We think that in order to get ahead in life, we need to “look out for ourselves,” even be selfish and mean. But is that really true? Could it be that nice people actually get more? Well, yes, they do, and it’s scientifically proven. Here’s how nice people achieve more.
1. They help without expecting something in return.
Adam Grant in Give and Take, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, makes this crystal clear. According to his research, people who give unconditionally—the givers—are the ones who achieve the most. Right after them, rank the people who “look out for themselves” and might even be mean or selfish. These are the “takers.”
Yes, takers come second.
2. They listen.
Marie Forleo, a “Rich, Happy, and Hot” internet entrepreneur, often says that the greatest gift we can ever give to others is our presence.
As she discussed on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, when someone’s talking to you but you’re texting or just thinking about other things, the message you’re sending is that the other person is not worthy of your attention.
The solution? Say “I’m back!” And just like that, your focus will be back to reality. Every color is now more vivid because you’re actually noticing it! Now, you can be there for the other person, and actually help them. Watch Marie explain this technique in her own words:
Truly nice people are people others can rely upon. And, yes, because of their generosity, they receive 10x their input back in return.
3. They are unexpectedly nice.
Nice people are not just nice in situations when most people are nice—they are nice even in situations where “niceness” is not expected. They’ll listen and you’ll feel heard. They’ll surprise you with their help and ideas.
I felt like that when I met best-selling author Tim Ferriss in person. Even though he was surrounded by tons of people, when he talked to me, I felt as if I was the only person in the room.
And here I am now talking about it. And there are thousands of people just like me praising him. Does Tim get things in return from all this word of mouth? You bet he does.
4. Their generous reputation precedes them.
Truly nice people are known for being nice. For example, even before I met consultant Michael Fishman in his BehaviorCon conference last August (hacking behavior along with best-selling author Ramit Sethi), I knew he was nice. Facebook and Twitter make the world so connected that news just spreads.
Indeed after we met he surprised me by saying “gratitude” for every little thing I did. Then he unexpectedly offered to help me with my book.
And yes, here I am talking publicly about it. Because you can hardly forget when someone takes care of you.
5. They make others feel good.
When you feel heard, you feel good. When you get help, you feel good. And you just can’t help but like the other person who helped you.
Then, reciprocity kicks in: one of Cialdini’s Principles of Influence. When you get something, you feel like you need to give back in return. You can’t help but do something nice for the person who helped you. And that’s how nice people get even more back in return.
6. They know the difference between being a doormat vs. being a generous giver.
Nice people are not doormats. After all, no one respects doormats. People take advantage of doormats. Few people genuinely help doormats.
Nice people know the boundaries between being generous and being taken advantage of. They do their best to be there for others, but they don’t let them cross the line.
Interestingly, in Give and Take I learned that doormats actually are at the bottom of the achievement scale. So nice people rank first, takers come second, and down at the bottom are the doormats.
7. They are not just nice with others but they’re nice with themselves too.
So many people are nice with others, only to be extremely self-critical with themselves. They think they’re being honest. They might even complain about “sabotaging” themselves, yet since they are being “honest” they have a good excuse for doing so.
But the truth is that they are using double standards. When they talk negatively to themselves, they are only demotivating themselves from going forward. It’s one thing to say, “I’m so fat, I’ll never lose weight,” and another to say, “My past choices have made me fat, but my new ones will lead me to a better place.” If you want to be a truly nice person, you need to be nice with everyone, including yourself.
8. They don’t make excuses for not doing what they say they want to do.
Since nice people talk nicely to themselves, they are actually encouraging themselves to do the things they want to do. So, say they want to exercise. They won’t come up with excuses about why they can’t do it. Instead, they’ll encourage themselves to figure it out. They might try yoga, take longer walks, or exercise at home for just five minutes.
The result is that they feel empowered. They trust that they can do what it is they want to do. Nothing can stand in their way. And maybe that’s why people who exercise actually make 9% more than everyone else.
So, if you want to write a book, learn cooking, or de-clutter your home, what are you waiting for?
9. They see failure as a stepping stone to success.
When others get demotivated because things didn’t go their way, nice people are already looking for “the next cow.” Nice people know that “No” is a first step to “Yes,” and that failure is a stepping-stone to success. It’s not that they celebrate failure, but they don’t make a big deal about it either.
And that’s how when others quit, nice people persevere. When others think everything is dark, nice people are confident they’ll hit their goals.
10. They have the power to influence others.
Best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuck once said he devoted a few minutes while he was driving to talking on the phone with people. Now Gary has thousands of followers. This behavior is not scalable to every single follower. Yet, he does anything he can do to help. Even taking advantage of his driving time.
And people appreciate it. They know that Gary is extremely busy, yet he gives them one-on-one time. They are deeply grateful for that, and yes, they convert into lifetime Gary fans.
When Gary releases a new book, or goes on a new venture, guess who is going to champion him? The hundreds or thousands of people who have already benefited by him. Gary is unexpectedly nice, and these fans will support Gary by default, even before reviewing his work.
That’s how influential nice people can be.