The Importance of Nice

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By Robyn Brown

All of us can tell when someone is being genuinely nice. It’s in their body language – they make eye contact, their smile reaches their eyes, and they seem relaxed instead of on edge. Genuinely nice people ask you how you are and care about your response. They seek relationships that are mutually beneficial and not one-sided in their benefit.

People gravitate toward genuinely nice people.

There’s a neighborhood, organic coffee shop that I occasionally work from and meet friends. It’s 20 miles away from my home but there’s something about the coffee shop that makes me not mind the drive. The owner remembers my name each time I come in. He asks how work is going. Once he noticed my North Texas t-shirt and started a conversation about college. Though I may feel special and unique when we talk, the owner gives the next customer the same level of attention. It’s that warm and comfortable feeling that brings me back, like I’m in his home and he’s extending genuine hospitality. Coincidentally, I don’t feel that way when I visit chain coffee shops.

When you are fake nice, people feel conned and walk away.

When you are genuinely nice, people genuinely want to support you.

I have noticed that freelancers, startups, entrepreneurs and even small businesses have a similar desire to support one another. It’s like we’re all in the same boat and can genuinely relate to our daily struggles and high points.At first, I thought this was just among young adults, like we have a different social/collaborative mindset. But I don’t think that’s always the case.

How hard is it anyway? I may have an extra hour in my work day, so I write an extra blog article for a friend’s web development company. Or I may listen and offer advice to someone who is getting their nonprofit going. I don’t worry about how my giving will immediately benefit me. It may help down the line… or it may not. Genuinely nice doesn’t worry about that.

Like the idea of pay it forward, nice is contagious.

To be honest, I’m not always nice. I’m just not feeling it. Often we have to catch kindness again from other people. That’s when we need to surround ourselves with people who infect us with their positivity. Then, we need to pass our new good mood on to a friend or stranger via kind words and actions – tell a friend how good they look today, let that person with only a few items cut in front of you at the market, take the time to read your co-workers first draft. And don’t let someone’s negative mood prevent you from being nice. Did your mother ever say, “Kill them with kindness”? Mine did. The simple act of being genuinely nice to those around you – your friends, colleagues, clients, bosses – will help create more genuine relationships.

Nice is not the same thing as making everyone like you.

That goal is impossible and almost always ends in misery. Sometimes ‘being nice’ means you give a friend the hard truth that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes it’s admitting that you failed. Last year a small design company that I support had a glitch in their automated e-newsletter system, resulting in their e-newsletter going out to their database 50 times. After multiple IMs, emails, phone calls, tweets and texts from their network, my friends issued the following genuine apology by email:

Subject: We’re Sorry!

Friends and Colleagues:

If you are getting this email right now, it’s because you received our latest newsletter. About 50 times. We can’t begin to express how sorry we are. Our newsletter got stuck in a loop when being sent though our email marketing distributor. Like us, they are a startup whose customers mean everything to them. We made an epic mistake today, and we can only express how sorry we are. We received your calls, chats, texts and emails letting us know that you were getting bombed by us. We would like to say thank you for letting us know, and for sticking with us during this crazy day. The problem is being worked on right now. We assure you that this will not happen again. We hate spam more than anyone, so this is very embarrassing for us.

We hope that you will stay with us as we move forward into the future, and if you are in Dallas or Tallahassee, we’d like to buy you a drink sometime to make it up to you. Have a great weekend!

What if every company operated like this? The design company could have ignored the issue out of embarrassment. They could have blamed the email marketing distributor instead of relating to them. They could have even written a trite one-lined apology. I replied to this email to let my friends know I appreciated the genuineness of their communication. What a great example!


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