The Power of Nice

This week I feel I made it big on a business deal I’ve been working on for months.

I say “feel” because I’m not so sure if I won as big as I think I did.

A more objective person could come along and say: “Oh boy Hannah – you got the short end of the stick here!” But you know what frankly I don’t care about a hypothetical “other person”.

I  feel good and that’s what matters.

The greatest part of my win isn’t that I feel as though everything went my way – the greatest part of my win lies in that I am so proud of me.

I am so proud that I stuck to what I felt was important to me as a human being and all the while I really really  feel I was really really  nice throughout the process.

It was a project that had caused me anxiety – many times I didn’t feel like being nice and I could have just let rip – but I chose to be nice instead.

I’m first to admit that I’m not the nicest person I know. And I can now share with you that never has it been more clear to me how much niceness has become a lost commodity.

I think, (and I’m speaking from personal experience here) people are afraid of being nice because somewhere along the way they learned that being nice meant losing in the long run.

Some have learned that being nice means you’ll get walked over and taken huge advantage of.

The saddest part I guess is sometimes seeing some people  who’ve been turned into monsters on cheap steroids because they are terrified that even the slightest smile will lose them all power and credibility they have managed to scrape together in their careers.

Even worse than that perhaps are people who’ve allowed bitterness to set in. They seem to not see that the people they do business with do not deserve to be treated from their place of bitterness. And the question I ask is this: why drain those you come into contact with when it’s so much easier to be nice?

I’d like to share with you one of the incidents I’m least proud of in my career: I once worked with a young man who I thought I was meeting for the first time.

“You look really happy today,” he said to me.

“What makes you say that?” I asked beaming.

“You’re smiling,” he answered.

“But I’m always smiling,” I answered.

He didn’t say anything to my last remark.

I then got the feeling that this was not  our first meeting. So I prodded and eventually he told me that he had worked with me before. I hadn’t been very nice to him, he said. In my mind this was our first meeting. But he had, for what seemed like years, carried around my horrid treatment and behavior toward him.

He went on to tell me that after that terrible day we’d worked together he saw me often and all he could think of was what a bitch I was.

Sorry I try not to use horrible words- but he was expressing himself and he could find no better word to describe me at the time. And he was right. From how he described I’d treated him- there was no better word…

I am so glad I had the opportunity to profusely apologize to him. I didn’t excuse my behavior (because quite frankly I don’t remember the incident) I just apologized. He graciously accepted my apology and we started a new page.

On the flip side of that: One of the proudest moments of my life happened just last week.

A woman sent me a message. She told me she knew me from when we were kids. Try as I might I could not remember her. (Ok so I don’t have the greatest memory). But from the way she spoke and the details she gave me of how we knew each other – I knew she was for real.

In short, she then told me how nice I’d been to her when we were children. She remembered an item of clothing I gave her. And she remembered that I’d styled her hair. Even now I’m on the verge of tears each time I think of her writing the following to me: “You made us feel that we were the best kids in our area.”

She’s a grown woman now, married with three children. And yet she, for all these years had, carried, in her heart and memory, something nice I did for her so many many years ago.

Ask me the legacy I’d like to leave behind and I’ll tell you the latter.

My first editor was a nice boss. Most times I did so much more than was expected in my job just to prove to her that all the niceness she poured on me was not wasted. She always told me how brilliant I was and what an amazing career she saw ahead of me.

Most bosses are so terrified to compliment their subordinates either because their jealous of the brilliance they see or they feel any show of niceness is an indication of weakness.

I can tell you that long after I’ve flown away from the safety of my first editor’s niceness I still have her on a platinum pedestal because it takes an amazing strong person to catapult another to greatness.

When doing business or working remember that the world is not a very nice place. Most people are forced to deal with not very nice people.

I have tried the “hard-core bitch” approach in business and in my career- it hasn’t worked for me. I’m glad. Because honestly – I think there is so much more power in being nice. And the even deeper truth is I want people to remember me as the one that honoured them not the one who treated them like trash.

It’s true what Maya Angelou once said: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So going back to my “win”- maybe I could have gotten more out of the deal had I been  less nice – but I am so happy with what I got. Simply because I believe that in a world where nice is so rare I’d like to believe I was a breath of fresh air. And I’m kinda guessing that going simply on how happy my clients were – I’m sure they’ll be sending more business my way. And even if I don’t get another cent from them – I’m proud of the impression I believe I made.

No matter which way I look at it – the price of nice was totally worth it.


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