There’s a dimension of leadership and commitment that we’ve not considered as part of our series on being nice. It’s important to act Neighborly, be Interested, feel Connected, and employ Etiquette, N-I-C-E, and it’s also important to be brave. For the next five weeks we will break that word down, B-R-A-V-E, in order to provide yet more light and truth for the trek of life.
We’ve run out of letters in the word NICE. For the past month, readers of LifeTrek Provisions have considered four dimensions of being nice: acting Neighborly, being Interested, feeling Connected, and employing Etiquette. These four dimensions define much of what it means to be nice in the world. If only more people would take them to heart, our world would be a different place indeed.
The only problem with the word NICE is its association with weakness and timidity. Nice people don’t stand up for themselves. Nice people go with the flow even if it means getting run over in the process. Nice people agree to just about anything in order to keep the peace. Nice people are great as neighbors but not as leaders.
That’s what it means to be nice, right? Not hardly. The point of my series on being nice was to coach you to a new understanding of the word and to give you new incentive to be nice in the world. A nice leader is not a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, a nice leader • someone who really understands and practices the four dimensions • has the greatest chance of success in even the most hostile and competitive of environments.
It is disarming to run into someone who is nice in such situations. The opposite attitude is more common and even expected. In a dog-eat-dog world, people compete with a killer instinct in order to crush their opponents. Getting fired up is getting angry enough to do whatever it takes to bring about your opponents’ demise. Your competitors are viewed as enemies, with the goal being to annihilate them through incredible strategy, fierce tactics, and overwhelming force.
In their excellent book Running Within, Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott observe that although this attitude can motivate people (just witness the chest-beating chants of “U-S-A” at every American sporting event these days) it is actually quite counterproductive physiologically. The “fight response” releases high levels of stress hormones from the brain and adrenal glands. These hormones elevate your heart rate and energy utilization so that every effort seems harder than it otherwise might. They also take away from your ability to concentrate and to channel your energy into optimal performance.
The answer? To be a nice competitor, of course. Jerry tells the story of his competing in a national 15K cross-country championship in Houston, Texas. Many competitors were talking about how they were going to crush this or that opponent. Jerry took a different tack. He approached the pre-race favorite, stuck out his hand, and said, “I hope you have a great race.” The favorite was taken aback and asked why Jerry felt that way. “Because the better you run,” Jerry responded, “the better I will run too.” And so, by viewing the competition as a partnership, they both went on to set personal bests.
This story shifts our understanding of what it means to be nice. This understanding of nice has nothing to do with weakness and timidity. It’s not about letting people walk all over you. It’s about approaching leadership and competition from a whole new vantage point. Instead of overpowering and overwhelming people, this nice, like Eastern martial arts, catches and channels the force of the opponent to disarm them and bring out your very best.
By staying calm, cool, and collected in the face of competition and adversity you maintain the focus, presence of mind, and flexibility to take on even tough situations with courage and conviction. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of saying that “Our ability to endure suffering will outlast your ability to inflict suffering.” The civil rights’ movement that he spearheaded was another example of catching and channeling the force of the opponent to disarm them with the power of nice.
Never let it be said, then, that it’s easy to be nice. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world. To act Neighborly, be Interested, feel Connected, and employ Etiquette is to bravely go where few people choose to go these days. It’s to stand up for civility and respect in a world of hostility and contempt. It’s to act as if your manner of talking and way of being can make all the difference in the world. Do you believe this? I do and I know it works.
To be nice, then, is also to be brave. For the next five weeks, I’m going to break the word BRAVE down into five critical components just as I have with the word NICE over the past four weeks. B-R-A-V-E will bring into focus five more vital dimensions called for in our world today. Whether it’s leadership at work or home, in society or an organization, we need to be nice and brave in order to really bring about the kind of changes our world so desperately needs.
Stay with me on this, and we’ll get to the New Year with important new handles for leadership and life.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Is it possible for you to send me your recent provisions relating to being “NICE?” I didn’t print them out and accidentally permanently deleted all old e-mails. I’d really like to have them. They are wonderful reading and I would like to use them in our family night lessons. (Ed. Note: All Provisions are archived on our Web site at http://www.LifeTrekCoaching.com/provisions.)
I am trying to find a product called PB8 or Pro Biotic I am told this is beneficial for someone who has been on prolonged antibiotic treatment. (Ed. Note: It is beneficial and is available at most health food stores or on line from http://www.vitaminshoppe.com.)
Take a few minutes of your busy day and visit this place. What you take from this journey will depend on what you bring to it. It is a place to both meditate and contemplate. http://www.wallofamericans.com.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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