Chris Stephens: Being nice can move you to the top of the heap

Chris Stephens

Sometimes you hear familiar "truths" you know are dead wrong. For example, I was recently reminded that the saying "Nice guys finish last" is actually backward. Nice guys finish first.

The other day a client recounted a real estate purchase that demonstrates this point. He was interested in buying a condominium in a resort area. The demand for the properties was so strong the developer was drawing names to determine buyers. My client was drawn 50th. When the broker told him that, my client politely expressed his disappointment and thanked the broker for his efforts.

About a month later, he got a call. Turns out that the winner of the drawing had not closed, and the unit was my client's. When he asked why he was selected even though 49 others were ahead of him, he learned this: Many of the other buyers were rude and abusive when they learned they weren't drawn. My client, in contrast, had been so polite and courteous the broker moved him to the top of the list. This speaks to another saying, "What goes around comes around."

Let's be clear. Being nice is not being a wimp. You may have heard of the "Nice Guy Syndrome," where a person tries hard to please others, being nice because of his own insecurities. The client from the above story is anything but a wimp. He is one of the toughest business people I know.

Nice may be the wrong word. Perhaps courteous is a better word. Other synonyms are enjoyable, agreeable, pleasant, kind, polite and considerate. I much prefer to work with people exhibiting those attributes.

In the book "The Power of Nice," authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Korval demonstrate how they moved their company to the top of the advertising industry by being nice. An Amazon book review says, "The Power of Nice shows that 'nice' companies have lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs, and higher productivity. Nice people live longer, are healthier, and make more money. In today's interconnected world, companies and people with a reputation for cooperation and fair play forge the kind of relationships that lead to bigger and better opportunities, both in business and in life."

I see the power of nice all the time in negotiating commercial real estate transactions. When the other party is difficult to work with, the transaction becomes difficult. Reaching an agreement is much easier with someone who is nice. These people may be tough as nails, but they are nice.

Someone who is nice makes us feel worthy and good about ourselves. It is human nature to respond positively to those who are positive with us.

Being nice can mean just smiling at others, remembering names or asking about the spouse who just had surgery, acknowledging a person's good work and, yes, being courteous. Being nice also shows up in small things like holding open the door for someone and letting another go first. My father told me that when you don't know what the right decision is, make the kind one. And, as Thaler and Koval point out, it means being nice to everyone regardless of his or her station in life.


Chris Stephens, CCIM, is a local associate broker specializing in commercial and investment real estate. His column appears every month in the Daily News.

Chris Stephens
Real Estate