When Is “Nice” Too Nice?

by Shana Montesol Johnson

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work for someone who is a good listener and appreciates their staff?  Doesn’t every team need members who play well with others? Sure, but sometimes, “nice” can be too nice.

Yes, it is great to have people like this in our work or personal lives.  But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t problem spots.

I’m talking about people who are most comfortable with the Considerate communication style.  As described in my previous blog posts, there are four communication styles to which people tend to gravitate: Direct, Systematic, Considerate, and Spirited. Today’s blog post is the third in a four-part series describing each style.  You can read the previous posts starting here.

Why should we care about communication styles? Understanding someone else’s dominant communication style allows us to adjust our own communication approach to match their preferences.  This helps build rapport and mutual understanding.

How can you tell if someone’s preferred communication style is Considerate? They listen more than they talk.  They speak softly and slowly, yet in a warm tone of voice.  Interested in colleagues’ personal lives, they typically engage in small talk.  Their workspace is friendly, welcoming, and likely decorated with photos of key people in their life.

People who prefer a Considerate communication style have many strengths that make them excellent colleagues, team players, and bosses. They are usually good listeners.  They are “people” persons, who build strong relationships based on trust.  They are caring, empathetic, and appreciative of others.  They are reliable, patient, and easy to get along with.  Strong team players, they enjoy being part of a team.

However, as with all communication styles, there are also trouble spots associated with the Considerate style.  Since these trouble spots may affect you differently depending on your relationship to the Considerate person in question, let’s look first at a Considerate boss and then at a Considerate direct report or colleague.

Considerate Boss = Dream Boss?

Along with some great qualities – a boss who worries about your work/life balance?! – there are some potential drawbacks to working with a Considerate boss, who may:

  • Not be forthcoming with feedback on your work.  This could leave you assuming that you’re doing great, while they privately believe there is ample room for improvement –leading to surprises at annual performance evaluation time.
  • Have trouble prioritizing and making decisions.
  • Not delegate well. They may end up taking on work that you could do, and in the process, deprive you of an opportunity to stretch, gain valuable experience, and demonstrate what you can do.

Tips for Communicating with a Considerate Boss

  • Focus on your relationship with them; don’t hesitate to make small talk.
  • Ask them specifically for their feedback. Encourage them to be candid.
  • Give them ample time to make decisions or give feedback – don’t expect them to blurt out an answer.  Follow up as needed.
  • Offer to help, volunteer to take things off their plate – especially if it’s an area where you’d like to grow.

Considerate Team Members = Dream Team?

Often the “glue” that holds a team together, Considerate colleagues or direct reports may also:

  • Have a hard time adapting to change.
  • Tell you what they think you want to hear, rather than what they really think or feel.
  • Have difficulty prioritizing.
  • Pick up the slack for everyone else, which could lead to burnout and/or limit their ability to take on higher levels of responsibility and complexity in their own work.
  • Seem to place too much emphasis on feelings, and may be seen as indecisive or indirect communicators.

Tips for Communicating with a Considerate Colleague or Direct Report

  • Take a relaxed, agreeable, and cooperative approach.
  • Match your pace and volume of speech to theirs.
  • Tell them about upcoming changes early on, and let them adapt to change slowly.
  • Give them time to process information.
  • Solicit specific feedback from them, reassuring them you won’t take offense.
  • Make one-on-one time for them.
  • Build a trust-based relationship with them, over time.

Have you had a “dream boss” or an ideal teammate with a Considerate style? Were there any drawbacks to their communication style?  If you yourself identify with the Considerate style, how can others communicate effectively with you?  Please share your experience and tips in the Comments section.

And stay tuned for next week’s blog post on the Spirited communication style, the final installment in the series.  You can make sure you never miss a blog post by signing up for my free weekly email newsletter – click here.

Photo by Enokson

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }


Hi, I recognize at least some of this! On the upside: people tend to be willing to offer you help and giving you chances they would not offer to people who trigger “resistance”. Downside: people might miss some decisiveness/ outspoken leadership. As most people , I’m probably a mix, since I do give feedback and I don’t mind praise in public, haha….
Recruiters might mistake the style for being all nice and no business, that is to say, gladly drink a glass of wine with you but can’t picture you running a team. You need to convince them/ show that niceness/ modesty does not mean being incapable of making decisions, running a team/ project/ business successfully.

I will go on to study the other styles and see what I can “steal”. I find it helpful to view this, as with MBTI, as a preferred style rather than something I always do.


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