Published:
Author:

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

Once upon a time, when biology was still a magical mystery, here’s how boys and girls were made:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails
That's what little boys are made of
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And all things nice
That's what little girls are made of

I can’t speak for all women but the idea of being made of sugar and spice is definitely preferred to snips and snails. However, it comes with the implication that being “nice” is a requirement for women.

From a young age, women are conditioned to believe that being ‘nice’ is of the utmost importance. I remember my dad scolding eight year old me when I refused to hug a baby cousin, who at the time looked suspiciously close to projectile vomiting. He said I was a disappointment for making the family “look bad” in front of others. All because I didn’t want to do something that made me uncomfortable.

Women must be nice, lest they accidentally offend. Our intuition on safety or comfort should be a secondary concern to the ego of others. This is the message that gets reiterated to every child during these moments.

Persuasion predators rely on this conditioned behaviour to lure their victims, says security expert Gavin De Becker. His book, ‘The Gift of Fear’, talks about how so many women have lost touch with their intuitions because of a desire to appear nice, not to appear bitchy.

The guilt and fear experienced by that eight year old version of me lives on. I recently had lunch with an acquaintance and afterwards felt a rush of guilt because I was worried I hadn’t been “nice enough” to them.

The saw cuts both ways and being perceived as ‘too nice’ comes with its own set of problems, particularly in a professional environment. I’m constantly bombarded with articles shared on LinkedIn about the key differences between a boss and a leader. But when women display those characteristics - they get labelled as “too nice”

A high ranking Director at a multinational corporation told me that her superior said she was “too nice” and that it would hinder her progress. But when she took that criticism on board and changed her behaviour, the same superior told her she looked angry and was suddenly very “concerned” about her wellbeing. Naiya Khushlani (probably one of the loveliest humans alive) says, “Yep. I’ve been told, more than once by friends (mostly male), that if I want to grow into a management role at work, I need to stop being ‘too nice’. I need to be tougher, more crude, or else I wouldn’t be able to rise to the position of CEO one day”

Another lady revealed that during an interview, her potential employer voiced concerns about her being ‘too nice’ to adequately carry out the role. This was a role that involved maintaining internal and external relationships for the smooth running of the organisation. Was it honey or vinegar that caught more flies? I can never remember….

Many of our ‘Too Much of a Person’ participants have also shared similar experiences - coming soon!

You’re conditioned to “be nice” and then get reprimanded for it as an adult/professional.

Essentially, niceness is a trap.

All of these women excel at their jobs. Their ability to empathise and be ‘too nice’ makes them the kind of person that you would want as a colleague, manager and leader. These are the kind of people that make the office environment a more pleasant space to spend time in.

To those of you who get told you’re too nice, thank you for being a ray of hope for humanity. We need more people like you in this world. More empathy and kindness from world leaders could solve a LOT of existing global crises. Your “too nice” is your power, let it shine.