The Power Of Niceness

Article in the Mindscape Section of the March 2016 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran

I recently was on an Air France flight to Spain and among other things, one thing that I constantly notice because of my interest in human behaviour is the way the cabin crew interact with the guests as well as with each other. Out of the 3 stewards and 4 stewardesses, one gentleman really stood out from the others. He was a cut above the rest in terms of both the quality of his service as well as his aura and the energy that he spread around him. His name was Jon Paul (I asked him later). As I sat there with the constant hum of the aircraft in the background, wondering what made this man exceptional, it suddenly struck me that it wasn’t that he was more competent as a steward or he knew the dishes on the menu any better or even that he was the lead flight attendant. He was just nicer. To all his colleagues as well as to all guests onboard.

This is the single most important quality that will help you leverage all the other strengths that you have. It’s also one that is greatly overlooked in the entire field of self development, in a world of achievement orientation and ‘get what you want’ thinking.

I remember having a conversation a while ago with a group of veteran advertising professionals. They spoke about a time in the field of advertising, when a really creative person could pretty much do what he or she felt like and get away with it. Their high score on the creativity scale sort of compensated for their other tantrums. But in today’s advertising industry, along with being creative, you also have to be nice. While I agree with the idea of niceness playing a critical role, I certainly don’t think that it’s a recent feature in our lives.

Human beings are inherently attracted to niceness. They’ve always been. We would rather spend time with people who are nice to us especially since most human beings anyway, are in their nicest behaviour when they are in a good mood and when things are going well for them. I’ve met a few extremely competent people in my career who have struggled to grow, purely because their competence was shrouded by rudeness or outright arrogance. Now I’m not suggesting that you use niceness as a strategy, because that seems to be the mantra of the 21st century. Reducing every great human quality into a formula for success, where phrases like “The Nice guys finish last” and “Nice is just a place in France” have become popular punch lines.

I don’t encourage anyone to be nice because they are going to get a better job, close more deals or make more money. That thinking is fundamentally flawed and to put it bluntly “Not So Nice”. There is real charm in being nice for niceness’s sake and that in itself is the symbol of a better life. And that is exactly what even the nice steward Jon Paul told me after the flight landed in Barcelona and I asked him what makes him be so nice to everyone even when no one’s watching. He had just two simple things to say. “It’s Nicer To Be Nice” and “Being Nice Also Makes You Feel Nicer”.