Sometimes, when you think you’re being nice, you’re actually being a dick. You’re being “nice.”
One thing I’ve learned from successful people over the years is that they are ruthless in managing their time and energy. There is a sense of urgency over making the best of every moment.
Most people in the world are trying to be “nice.” This is different from being nice. When you’re nice, you give another person’s priorities consideration, without forgetting your own. When you’re “nice,” you let other people’s priorities block out your own.
Being “nice” is actually a dick move:
- Agreeing to a coffee or lunch meeting that you don’t want to go to is a dick move. You’re wasting that person’s time, in addition to your own.
- Doing “long goodbyes,” where everyone is standing around awkwardly extending the conversation, because they don’t want to be the first to leave, is a dick move. Everyone wants to go home. Just cut it off.
- Letting people linger at your party, when you just want to clean up and go to bed, is a dick move. Unbeknownst to your guests, you’re beginning to resent them, and regret the great party you’ve thrown.
At first, it seems like you’re being a dick if you avoid these situations. Saying you can’t do coffee, saying goodbye and leaving abruptly, or telling your guests the party is over, all feel like dick moves.
But it becomes more clear when you realize why you don’t do these things: You want to be seen as nice. In fact, your desire to seem nice is so powerful, it causes you to waste other people’s time, and strain your relationships.
If you’re still not convinced, let me tell you about a time when someone wasn’t “nice” to me, and why I’m thankful for it.
It was early in my career as a self-employed creator. I was trying to get my first speaking gig at SXSW. I wasn’t known for anything, so I started brainstorming panels that would include more successful friends of mine—the idea being that since they were successful, the panel would be more likely to be accepted.
I sent an email to one of my more successful friends, pitching my idea. He wrote back immediately: “I don’t think this is the best fit for me.”
Sitting at the picnic table outside of Noble Tree Coffee, I’m embarrassed to admit, at first I was devastated. The July air suddenly felt cold.
I once told that story to someone and he said “that’s not a friend! You should do anything for your friends!”
Had my friend actually said yes, it would have been a dick move. It really wasn’t a good fit for him. It would not have been a good use of his time and energy.
As for me, after sulking for about five minutes, I started brainstorming more. Within an hour, I had a new talk idea: Design for Hackers. My panel pitch led to a book deal, which led to a best-selling book, which led to two real SXSW appearances, and over six-figures in course sales.
None of it would have happened if my friend and I had wasted each other’s time with a mediocre opportunity that wasn’t right for either of us.
By all means, be nice. But don’t be “nice.” Have clear priorities for yourself, and when you accommodate someone else’s priorities, don’t let it block out your own priorities. You’re not doing them any favors.