Circle of niceness: mapping our values


Circle of niceness

Mapping our values




Circle; plural noun: circles

  1. a round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the centre).

2. a group of people with a shared profession, interests, or acquaintances.




The quality of being nice; pleasantness.

synonyms: pleasantness, friendliness, agreeableness, charm, amiability, affability, kindness,

decency, geniality, cordiality, warmth, sympathy, understanding, compassion

'Circle of niceness' is a way of being. It is group of people, in this case those working in higher education, that have a shared understanding of the profession and who problem solve through supportive and mutually respectful ways.

Originally coined by Rachel Pitt in conversation with Inger Mewburn and Stuart Palmer back in 2013, this way of being has been a significant part of my professional career. It underpins many of my close professional relationships, traveled over three institutions and is closely connected to many I now call close friends. My 'circle of niceness' is my tribe. I trust them. We are honest with each other. We give and take. We have admiration for each other. I respect their perspective, and vice versa. We are collegial and show a huge amount of reciprocity and gratitude for one another on many levels. There is a warmth. And there is a genuine mutual respect.

In an effort to unpack this concept I’ve begun to look at some of the areas that we value when we enact and embody a 'circle of niceness'. This mind map was created from sourcing feedback from peeps via Twitter. An open call invited responses as to what values and behaviours underpinned being a part of and enacting a circle of niceness in higher education.

Mindmap of Circle of Niceness (copyright 2018 Narelle Lemon, 2018)

Mindmap of Circle of Niceness (copyright 2018 Narelle Lemon, 2018)

It is embodied and enacted with others, those in your circle of people who both give and receive these actions. In higher education we are encouraged to collaborate, and as a part of this consideration is made to both how we participate and present oneself while also considering who it is we work with. Sometimes we have choice, other times we do not. But when it comes to those relationships that provide support to us, and we offer support back, the underpinnings of the way of being can be called a ‘circle of niceness’.

It is one way to describe collegial support that connects to relationships, values, purpose, meaning, and positive emotions.

Being with others who embody these elements provides one with a feeling of positivity, a glow if you like, as there is a mutual respect and genuine curiosity and admiration for talking about ideas we are working on, decoding of the job, and support for one another. Openness and honesty come hand in hand with circle of niceness.

As we navigate our way through academia we find a way to hang with people that embody the values you believe in as well.

This is just one way of articulating the values of good academic behaviour. One way we seek to to embrace and experience.

It is acknowledged that some use the term, but indeed do not embody the values. Those usually reveal themselves quickly.

I'd love to hear from you about what these means to you. Any thoughts? Additions? Links? Ways of enactment?

Want a copy to print? You can access it here