The Trouble With Being Nice

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

A few years back I was advised by a mentor to toughen up, to challenge people more. It was hard news to take, being a life-long consensus builder and a recovering people-pleaser. I liked being nice. I like to be liked. But in business, or in any leadership capacity, we are not called so much to be nice, but to move a team forward to some greater end. Which inevitably means that you will find yourself dealing with some not-so-nice situations, like sticking to an opinion in the face of outright criticism and dissent. Or confronting unethical and destructive behavior. Or firing poor performers. In a word, leadership requires conviction - a sense of doing the right thing, which trumps niceness. HCB Blogger Andrew Turner posted a very provocative piece last week on this subject, entitled "Negative Niceness." Here he turns a presumptive Christian attitude on its ear, suggesting that being real far outweighs one's determination to being nice.

Nice just doesn’t cut it. It’s like off-brand kindness bought used at a secondhand store. Nice is weak, nice is shiny, nice is soft, nice is nasty. Nice in leadership is toxic. Nice guys do, indeed, finish last. Why? Because nice isn’t genuine. People want your will and your thoughts presented boldly, not some waffling thing. People want real kindness, not some sort of weird civility. People want YOU, not some fake copy that you figure you need to put on to be accepted.

These are bold words that cut right through our comfy Christian terrycloth robes and get to the heart of leadership and authenticity. Andrew draws my attention to the subtle distinction between the truthfulness of being kind, and the exhausting calculus of pretence required in being nice. He sums it up well with this parting thought.

“In the end, being “nice” is rude. It’s a lie told to a large audience. Even children can see through it.

Have you ever been taken to task for being too nice? Does Jesus want us to be nice?