This week’s blog will dovetail nicely with last week’s (Wrongly Accused). My friend Shawn Eifferman has a sign in his office that reads “Be Nice Or Go Home.” I could not agree more. As credence to his motto, he’s very successful and a joy to be around. For contrast, I ordered coffee this morning in Costa Rica and thought I’d test my Spanish on the barista. I was greeted with a snarl and a loud “Just talk English!” What a slap in the face. Granted, I’m in another country and I need to remember that. But you know, it felt just like a wet blanket.
Look, I hate to break it to you, but your attitude counts! I’m someone who notices everything–every little thing. Some would call me over-sensitive, but it helps with a lot of things. For instance I’m acutely aware of how people feel and when someone is uncomfortable. I can smell injustice a mile away. With my audiences at a corporate event, I somehow know exactly when to turn it up and when to hold back. This awareness is very useful when gauging a performance. Where is all this coming from? Yes, you guessed it. I went and read myself another book. This one’s called The Power Of Nice by Thaler and Koval.
I’ve always believed the kind of thinking this book highlights. It’s how I was raised. The book’s big idea is that we are all connected and when we do one nice thing it spreads and rebounds (in often very unexpected ways) to our benefit. It’s a sprightly, brief book that can be read practically at one sitting, which is how I chose to go through it.
I’ll always remember the first time I met Doug Henning, the illusionist. He was so positive and nice on stage and off, it was just contagious. You couldn’t help but believe in magic when you were around this guy. He just poured his heart out into everything he did and you knew that. It’s the same thing I do with these blogs. What I do is pour my heart into each of them and give people what they’re starving for. . . content; and anyone with an ounce of “success blood” knows that. What’s more is people get stuck reading all of the blogs and end up hiring me. It makes this site self-perpetuating. This is even more amazing when you stop to consider that it doesn’t even come up in a search engine if you type, magic, corporate entertainment, or cruise ships. Yet I get a lot of business from these blogs. When people come here, they don’t just read one of the blogs. They read all of them, because they want to know me. I don’t need to worry about search engines, because I’m nice. It’s Karma, baby.
Only a small portion of the advice in the book would fall in the category of being “nice” just for the sake of being nice and doing the right thing just because it’s right. Some examples: It is better not to fire people via email. One should respect all human beings, whether they are security guards, CEOs, or panhandlers. That’s called being “nice,” or what Yiddish speakers used to say was simply being a “mensch.” But there are other pieces of more strategic advice.
Certainly it pays to cultivate friends and contacts: we hear once again the story about Bill Clinton shaking everyone’s hand on the ship on the way to his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, telling them he hoped to be president of the United States some day. As many other business and pop-psychology writers have noted, listening is generally far preferable to speaking at one-on-one business meetings because the other person responds well to a meeting at which he is talking. Stay positive in a political or other campaign if you can; no one really likes hearing negative pitches all the time. As the two successful authors claim, to be “nice” is much more powerful than the age-old capitalist strategies in business. Intimidation, arrogance, intrigue, and a conscience capability to “make the kill” has always been the mark of any successful person or company. Can you tell Thaler and Koval are women?
I have discovered basic good manners, being cordial, friendly, and unconsciously kind will bring in more business than the capitalist strategies. The authors give the reader many examples of “nice” over arrogance, kindness over aggression, like the story of a security guard in New York who greets people at the elevators with such enthusiasm that their sales actually improve. I have a lot of demands for my time; so many in fact, that I had to hire a personal assistant to keep it all together for me. Her name is Laura, and I dole out heaps of responsibilities on her each week. She gets it all done without a hint of stress or negativity. I operate the same way and the result is success. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Words count. What you say counts. In contrast, whenever I hear someone spewing out rudeness, I just want to say, “Does this kind of attitude work for you”?
One of the central lessons in this text (one of the many) is that people remember acts of kindness and acts of selfishness and cruelty. One day you might be sitting in front of a potential employer, wanting the job, but in the past, you were not nice or even cruel to them or to someone they know. Guess what? Next? I liked this book because its tenets are true and work in the day to day world. To be nice or kind if you are not used to being so, like basketball, guitar or golf, takes practice to achieve any level of competency. This book is age-old advice, like a seasoned mature wine packaged in a brand new bottle…timeless and worthwhile. It sounds basic, but being nice is just something that not everybody does–or at least not often enough.
There are plenty of examples of kindnesses from the corporate world in this book, however, students and others would greatly benefit from reading it, as well, as what the authors have to say makes an awful lot of sense in any situation. In life and business, kindness and niceness go a long way; and if consciously practiced, might have huge beneficial outcomes. Examples of kindnesses include good manners; listening with intent; putting up with and being nice to those that irritate; trying to keep the focus of conversation away from yourself; listening with even more intent; giving little gifts (chocolates or sweet items that can be eaten without guilt); swallowing your ego from time to time and letting it go; giving something you love to someone else who needs it more; complimenting with sincerity; and smiling, smiling, and smiling again even though you don’t feel like it because, more than likely, by forcing those lips to curve, you’ll feel happy. That last one reminds me of a Tony Robbins exercise in Personal Power II where he asks you to stare up and smile for a period of time. You start to feel good. Why? Because physiology creates psychology! Attempt to feel what the other person is feeling, “walking a few steps in their sandals,” and your point of view will change and you’ll perhaps develop a bigger picture.
Thaler and Koval did not write this book to make a lot of cash (though they have because the advice is true and practical). To be fair, though, being nice to someone will get you a lot further than neglect or arrogance. Just try it!