Guest post by Kelly Watson of Womenwise Marketing. Read more about Kelly at the end of this post.
Generally speaking, we women excel at making other people feel comfortable. We’re nurturing. We’re good listeners. We read and respond to body language without even knowing we’re doing it.
Despite this, we’re forced to walk a fine line between being nice and being a bitch. Men—and even some women—expect us to be cooperative and agreeable at all times. And in business, this doesn’t always work.
How Being "Nice" Got Me In Trouble
A web designer, for example, once told me that he could complete an important project within 10 days. Then two weeks went by without a word. I e-mailed him, and he wrote back with a litany of excuses. One family member was sick. Another was having a baby.
“Sorry to hear about the illness,” I wrote back. “But congratulations on the new addition! Take another week on the project; just be sure to complete it by the end of the month. Thanks.”
As the end of the month neared, he e-mailed me another set of excuses. He’d been so busy. He’d had more family problems. He couldn’t have the project done for at least another week, and he was so sorry.
Did he really expect me to empathize? Probably—that’s what I had primed him to expect in my first e-mail. And it was getting me nowhere. I sent him a curt response that said the project needed to be done as soon as possible. He wrote that he would take care of it. And then he dragged things out another couple of weeks.
Stop Being Nice; Start Being Real
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson, but it’s still hard for me to stop being darn nice. I admit: I fear that the second I start making demands, I’ll be branded as a ball-breaker or a bitch. And my business has suffered because of it.
Debra Condren, author of the book Ambition is Not A Dirty Word, offers this trick for taking back power:
“For one week, pay attention to the number of times you find yourself apologizing for anything at all. It may be explicitly, or it may be built into the way you phrase a statement, or the fact that you don’t say anything at all when you should be speaking up. …
At the end of the week, conduct a tally. You may be surprised at how quickly you were willing to place yourself in a contrite, weak position.”
If you’re like me, you should tally the number of times you thank people as well. Only recently, I noticed I had the habit of thanking people, even when I was the one providing a service or favor. Have you noticed any men doing this lately? Doubt it.
Saying ‘thanks’ isn’t just a friendly close. It puts you in a humble position, hinting that you owe the person something in return. When used incorrectly, these words can leech away your power. (They can also start to sound insincere.)
So the next time you feel an urge to be too nice, remember: it’s not ball-busting to expect quality results in a timely manner. It’s not nasty to hold someone accountable for their actions.
And if someone calls you a bitch, say thanks. Because if you’re like most women, it means you’re making progress.
About Kelly Watson
As a women’s marketing consultant, Kelly Watson helps women business owners across the nation market more effectively. She recently founded WomenwiseMarketing.com, an online community that features a blog, bimonthly podcast and other free resources for women in business. Her book, titled "Womenwise Marketing: The Feminine Way To Market Your Business And Yourself," is scheduled for release in 2010. Discover more about Kelly Watson and Womenwise Marketing by visiting www.WomenwiseMarketing.com.