"Hey, don't take it so personally; this is business," so said the former business associate turned competitor.
"You're too nice to do well in business," you're told, scolded for being a tame target, an easy competitor to crush and a "nicey-nice" who's never going to make it in the dog-eat-dog business world. Baloney!
Being regarded as 'nice' can bring a mixed bag of reactions. It can be deemed a sign of weakness and the precursor to inevitable failure
It's true sharp-toothed sharks often dine like royalty, but they also find themselves swimming alone with bad reputations that precede them. They'll be respected only as long as their success holds up, but once that falters, they become sought-after targets. The truth is, being nice is actually a perfect style to sustain and extend your business.
Why is 'nice' bad?
When we were young, we learned that being nice was important to get along with others. Whether our moms, our teachers or whomever told us, we were all warned that if we weren't nice, bad things would happen to us.
Refreshingly, it's all true—mostly.
Being regarded as "nice" can bring a mixed bag of reactions. It can evoke the equivalent of a gentle pat on the head and immediate dismissal. It can elicit condescension and distrust from others (as in the "teacher's pet" syndrome). This is typically a form of jealousy. And it can be deemed a sign of weakness and the precursor to inevitable failure. Sadly, these are all examples of negative responses to the "nice" person, but why?
There isn't time to delve too deeply into the psychological reasons or social science behind the stigmatized "nice guy," but here are a few quick explanations:
- Some feel those regarded as "nice" are unfairly favored among their peers (without any consideration given to how they might have earned that favor).
- Some believe nice people are duplicitous—outwardly nice yet inwardly devious—to manipulate others.
- Others simply don't trust nice people because, really, in this cynical world, what's there to be nice about anyway?
When you run a 'nice business,' you naturally instill a sense of safety, goodness and fairness in the minds of your customers
'Nice' can be challenging
This becomes the challenge—and path to reward—for those who choose to be nice despite the dispersions from those who mistrust or malign a well-intentioned person. Being nice (and staying nice) requires tremendous resolve and even courage in the face of detractors.
Some might wish to knock down the nice guy or gal, even inflict damage or distress of some sort, to raise themselves up by robbing the good person. (Think about the surly kid in kindergarten who knocked over your blocks because you built a nicer-looking castle than he did.)
'Nice' can be profitable
There are no guarantees in what you're about to read: how being nice will help you do better in your business. But the benefits you'll realize are rather straightforward: When you run a "nice business," you naturally instill a sense of safety, goodness and fairness in the minds of your customers.
Even if they are a bit dubious at first encounters (because those nice guys just can't be trusted, can they?), your steady style and temperament will convince them you're truly a good egg.
So how do you project being nice in your business and what do you have to gain for doing so? Consider these gems:
A calm demeanor and genuine willingness to help can go a long way to head off conflict and can even work as Kryptonite to the most crabby of guests. As you maintain your niceness with these sorts of individuals, you improve your method of understanding your customers' wants and needs, and can use that information to improve your business for all.
If you think being nice is out of vogue and that the only way to really get ahead is to become an ogre among your peers and competitors, think again. The world is growing weary of the cretins out there, and is actually rooting for the underdog again. Take pride in stepping into those "goody two-shoes;" it seems they're coming back in style.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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