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The Art of Being Nice: Balancing Kindness with Strength

Updated: May 15

The Art of Nice

Be Nice, Be Forgiving, but do not be a pushover

Kindness. It's a simple word, but it carries immense power. In a world that often feels harsh and competitive, being nice might seem like a weakness. Kindness. It's a quality we all admire, a cornerstone of healthy relationships, and yes, even a key ingredient for success.  But in our fast-paced world, a question arises: is being nice enough?  Can a relentlessly pleasant demeanor actually hold us back?  Here's where game theory, specifically the concept of Nash equilibrium, sheds some light.


The Power of Nice

Think about the people you enjoy working with. Are they the cutthroat go-getters who steamroll over everyone? Probably not. It's the collaborative, supportive individuals who create a positive work environment that foster success. Kindness fosters trust, builds strong teams, and encourages open communication – all crucial ingredients for achieving goals.


Game Theory and the Nice-Pushover Tightrope

But here's the rub: there's a fine line between being nice and being a pushover. Game theory, a branch of mathematics that studies strategic interaction, offers a fascinating perspective. Take the classic Prisoner's Dilemma, where cooperation benefits everyone, but there's always the temptation to betray.

The Nash Equilibrium

Here's where the concept of Nash equilibrium comes in. It represents a situation where everyone is acting in their perceived best interest, even if that leads to a suboptimal outcome for all. In our context, a constant pushover might attract those who exploit their good nature. This creates a dynamic where "nice" isn't rewarded, leading others to adopt a less cooperative approach.


Own Your Voice

So, how do we navigate this tightrope? We need to be assertive alongside kindness. This means clearly communicating our needs and boundaries. It's about saying "no" gracefully when something doesn't align with our goals, while still maintaining a positive and respectful demeanor.


Let's explore some strategies to develop this skill:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Be upfront about your time, workload, and what constitutes acceptable behavior.

  • Learn to Say No: It's okay to politely decline requests that overburden you or compromise your values.

  • Focus on Win-Win Solutions: Seek outcomes that benefit everyone involved.

  • Address Issues Directly: When someone oversteps a boundary, address it calmly but firmly.


Nice: "Oh, it's okay, I'll take the late shift again." (Even though you're exhausted)

Assertive: "Hey, I've been working a lot of late shifts lately. Would you be okay with taking this one?" (Communicates your needs while still being polite)


Being nice doesn't mean being a pushover. It's about striking a balance between kindness and assertiveness. It's about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, ultimately leading to a more successful and fulfilling experience for all.

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