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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

I'm Too Nice

A Manifesto Defending Kindness in Business

Before you read any further, I want to make something crystal clear: I am the furthest thing from perfect. As my bride of nearly 27 years will be quick to verify, I do things ranging from leaving kitchen cabinets open while cooking to snoring so loud after a few brandivate beverages of the week the walls rattle. I know of at least a billion other things that make me flawed, but the studies I've reviewed show that no one has the attention span required to read all of them. However, despite all my countless imperfections, I am almost always nice. And, yes, she will corroborate that as well, but I digress.

Whether it’s due to my upbringing or the way I’m inherently wired, being a nice guy is just who I’ve always been. While there are things worse than being a nice guy, I’ve often felt my inherent niceness has been a disadvantage. Yes, folks, there are some downsides to being nice:

  • I say “yes” far more than I probably should because, in my mind, if someone is asking for help, that assistance should be given. However, this does mean that I get taken advantage of or feel used from time to time.

  • I’ve been attacked on social media for things I’ve written or said and not snapped back, even though I have what my mother always called a “silver tongue.” I refuse to cut someone down, especially in public, because that would bring me down to their level.

  • People have blatantly and knowingly lied about me to others – hurtful, unprofessional, and things designed to disparage me - many times while attempting to elevate themselves. Instead of confronting them and exacting my pound of flesh, I turn the other cheek because, deep down, I know that accosting them won’t change the fact that they slandered me.

  • When I do inadvertently upset, anger, or hurt someone, it cuts me VERY deep. Likely because I know how it feels when that happens, I will flog myself for an inordinate amount of time as I seek to right my wrongs.

My commitment to being nice – whether based on my wiring or situational decision – causes me more than a fair amount of disappointment, frustration, and even the occasional hurt feelings. There is a cost to everything, and subjecting myself to potential letdowns is the price of being nice. That cost can be very steep at times.

This is the part of the blog I am supposed to write that, moving forward, I’ll do a better job of balancing my niceness – the cost is just too high. However, I refuse to succumb to the lure of that personality shift because, for me, being nice is, for lack of a better term, right.

Some believe that the fact that I’m nice quenches any competitive fire I have. You can ask anyone in business or sport who has competed alongside or against me, and they will tell you that’s patently false. I’ve been underestimated countless times because, theoretically, nice guys don’t have the drive needed to be successful. Success has many different definitions, and I am fine letting the results of my work speak for me.

The world – business and otherwise – needs nice. While being too nice can be detrimental at times, more often than not, it will reward you by creating the following:

  • an empathetic path that allows proper understanding of client challenges which fuels inspiration

  • a gateway to creating great work because you genuinely care about solving client problems

  • a direct highway to client happiness due to the fact you are focused on client victories, not yours

The bottom line, I won’t change who I am. I’m a terminally nice person which means that, sometimes, I'm too nice. I will continue to say yes more than I say no, refuse to publicly eviscerate people on social media, will turn the other cheek when others attempt to discredit me, and die a thousand deaths when I unwittingly hurt someone. Even so, it is true that nice guys always finish last...for one reason only:

We finish last because we are too busy making sure others - including clients - finish first.

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