Founder's Wall
What's so nice about "nice"?

Introduced: February 26 2015


I have wondered all my life what  makes people so nice. Strangers, I mean. Sales clerks. Servers in restaurants. People on the phone. What is that about?

Don't get me wrong. I run into people who aren't nice, too. But the vase majority are friendly and helpful. On the phone, I have a rather young-sounding voice so maybe people have the feeling I'm needy and they should step in.

When people are nice in person, I've decided it might be because the shape of my mouth makes it look like I'm smiling even when I might not be. Yes, I generally like people and I smile a lot and sometimes I consciously or unconsciously, treat people relatively well.

My mother had the same tendency to smile and had the same reaction from people. In her later years, she became paranoid about it. "Why is that woman over there smiling at me?" Well...because...

Recently, the niceness has taken on an added dimension. While going to my son's basketball game that involved a walk up a long, gradual hill to the field house, the crossing guard actually asked me if I would like to take the shuttle. "Who me?" I asked, because I walk a dog several times a day up and down all kinds if hills. Cashiers at the checkout counter are patient if I fumble in my wallet for the right bills. What is THAT about?

So as I am wondering if receiving "nice" from strangers has something to do with looking "older" - somehow translated as weaker or feebler. I came upon an artIcle about the other side of the equation: why women are expected to BE "nice" all the time. In More magazine, the February 2015 issue, Daniel (a man who grew up with a sister, which gives home some credentials) analyzed the phenomenon.

I know from my work with a women's leadership organization named AWESOME (Achhieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education) that successful women sometimes struggle with this - the double standard applied to women, that they be likable as well as strong and sure of themselves. It is sometimes a contradictory fence to straddle Because people in most kinds of businesses are more familiar with the masculine model of leadership. But some really successful and powerful women who have successfully made that journey have actually found a way to be both. And what they describe  is a combination of open-mindedness, engagement with their people, a desire to empower their people, and the determination to be authentic. One leader I talked to who had just taken on a huge job with a Fortune 500 company said in her first weeks on the job, she called a town meeting and invited everyone who worked for her. She gave a little slideshow and one of the first slides that went up on the screen was her with her husband and two daughters. "That's an important part of who I am, and I wNted people to know it." I like that kind of leadership. It takes confidence and it's...well...nice.