Most of us have been labouring under a delusion – that being nice will get us ahead in the world. This delusion is all-pervasive. Even our fiction is full of it. The ‘great’ stories of our time are all about good versus evil with good usually triumphing.
But, is the world really like this? Does being ‘nice’ benefit us in any way that isn’t entirely superficial? I’ve wondered this for most of my life and, from purely anecdotal evidence, it seems that being anything but ‘nice’ is the way forward.
Call me cynical, but when was the last time being nice to people actually paid off? You’re sweet, you’re friendly, all’s good for a while, then people start showing their true colours and it all goes to pot.
Our fault begins with assuming people are ‘nice’. By default, we assume that a person is good because that’s what most of us have been raised to believe. We take them at face value, again because we are expected to judge people kindly. But, what we do wrong with our default mode is that we ignore our gut instinct.
It is amazing how sharp our instincts are. I’ve always found that my first impression of a person is the correct one. If I ignore my first instinct, it usually comes back to bite me in the arse. And despite years of experience with people I can’t trust, I still give in to my nature of believing the best in them. Till the arse-biting thing, of course.
What I’ve found over the years is that the more malevolent and vile someone is, the more likely it is that other people will worship her/ him. I’ve seen it countless times. People hailed as visionaries, “the sweetest soul” or the best workers usually turn out to be the ones who aren’t any of it. How do they get to such high standing? By manipulating others.
But, surely, you ask, people aren’t foolish enough to fall under such liars’ spells? Well, you’ll be amazed. We live in an era where people are so busy and stressed that they wouldn’t notice a dead body if it fell in their path. So, one can imagine how hard it is for someone to realise when someone is working hard but not speaking up about it. They look for the easy clues to figure out whom to trust and whom to give credit to – and that usually goes to the squeaky wheel.
So, should we all become squeaky wheels? Should we tell people how friendly we are or that we’ve written six reports when we’ve written only 2? Do we degrade ourselves to the level of these people to get ahead in life?
Well, no. That’s not the way to go. What we need to do is stand up for ourselves. If we do something, no matter how small, let people know about it. We may not be used to living and working this way, but it is clearly the only way anyone is going to know we exist. And, yes, continue to be nice. Treat other people the way we would like to be treated but know where to draw the line. Nobody deserves our undivided love and attention.
Not all of this will hold true for everyone but it will for a significant number of us. Let’s trust our instincts, proceed with caution when encountering new people and interacting with people we feel we’ve known a long time, and make a little noise about a lot of our work.