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Is Being Too Nice Just Not Helpful?

Aunt Bee

(in other words, Let’s Get Critical)

I’m going to apply this post to the virtual assistant industry, because that’s my profession. I think upon reading this post, you could probably apply this to other professions as well, so bear with me.

Virtual assistants are proud of the fact that we’re a helpful lot. If you spend any time at all on virtual assistant forums, you’ll find a really great atmosphere. We tend to be really nice to one another and you’ll rarely find the trolling and bickering that you do elsewhere.  I’m a huge proponent of the forums and can honestly say that I found a lot of great information there when I was starting my business.

Yet, lately I’m starting to wonder if we are so busy trying to be nice that we’re failing to be be truly helpful.  A couple of posts on separate forums got me thinking and of course, it lead to this post.

Both forum posts were in regard to finding clients, a major hurdle for any small business, but even more so for an industry that is seen by many as ‘newfangled’ and ‘experimental’.

One such inquiry asked if they were doomed to fail since they refused to take part in social media.
Of course, everyone rushed to assure them that lack of social media skills would not doom their business. Sweet, caring, but in my opinion not exactly helpful.

Let’s look at the situation.

This person is bemoaning the fact that they aren’t getting clients, they want desperately to find a way to reach clients, yet they are refusing to learn something out of fear brought on by lack of knowledge.

It’s all well and good to try to make someone feel better, but down the road when social media has become the primary marketing tool for everyone, this person is going to not only regret not learning it, but if their business is still alive and kicking, they are going to wonder why no one explained that sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone when we run our own business.

Need another example that we’re not helping by being too nice?

Ok, take the VA looking for ideas for marketing her business.  One very brave, experienced VA had the guts to mention that this person’s website needed work. Oh My! How could they be so mean?  No one had asked for a website review!  And who said a polished, professional website was needed anyway?

Excuse me?

I’m not sure what business planet these other virtual assistants come from, but in the business world I reside in, a polished, professional website is critical.  And the brave VA who spoke up was actually going above and beyond to try to really help.

Why is it we can’t feel free to offer the same marketing advice to fellow VA’s that we do to our clients?

When I have a client dragging their feet about social media I encourage them to learn more about it and explain why I feel it is so important for businesses today and in the future.  If a client has a website that could be costing them clients, I make suggestions.  I’d be failing them if I didn’t.

So aren’t we failing new and struggling VA’s by trying to be too nice?

I’m not saying we should be super critical, overly picky or truly mean. But constructive criticism is not being cruel. It is a method of trying to help. If you are in business for yourself, you should welcome those people into your inner circle. Because honestly, these are the ones that are serious about really helping. They are willing to share their experience, at the risk of being thought too harsh, to point others in the right direction.
I think virtual assistants should stop worrying about being nice and start thinking about how they can really help one another.

What do you think?  Do you think this happens in more than just the virtual assistant industry? Am I a ‘mean girl’ for even writing this post?  Let me have it in the comments section.

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4 Comments

  1. Collette Schultz on September 24, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Very interesting. I too am a VA and have to say because this industry everyone does seem to be so nice it has attracked me to it more. I do however see what you're saying. I work FT now and found exactly what you said to be true, it didn't help me to be nice. I am always the nice girl in the office and who got stuck in the same position but me, if I would have been more vocal or to the point. I may have moved up in my position. The good thing to this is it has continued to push me into becoming a VA. A VA that knows how to stick up for herself, professionally.



  2. T.Marie Hilton on September 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Collette,
    We all tend to learn from experience. I think many of us with a work history in the administrative field have experienced the 'too nice' lesson. That's the great thing about offering advice to new virtual assistants, we can share our experiences and hopefully keep them from making some of the same mistakes we did.
    However, if we're constantly worried about being thought of as 'mean' we're going to hesitate to give information that could really help them out.



  3. T.Marie Hilton on September 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Collette,
    We all tend to learn from experience. I think many of us with a work history in the administrative field have experienced the 'too nice' lesson. That's the great thing about offering advice to new virtual assistants, we can share our experiences and hopefully keep them from making some of the same mistakes we did.
    However, if we're constantly worried about being thought of as 'mean' we're going to hesitate to give information that could really help them out.



  4. One Stop Technology Shop on November 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    […] about just what social media has done for my business. Then I remembered all of those struggling virtual assistants who seem to be so reluctant to use […]



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