“Such a nice young man.”
“She’s such a nice lady.”
I get concerned if I hear myself being described as a “nice lady.” Preferable adjectives (for those interested) include: agreeable, friendly, cheerful, funny, intelligent and positive. “Quirky” is also acceptable.
“Nice” officially means “pleasing, agreeable, delightful”. Sounds good, right?
The problem is, unofficially, “nice” means “pleasing, undemanding, will agree to anything.”
Being consistently positive and seeing the upside potential is a more powerful skill worth cultivating….meaning for most humans (unlike dogs), it doesn’t come easily. It’s much more natural to see how things can go wrong, to see the mistakes in logic and to complain about it.
But being positive doesn’t mean you have to be so nice (aka pleasing others) all the time. You can be firm, calm, clear… you can ask for things politely, request upgrades and water without ice….all without being nice.
Too much niceness can get you overcommitted, abused and resentful.
Moving down from niceness on the spectrum of adjectives….there are negative emotions. You might think negative emotions are to be avoided always. Not so.
Negative emotions can be useful.
For example, the feelings of frustration or anger have moved many people to take courageous action. And
You do not have to be nice all the time to be a positive (or good) person. (Even if you’re 100% Southern!)
For example, tact can be much more powerful than nice.
“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”
– Winston Churchill
Negative emotions have their place. Being fed up with the status quo invites all kinds of challenges that can disrupt an industry.
: It was the feeling frustrated with the lack of affordable hotel rooms during a conference that led to Airbnb.
: A lot of local breweries started with being people feeling tired of the big-brand beers.
: It was fatigue, irritation and major frustration that led Rosa Parks NOT to give up her bus seat on that day, fueling the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
: It was being highly annoyed with needlessly boring conversations (presentations and meetings) that compelled me to create the Mixonian.
Negative emotions have their proper place.
Negative emotions can help drive persistence, commitment and focus.
(Here is a piece specific to feelings of jealousy.)
On the other side, positive emotions help stimulate cognitive flexibility, creativity and the ability to see new kinds of connections.
We need both. But we need to be in the driver’s seat in managing emotions, NOT being led by them. That’s the whole value behind emotional intelligence training.
This is how you make emotional intel work for YOU:
- To be proactive in deciding how you WANT to feel and acting accordingly
- To be resilient and bounce back quickly after disappointment
- To assume the appropriate emotional state (feeling) when delivering a key message
Emotional Intel Hack: Decide in advance what feeling state will best serve you per the context. Maybe you need to be calm in the meeting with the board, energetic when chatting with your team and relaxed when you get home.
Then ask yourself: What do I need to do to get myself to feel this way?
Your tools for supporting an emotional state are:
- Deciding you want to feel a certain way and not just any which way
- Assuming a body position that supports your decision (Check out 15 Body Language Blunders)
- Getting enough sleep/nutrition to have the energy you need
- Filtering out messages and conversations that can derail your plan
- Taking time out as needed.
If you’re feeling dreary at work and want to change your emotional state to feel more positive, this is for you.
Emotional intelligence is never about being nice all the time. Emotional intelligence is leveraging our emotions and those of the people around us to achieve positive outcomes and solve problems.