Being nice isn’t the same as being weak. Showing kindness to colleagues or to folks you’re doing deals with is hugely important — and it drives significant success.
At work — and in much of life — pretty much everything is negotiation. Whether it’s with outside parties you’re trying to strike a deal with, or you’re debating the best path forward with colleagues, or you’re simply trying to figure out what to have for dinner… We wrangle a lot of negotiations in our day to day lives.
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I’ve written about negotiation a couple times already. My opinions on negotiation that I’ve already shared include that transparency is key, and that the best negotiations are conversations.
I’ve joked that a successful negotiation is like a successful compromise: everyone feels comparably annoyed about the outcome. The truth, though, is that the best negotiations are the ones where everyone feels like they won — because they feel fair.
I’m no babe in the woods, nor am I a Pollyanna. But another incredibly important key element to successful negotiation is kindness.
I don’t have many parenting regrets, but I do regret that I didn’t have them watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’m not a Fred Rogers historian, but I do know that he was a kind man, and he taught kindness, patience, empathy, and understanding. He told people when he was proud of them, he simplified difficult subjects, and he worked hard to give people his undivided attention.
Mr. Rogers was a good guy.
Without becoming a children’s television host or puppeteer, you can still emulate some of Mr. Rogers’s inspiring qualities in ways that serve you — and the people you work and interact with — well: Regarding that aforelinked piece I shared about transparency in negotiations, I’d actually argue that transparency is a form of kindness.
We’re often worried that someone could be trying to gain an upper hand against us, that the other side — of anything! — might be trying to take some unfair advantage. Showing genuine kindness, patience, and understanding gives people comfort and reassurance. People who sincerely like and trust you are, unsurprisingly enough, more likely to agree to the deal terms you’re after.
I think most humans are pretty good at detecting faked kindness. I’m not asking you to change your personality. I think most people want to be good most of the time. But I also think there’s a too-common inclination that we need to be tough or aggressive or stoic at work.
I think that inclination is wrong. Thanking folks, responding quickly, and showing real humanity, generosity of spirit, and kindness — it works. Even if you don’t put on a cardigan and starting singing to the folks you’re working with, offering patience, niceness, and gratitude works. It helps to get more deals done, and it makes you feel great, too.
Some folks have reputations as being tough as nails. Aim to score the more coveted reputation — that you’re one of the good ones.
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Great post, per usual. Have you read Dan Pink’s “The Power of Regret”? Your comment re minimal parenting regrets made me wonder. I’ve got my share of them! And I value each and every one.