? “She’s so troublesome, i wonder who will marry her”.

Yup. Being agreeable is rewarded for women so quite naturally women grow up aligning with this. Additionally, there’s also the fact that we live in a society that associates disagreement with disrespect which makes this even worse. Ever tried to argue with that uncle? - “This your daughter is rude, look at how she is talking to her elders


Nobody is saying being nice is a bad thing, no. But being too agreeable does not help you or your organization because you have essentially traded your potentially great ideas for groupthink. You've also traded an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Agreed, “there is a right way to be right” and being too disagreeable is a bad thing too- we all don't like that person who disagrees with EVERYTHING. I’ve approached this in my journey by being deliberate and learning how to disagree.


Yes, there is an art to effective disagreement. I will admit that It is difficult to do this when your society antagonizes angry/assertive women and accepts sad/agreeable women it becomes hard, very hard.


This excerpt from Fortune Broadsheet Newsletter (sign up for the newsletter here, Thanks for sharing this newsletter with me Modupe) captures it perfectly.


This isn't a problem for just women, it is for men too. Men also suffer because being agreeable is a trait that people associate with being “weak” for men and consequently they are punished for it. We all know that funny saying "nice guys always carry last". Yup. That's a stereotype.


Not all conflict is bad


There is a concept called “creative abrasion” which works on the principle that teams with diversity give more rounded quality inputs and outputs compared with teams that are all similar in thinking. For differing views to settle on a ground that works for the whole - there will be (constructive) conflict which results in compromise. So this is how i approach conflict, it is good when constructive so it isn’t always bad. There is this saying i like - "you cannot gently lead a revolution"


Decide your Non-Negotiables, Be open to Compromise


When disagreeing on something it is important to be open to reaching a compromise. To reach a compromise that works for both parties, decide early on what is a non-negotiable for you and stick with making sure you get that while being open to concessions in other areas.


Offer an Alternative Solution


Nobody likes that person who disagrees for the sake of disagreeing. Don’t be that person. To make it constructive, as you disagree try to give alternative suggestions or solutions that improve the lapse in the previous judgement. This improves the credibility of your overall proposition and makes your argument harder to refuse.


Make Sure It’s Actually Effective


There’s an odd tendency for people to disagree and get agreement in the moment and there’s no follow up. Don’t get lost in this and spot it early. This personally infuriates me. Always ask and push for a follow up conversation/action that solidifies the new position if need be. Let there be actual change. That’s the only way your disagreement has yielded some fruit.


Read this World Economic Forum Article about the #metoo movement and the hashtag. This article clearly highlights how that hashtag is a very important step to beginning the conversation but how effecting actual change takes much more than a hashtag.


It’s a Muscle, keep using it.


That which we do not know to do, we learn by doing - This quote has guided me through a lot and i will end this post with it. Just as we as women have had to develop being too agreeable over time and now it’s an unfortunate muscle, we need to counter this by developing our disagreement muscle by disagreeing when we disagree and agreeing when we agree.


And remember, "NO" is a complete sentence. Sometimes you don't have to justify, explain, compromise, consider, or assess. No is enough.


Till next time.


Love,

Maria


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