Being Nice Is Selfish

In 1959 David J. Schwartz wrote a book titled “The Magic of Thinking Big”, and you can still buy this book today.

A person can be exposed to the same idea repeatedly and know that the idea is good, but not really, truly engage with it. It takes a certain kind of delivery, and a certain kind of receptive mind to adopt the new information. Some people will read a book one year, think nothing of it, and then return to it 10 years later and the book will substantially change their life on the second reading.

The opposite is also true. Life changing books can be re-read years later and not carry anywhere near the gravitas they once did for that person.

The Magic of Thinking Big, for me, was all about hearing the same sort of things your parents told you when you were growing up.

Be positive, be happy, engage with people, smile, belief creates reality, eat your vegetables and so on.

How you engage with other people is a huge part of human experience. As a massive introvert, I’ve been working on this element of my psyche for a long time. For years I’ve waved at people randomly, smiled at people randomly, and tried to be nicer than I needed to be. I’m the first to do the casual “finger lift” greeting on a back country road as you pass another vehicle. I’ve done that for a very long time, my wife doesn’t appreciate it.

I read the book and decided to really put it to the test and up my game. I run my own businesses and customer relationships are by far the most important part of my (or probably any) business, so trying to be nice is a good fit.

I started being much nicer than I needed to be (I felt like I was already pretty nice!) across all of my business interests and life. It certainly made a difference, but there was one business where the results were staggering.

I run a small business that sells things online, small items to the public. I had processes in place already which distinguished me from the crowd. I went the extra mile in a number of ways. The product was checked meticulously, it was wrapped and protected well, I engaged with the client after the sale as quickly as possible and used friendly, happy language. That was working well, so I took all of that and I tried to double it.

There were personalized notes with all purchases. I’d email or feedback to customers using their name and with a humorous paragraph about how they were the greatest human-being on earth, rather than generic dribble. My language was as happy as I could possibly make it. I tried to make silly questions from customers seem like important questions. Mistakes weren’t the clients mistakes, they were my mistakes.  If I could add happy emotion to the situation I would do it.

The level of unsolicited, gushingly positive feedback has skyrocketed. I just read a piece of feedback from an older gentleman who could have been a real problem customer. However, nothing was a problem. Issues were resolved. He was over the moon and he decided to let me know.

That feedback (and the dozens of other pieces of feedback) were the reason I wrote this article today.

I’m not one for being praised. It makes me feel awkward. I can always do better.

Getting feedback like that, though, is awesome. It resonates with me at a deeper level.

All of the work I put into make other people happy and the net result is that we both end up happy.

If I want to make myself happy, making other people happy is an easy way to knock my personal happiness levels out of the park.

I smile at people as often as I can, especially people with boring or less desirable jobs. I do it out of respect for them, but again there are some clear personal gains I get from those friendly gestures. Those folks are 100x more likely to help me in the future if I need their help. I’m the guy that genuinely treated them like a human being. Those fine folk can (and have!) helped me a great deal in the past.

The same lessons apply to my other business interests, and the results are similar.

Being as nice as I can possibly be, and being as understanding as I can possibly be brings clients in the door.

Solving problems for the people I’ve brought in the door, as best I can possibly solve them, makes me a lot* of money.

Temper that with good business sense, clear deliverables, clear timelines, and a good nose for people you can’t please and you’re onto a winner.

Being nice is selfish.

*a lot from my perspective – I won’t be buying a space station or rocket pad any time soon. I’d like a Lincoln welder at some stage, though.