A few months ago, the founder of Revelry House Lo Bosworth was asked by E! Online’s Catt Sadler about how she copes with her “nice girl syndrome” when she has to be a tough business owner. I believe that professional women still have to face this problem, even though it is the modern day. Women were always raised to be kind, gentle, and not too assertive or outspoken. Being thought of as courteous is very significant.

Women, myself included, often allow our need to be liked to control us. I remember being in middle school and thinking that the “cool girls” were the only ones worth impressing. But if we’re constantly worried about whether or not people like us, we’ll never get what we really want or deserve out of life. I’m more focused on being liked by this person than determining how they can help my business. It’s always been tricky for me to find the balance between seeming strong and too difficult.

Even though it’s been proven time and again that being a “nice girl” will get you nowhere, I can’t seem to break out of my need to be popular. A recent study found that women who were considered “disagreeable” at work made five percent more than their female colleagues who they deemed as “nicer.” So, in other words, this research backs up the long-standing claim that nice girls do indeed finish last.

I think it is easier for men to be demanding or tough and still be called successful in business. Society allows them to get away with having bad days where they might come across as a “ball buster,” but even that term has a positive connotation. As a woman, I always want to appear nice, but I also want people to see me as smart, confident, and strong—someone who knows what she wants and can make a great impression. If you’re like me and have trouble being assertive without coming across as pushy, use these tips to help find a balance. Remember, it’s okay to be nice AND finish first!

1. This Is Just Business, Nothing Personal.

The quote “You may think the above quote is from You’ve Got Mail, but actually it’s from The Godfather” is said by Tom Hanks’s character in the charming romcom about internet mail. This is something you definitely want to remember. It would be amazing if every person I encountered in my professional life was a genuine friend, but sadly that’s not the reality. And to quote Mean Girls, even if I did bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, people probably wouldn’t eat it anyways because they’re too busy being unhappy. Amy Smalarz, President of Strategic Market Insight, tells Levo: “Don’t take it personally. Businesses need to be run efficiently with people who contribute. Too often, women give people second, third, and fourth chances—when they should have been gone a long time ago.”

2. Ask With Strength

Vanessa Wade, CEO of Connect the Dots PR, states, “Understanding what you want or need is not bad; it is something that can boost your self-esteem, and your brand, and help the company. Again practice with a trusted friend to build your confidence, speak clearly, don’t fidget, look into their eyes, and hope for the best. Nice girls don’t always finish last!!”

As Elizabeth Mitchell, a freelance fashion writer and author of The Neon Blonde says, it’s not about what you’re asking, it’s about how you’re asking. “When asking for more money from an editor, I always like to back up my request with solid proof that I deserve it. This typically includes pointing out examples of past performance (articles I’ve written that have done very well for the site), so the editor knows exactly how valuable I am. I’m still working on the Nice Girl Syndrome myself, but my best advice to readers is to just go for it. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask. Weigh the risks with the rewards. Oftentimes, the worst that can happen is the person says no. The rewards though are much higher!”

If you have proof to back up your statements, you are not wasting the time of those listening to you! Nicole Yelland, a director of marketing and communications says, “This one has always been hard for me, especially when I meet someone who is a ‘big deal.’ To overcome this perception, realize that they’re just someone else with a job to do and short on time—so skip the mumbling, kissing up, and fumbling. Look them in the eye, introduce yourself, maybe mention how you’ve heard about them (if and only if you have) and get to the point.”

3. Accepting and Embracing Conflict.

Whenever people begin fighting or even just politely disagreeing, I start looking for an exit and planning my escape. To avoid conflict, sometimes I start humming or focusing intensely on a small section of the wall. A teacher came to talk to me during high school, and I literally hid under the table. According to Melody Wilding, a therapist who works with young professional women, Nice Girl Syndrome often causes people to shy away from conflict. However, this isn’t helpful for advancing in a career. “Instead of playing the blame game, turn disagreement into problem-solving. Respond with a supportive, neutralizing statement such as, ‘Let’s talk about how we can fix this.’ Or acknowledge what the other person has said, and state your opinion, ‘I hear that you’re unhappy with the marketing project. I propose we explore some alternative solutions.”

It all comes down to your attitude. Be confident, and you’ll get much further than if you go in hesitantly. Here are some more tips from Karen R. Koenig, who has been treating “nice girl” clients for years:

  • Assertive women in the business world don’t let anything stop them from getting what they need. If you want to learn how to be like them, take advice from these powerful individuals and start practicing in your own life. The more you do it, the better equipped you’ll become at expressing yourself both confidently and assertively.
  • Find mentors of both genders who can help you become more assertive at work so you can advance in your career.
  • In business settings, always know what you want to communicate beforehand and practice saying it comfortably in front of a mirror (focusing on tone and body language).
  • Ask reliable work friends to critique your performance in meetings, so they can identify any areas of growth or improvement in how you conduct yourself.
  • Examine your goals and identify how acts of kindness are preventing you from achieving 

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