We need to redeem the word “nice.”
Growing up, I always heard the phrase, “Nice guys finish last.” Friends would say being nice doesn’t get you anywhere. Nice guys don’t get the girl. Nice guys don’t get famous. Saying someone was nice wasn’t a compliment. It was a slight. It meant someone was weak – a pushover. They weren’t people who generated respect.
Has Being Nice Gotten a Bad Rap?
However, in today’s current cultural climate, can’t we all agree we could use more nice people? There are many celebrities, politicians, producers, pastors (unfortunately), and business people who have gotten famous (more like infamous) for not being nice, respectful, or even remotely decent human beings. We can look at these people and shake our heads in disgust. However, we should also stop for a moment to see the path that got them to where they are and see if we’re traveling in any way down the same road.
Maybe we need to reconsider the advice we’ve received. Maybe nice people don’t finish last – they finish well, strong, and respected. You can be genuinely nice and seriously respected. They aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, often they’re linked.
For example, consider Tom Hanks. He is widely regarded as one of the nicest people in Hollywood, which is no small feat. There are plenty of stories of Hanks doing little things with ordinary people, like surprising random newlyweds, helping girl scouts sell cookies, and using his Twitter account to help return a lost student ID. He’s so known for being nice that this hilarious article recently went viral: Another Actress Steps Forward Accusing Tom Hanks of Being Nice. Tom Hanks isn’t a pushover. He’s at the top of his field.
This isn’t just true of celebrities. Some of the people we’ve most admired in our own lives treated others well. They cared about us. They showed concern. Quite simply, they were cool to be around.
Are You Nice to Work With?
So, how nice are you? How would you know if you are? Let’s get specific – what would it look like for you to be known as the nice person at work? Here are ten signs that point to a nice person to work with.
- You remember key names and dates. Do you know the names of the people who work with you? Do you know the names of their spouses and kiddos? Do you recognize work anniversaries? Nice people care enough to know the people around them.
- You notice someone who’s having a bad day. Nice people slow down enough to see if people around them are hurting. And they care enough to ask, “Are you okay?” and “Can I help?”
- You give credit where credit’s due… and then some. Nice people go out of their way to recognize the work, talent, and contributions of others in collaborative projects. And, they are humble about their involvement.
- You show up at (and even contribute to) office functions. If there’s a holiday party, a retirement celebration, a team building activity, or something else, nice work people jump in. They see these as more than inconvenient HR activities – they know these are opportunities to connect and honor others.
- You don’t badmouth people or gossip. It’s easy to participate in office gossip or to trash the boss. Initially, this might even help you connect with others. But, deep down, we know if someone is gossiping or badmouthing someone to us, there’s a good chance they’re gossiping or badmouthing us to someone else. Nice people refrain from jumping into the muck.
- You don’t sugarcoat reality. Being nice doesn’t mean you need to be fake. Nice people live in reality – they acknowledge it. Ignoring the fact that a situation is hard or toxic isn’t nice – it’s frustrating and annoying. However, nice people are also able to be caring, considerate, and helpful when times get tough. That’s when kindness stands out the most.
- You are interruptible. Are you okay with giving someone who desperately needs you five minutes of your time, even if you’re in the middle of something? Or, are you unapproachable? Nice people are.
- You look for ways to affirm. Most people don’t get positive feedback in their jobs. We hear about it when we mess up, but not when we’re doing something great. Nice people are trying to change that norm. They go out of their way to catch people doing something great, and then they say so.
- You are a source of inspiration. Do people come to you when they need a great idea? Are you known for being passionate about the mission of your organization? Nice people are magnetic to be around. They attract good ideas. And, people are drawn to them when they need to be built up.
- You are eager to serve, even when it has nothing to do with your thing. We’ve all been there – the “all office” email goes out asking for help somewhere. Nice people step up to help, whether or not it shows up in their bottom line.
There are more signs than these. And, none of us does all of this perfectly. I’m absolutely terrible at remembering names and milestones. I need to do better. I can be more kind. You probably can too.
It’s worth our time to take a few moments to think about how nice we are, starting with our jobs. It could be the difference between being famous and infamous. It often separates those who work somewhere six months and six years. And, the funny thing is, most of the things listed above don’t cost us much at all. It’s not that difficult. But, it takes intentionality and a willingness to play the long game – to not just focus on our immediate goals and instead think about our reputation and legacy.
Being nice matters. We could use more of it in our world. So, do something nice today. Be like Tom Hanks. You might be surprised how big of a difference it makes.