“You are too nice to succeed on your own.” An attorney friend told me this when I first started my law practice.
I overvalued the criticism — at times trying to be something I wasn’t. The clothes didn’t fit well when I played the role of a stubbornly cold or aggressive attorney.
I assumed that my non-confrontational demeanor would limit me in the business world.
I’ve found this to be categorically untrue throughout my journey.
I contemplated what being nice truly meant for me?
Personally, being nice nets out to the following:
- Being a great listener (ideal for sales and spotting issues)
- Being a consensus builder (perfect for valuing trade-offs)
- Putting people at ease (valuable in tense negotiations and when people underestimate you)
After ten years in my law practice, here is what I’ve learned:
- There is no “one path” to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
- The more I’ve leaned into being myself and turned up the associated qualities, the more successful I’ve become in my practice.
- Being nice is not the same as being weak. In fact, being nice is being confident and helpful, whereas being weak is unsure and self-serving.
Indeed, there are downsides to being too optimistic and nice. However, I’ve found ways to mitigate these issues. For example, I tend to trust people and give them the benefit of the doubt but I always verify facts and information before vouching for someone or working on behalf of them. Also, I’ve learned how to say “no” in situations where I don’t feel 100% comfortable.
Forging the Path Ahead
If you are a young attorney and someone tells you you are too this or too that, don’t take it personally. Instead, use it as a teaching moment for yourself. Draw out and lean into the strengths from your best attributes and mitigate the downsides.
If you are a doctor, keep in mind that nice qualities help your patients feel at ease. Your positivity can empower and encourage them to put your recommendations into practice outside the office.
Remember that your success as a business professional will likely be paved by harnessing, not shying away from, who you are as a person. So keep on the road less traveled and be unabashedly you.