Why being nice pays off

Being nice is completely underrated, in my opinion. It is dramatically underrated in business, and it is increasingly becoming passe socially as well. While I don’t normally write personal blogs here about these sorts of things, it’s late and I’m winding down from work (yes, at 3.09 am), and need distraction.

But also, just lately I’ve had reason to become officially irritated. I’m a bit of an impulsive hot-head at the best of times (and all you peeps out there who know me will go, “yeah well you’re a ginger what do you expect?”, much to my even greater irritation) but this week has been a bit of an eye opener. It’s because I’ve had to have dealings with certain people in certain industries who aren’t humble enough. And no, I won’t mention them because there is no point.

The point is that being nice pays off… eventually. The way I run my business, and the way I deal with my team at Metal as Fuck, is probably in line with a style that every management guru would hold up as worst-practice case study: I’m friends with just about everybody. People say that, but it’s true – especially in terms of the MaF team: we’re connected on MSN, FaceBook, GoogleTalk, Myspace, Skype, Twitter, LinkedIn. I chat about random shit on email and IM with my journalists and photographers. I spend late nights online talking shit to columnists internationally via IM. And I spend what would probably amount to an hour a week – sometimes more – just being me on Twitter, and having a good time with other contribs who aren’t on other networks. We share stories, photos, experiences, thoughts, ideas. We bounce things off each other. We, in general, have a good time. And it’s not usually business talk. We can exchange emails for that stuff.

In terms of the other side of my business, I talk on email with clients and past clients every so often just to see how they are. I catch up with my clients for coffee and a chat about nothing in particular. And I consult for a group that are all a bit quirky, good fun, and happy to hear all the crazy shit about the Metal Me and some of my lovely off-tap friends.

Part of my keeping in touch with everyone is no doubt my love of technology for the sake of it; but it’s also partly because I work with people that I like and get along well with; and I make a conscious decision to do that. I made the decision when I started my business that I would work with a particular type of person: a nice person, one who is good to talk to and to be around, who pays on time, who is interesting, and who doesn’t drag me down. They have to be a bit up-beat.

However, sometimes I have to deal with people to whom I would far rather set alight and watch burning. I have learned – the hard way – to let things sit around for eight or ten hours if I’m irritated, so I don’t fire off emails telling people exactly what I think. I’ve worked out that every time I deal with somebody like this, I’m usually irritated because they are arrogant and have no sense of anything outside of their own ego. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have a cheer squad who provide enormous amounts of morale boosting at times. I do! On email, no less! In the end, I manage to be nice and simultaneously, where necessary, absolutely rock-hard to whoever I’d rather shred into tiny little pieces.

The thing about being nice to such people is that your position commands respect. It might be a tiny little bit, but it’s there. Even if the result isn’t what you’re after at the time, somebody who’s nice – in an ocean of arseholes – stands out.

One up-side of being nice to people is that it eventually turns you into a nice person. I’m a total sociopath, and very often the one thing I’d like more than anything else is to take an AK down the local shops and thin out the population; but more often than not (these days at least) I’m a happy, quite forgiving person.

The other up-side is that your team responds to you, if you head a team, in kind. Suddenly your employees or your volunteers or whatever become one big, warm, huggable family. They start to talk to each other. They start wanting to hook up with each other when they travel. I tell not a word of a lie when I say that every one of them I would love to get together in one place and get totally maggoted with.

You spend time with each other, you tell them how much you appreciate them, and they also get to see the human side of you. Surely there can’t be anything wrong with that? I’d much rather work with a group of mates than people I struggle to think about because it’s all too hard.

Sure, you can argue that being all friendly with everybody can be counter-productive. My dad always says, “you can’t be friends with everybody”. I would say, “you shouldn’t be friends with everybody”. It can be hard to put the hard word on a friend for outstanding content; or on a client for not getting their stuff to you. But it depends where your head’s at and how you approach it; there is always, as they say, a way.

Please note: “Being nice” doesn’t mean “being a doormat”. That’s just fucking stupid. You stand your ground when you have to, regardless of the situation.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Being nice to people might be considered an old-fashioned way to live; but in my experience it’s the only one that, at the end of the day, makes sense.

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