Nice Is Your Superpower
Being nice and being strong at work are not mutually exclusive! When you own your kindness and use it with intention, it can help vault you to the top.
When I talk about being authentically nice, I’m describing a woman who is considerate, respectful, fair, collaborative, and generous.
Don’t fake it till you make it. My definition of nice is all about doing the right thing because it feels right to you, not because of what’s in it for you.
If someone tells you that you’re “too nice,” try asking a simple follow-up question such as, “Is there a specific gap that you see?” or, “How do you think this is hurting me?”
Be Ambitious and Likeable
There is a double standard against ambitious women: the more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likeable she becomes. But it is possible to push back against this perception and become successful and well liked.
To do this, take credit for your ideas while being inclusive, step up even when you are unsure that you are a perfect fit for a job, and find ways to create opportunities for yourself that will benefit you and the company you work for.
Being nice does not mean being a people pleaser! Never sweep things under the rug simply to avoid making waves, act subservient, or put yourself down. Instead, being positive, honest, helpful, and humble will make you a naturally kind and strong leader.
Speak Up Assertively and Nicely
Failing to speak up in meetings can and will hold you back at work. Make a pact with yourself to voice a thought or opinion in every meeting you attend.
Look out for speech weakeners. Reread your sent emails to make sure you don’t say “sorry” for no reason or otherwise weaken your communication.
When you disagree with a colleague, use your natural empathy to try and see the issue from their perspective before directly and clearly voicing your opinion.
Remember, nonverbal communication is extremely important. Be cognizant of your posture, eye contact, and the amount of physical space you take up.
Keep an eye out for other women who are sitting quietly in meetings and nicely encourage them to speak up, too.
Give Feedback Directly and Kindly
Empathy can be an asset when giving feedback if you balance it with specific comments and context so the other person has a clear understanding of what needs to change and why.
When giving feedback, remember to let positive reinforcement outweigh negative criticisms. Research shows that the highest-performing teams receive six pieces of praise for every piece of criticism.
Receiving feedback is an opportunity to grow and develop—not a sign of a problem. Instead of beating yourself up for the things you haven’t done perfectly, focus on how you can truly work on improving your performance by using the feedback you have received.
Make Decisions Firmly and Collaboratively
True confidence comes from solid evidence of your previous successes, not ego. To develop evidence-based confidence, ask yourself what process you’ve used in the past to make wise choices.
Women have a unique stress response to “tend and befriend.” To make the most of this instinct, form a go-to team to run tough decisions by. These should only be people you trust, who always encourage you to be your best and to stand up for yourself. It’s also helpful to discuss decisions with people who have specific expertise and who’ve had experiences that you’re lacking.
Women are more likely to become strong leaders if they learn how to take risks and fail on the playing field. To get comfortable with risk, try taking a small risk every day or make a request that you know is likely to be met with a “no.” The more you do this, the more comfortable with and less intimidated by failure you’ll become.
When you find yourself becoming emotional at work, take a step back and think about what preceded this feeling that might have triggered you. When you become aware of those triggers, you can learn when you need to take a moment before being able to make clear decisions that are free of emotion.
To avoid over-empathizing to the detriment of your own success, when making a decision, ask yourself what you would do if all the people in your life supported your decision.
Negotiate with Strategy and Empathy
Women don’t tend to negotiate for themselves as much as their male peers. This is a major factor in the gender wage gap. Instead of accepting a first offer, never be afraid to ask for what you deserve.
In negotiations, focus on the objective and true value you add to the organization instead of all the reasons you feel you want a higher salary. Gather as much data as possible ahead of time to use as backup.
Empathy is an asset when negotiating on the job. Always try to link what you want with what the other party wants, and if you get stuck, go back to, “How can we make this work?”
It often takes creative problem solving to find a solution when facing a tough negotiation. When this happens, ask yourself, “What is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement?”
Invest in Yourself and Be a Team Player
You must find time to invest in yourself and your career. This isn’t selfish—it will also be good for the company you work for because you’ll add extra value.
Plant seeds for your future by pursuing an interest or hobby outside of work.
When networking, while it’s great to focus on relationships, try to balance this by being clear on what your “asks” are.
Commit to scheduling regular networking coffee, lunch, or drinks. Yes, this does take time, but it’s essential.
Connect the dots by pairing the skills and information you learn while investing in yourself with people in your network.
Set Boundaries and Be Caring
Before drawing boundaries, it’s important to first identify your priorities so you can make sure to devote your time to activities that are in alignment with them.
When obligations come up that fall outside of your priorities, try to respond with a clear but kind no. Or, if possible, delegate the task so you have time to focus on other priorities.
There is a sweet spot in between yes and no. When something is asked of you, think about whether or not there is a better, more efficient way for you to add value.