It’s Christmas Eve, which means I am in for a restless sleep this evening as I lie awake wondering if Santa will bring me what I requested for Christmas this year: a new Sodastream, a pony and world peace. I’ll likely be disappointed in the morning when I only get the Sodastream, but I’ll survive. And through the day, my disappointment will likely morph into self-reflection and doubt as I look back on the past year and ponder “Was I not nice enough?”
“Be nice” was one of a handful of barbs my mother used to hurl my way when I was a kid, rotated with regularity with other favourites such as “Go outside” or “Bring me my cigarettes” or “Massage my feet.” While those other directives were typically more task-oriented (and therefore more readily achievable) “Be nice” was more open-ended and therefore harder for me to wrap my childish head around. “What does being nice look like exactly? How will I know when I have been nice? Will there be a sign?” It was a bit of a black hole of thought for me, so eventually, I would just stop thinking about it.
But I’ve been thinking about being nice a lot lately, especially as relates to doing business. And what I have learned is that being nice can be a distinct advantage for a business that is rooted in the practice of people working with other people and that flourishes through personal relationships.
You see, I have come to realize not only that I am a nice person, but also that my niceness can be good for business. To be clear, I am not nice because it benefits my business; but I do know that my business benefits because I am nice. I am nice because I appreciate it when people are nice to me; because it comes easier to me than being a jerk; and because my mother raised me to be a nice boy.
Being nice—being a kind, caring and fun person—can be a huge strength in the world of business: not a weakness. It will never take the place of being smart, responsive, organized, innovative, etc.; nor should it. And in no way does it mean you have to be a pushover or a suck-up. But being nice and being someone whom others genuinely enjoy spending time with can result in others actively seeking to spend more time with you. And in the competitive world of professional services, sometimes that can make all the difference.
So listen to your mother and be nice, in life and in work. Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you want to and know that in doing it, it can benefit the world and it can benefit you in the end.
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