Nice is a 4-letter word

Who wants to be described as “nice”? It’s not what you’d immediately choose. Nice means weak, mediocre, not attractive and even a bit boring. It doesn’t seem fair. Nice is… well… nice!

But does it get you promoted? Does it win contracts? Does it enhance your personal brand in your organisation?

For those of you who find “nice” occasionally tiresome, you are screaming at the screen now – it’s obvious. The answer to the universe is balance. Overdo a strength and it very quickly becomes a weakness, even an irritant.

One of the cast members on a tour of the play I have been doing recently remarked to my wife “Dave is so nice, I just wish he didn’t feel he had to solve absolutely everything!”. My children nodded sagely in agreement. The hard thing about nice is that it comes from the most conscientious of places. Its intentions are so pure, good and selfless, so when rebuffed, the pain is deep and long lasting.

If the model fits…

Luckily, for every behavioural conundrum, there will be a model that helps. My pick for this particular challenge is Ofman’s Core Quality Model.

In Ofman’s theory, a Core Quality is something you are born with – it’s effortless and colours everything you do. Of course, you’re born with both your Core Quality and your Pitfall. The Pitfall is the result of doing too much of your Core; it’s the shadow to the light of the Core. The balance is the Challenge – what you need to do to avoid your Pitfall and allow your Core to flourish.

The quadrant: a balancing act

Niceness needs to have a dose of directness – to be firm but fair – in order to be most effective. But the quadrant is cyclical… if you overdo your Challenge, it becomes your Allergy. By going overboard with the directness, you end up plain rude and unkind… which a “nice” person would detest.

Ofman describes it beautifully in this video:

Having this lens to view yourself and others through can give you real insight into where conflict begins, and can help you decode what you may perceive as “negative” feedback.

That said, if “nice” turns up in my eulogy, I’ll rest easy.

If your team could use some help getting to grips with the best way to avoid conflict and how they can effectively leverage their Core Quality, get in touch!

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David Solomon


Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training

Photo by Sean Kowal / Unsplash