Doing Right Is More Important Than Being Nice

Doing Right Is More Important Than Being Nice

By Pang Zijun, Facilitator/Implementation Consultant, Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | December 1, 2020

Read carefully, this is NOT a discussion between BEING right vs. Being nice. 

BEING right, often is about ego. Ego is not the focus in this article.

DOING right is different, and to a large extend, it means being authentically nice.

Consider the below scenarios:

A student is misbehaving —

should teacher “be nice” to let the student off, or “do right” to correct and discipline him/her?

A colleague is making mistakes at work —

should the boss “be nice” and allow other people to cover it up, or “do right” to give necessary feedback with helpful suggestions to improve?

A family member is engaging in something unlawful —

should we “be nice” and find excuses for them, such as “he’s too young”, “she doesn’t understand the law”, or “do right” to help them face the consequences and/or even contact the authorities?

A stranger is asking help on LinkedIn but doing so with the wrong approach —

should we “be nice” and carry the responsibility of “helping them”, or “do right” and teach them how to approach appropriately next time?

If we chose to “be nice”, let us reflect on another question: did we choose to be “nice for ourselves”, or be “nice for those people”?

Feeling compelled to “be nice” can be the least nice and helpful thing in many situations.

People commonly associate “being nice” with “soft behaviour”, “self-sacrifice” and other solutions that “(we) will not hurt others”. Therefore, the focus of being nice very often unconsciously place “WE/US” at the centre of our behaviour.

Similarly, “doing right” is often associated with “hard behaviour”, “inconsiderate of the situation” or “cold-hearted, unloving”, resulting in many of us wanting to “do right” but struggle. 

Is it the fact, though? 

Can we not correct other people or give strict instruction with good intention? Or discipline people while helping them in the long run? Or give seemingly harsh feedback but being helpful and supportive? Or saying “no” but being understanding and supportive?

Of course, we can! 

In fact, that is what should be done in many situations. 

Being nice should not be at the expense of being honest and authentic.

Doing right cannot overpower kindness nor genuine care for another person.

As much as we try to “be nice”, we also seek, practice, and appreciate “doing right”.

In parenting, it shows up as “tough love”.

At work, it can be demonstrated as “mentorship”.

At school and in day-to-day life, it is a sign of true friendship.

Real helpfulness does not have a formula.

Behaviourally, being helpful can indeed show up as “being nice”, however, nothing but sincere love and care, lie at the heart of real helpfulness.

 “Being nice” at the expense of doing the right thing for the benefit of others, is poison. 

“Doing right” with a focus on helpfulness, on the other hand, is a blessing in disguise.