Updated: Nov 16
Negotiations are often a necessary yet unpleasant part of transactions. There have been plenty of studies with many of them not favorable to the person who tries to play nice. We’ve all heard the saying, “nice guys finish last,” but have you ever questioned its veracity? Have you ever tried to break that mold or prove that quotation wrong?
According to one article, those who try to play nice end up paying 11% more than those who were tough negotiators. A different article suggested that “nice” women made substantially lower incomes than the disagreeable ones. It also asserted that agreeable men suffered financially the most.
If this is so, how much should we consider being nice or agreeable during negotiations? It would seem prudent that at any opportunity, we don our armor, grab our shield and sword, then prepare for battle. By taking all necessary precautions and being the aggressor, we will be a successful negotiator – at least according to many studies.
The most disheartening part for me was that for many years, I have been promoting kindness, compassion, and empathy which are all forms of being nice. Have I then been guilty of contributing to peoples’ financial hardship because of my teachings? Am I influencing others not to be as well off financially as they could be?
If your sole purpose is financial gain, then perhaps you may want to polish your armor and sharpen your sword. You could also use the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” approach which may be a greater tactic than showing up as a warrior prepared for battle.
It is my contention that this is exactly what’s wrong with most negotiations – business or otherwise – causing the greatest divisions our society has ever experienced.
I realize the object of business is to make money. But the attraction of wealth has become an excuse to take advantage of others simply because the opportunity exists. When negotiations become a confrontation rather than a mutually beneficial exchange, it sows seeds of disharmony and discontent manifesting in myriad ways. To the person who “won,” it incentivizes them to be more conniving at their next attempt. For the person who was taken advantage of, it creates an atmosphere of distrust and they become more suspicious and cynical of their fellow humans.
If having a kinder, nicer society means paying more, then I am all in. However, being nice isn’t the problem. It’s those who prey on nice people and usurp their kindness for their own pleasure, amusement, and gain. Their inability to empathize with other humans is a testimony to their greed and shortsightedness. While they may appear to add to their own empire, they systematically destroy their surrounding community either obliviously or from the bottom of their twisted and warped hearts.
Imagine a world where the golden rule truly was society’s aim. That trusting someone because they would only do for you what they wish you would for them was a normal expectation. Although this sounds more fanciful than reality, the biggest roadblock would be those who would selfishly subvert this universal truth.
Granted, there are always exceptions. People are not born with equal talents, passions, or goals, and some have disabilities or disadvantages which may require more receiving than giving. But overall, our task on earth would be much easier when we are being supported and helped rather than being plotted and schemed against.
Some people may be concerned that living a humans-first and kindness-driven mentality will never offer them the ability to reach their individual goals. If their objective is purely one of personal gain no matter what destruction and devastation lay in their wake, then perhaps their fears may be correct.
Unfortunately, what discourages people from focusing on a life of kindness and compassion is the lack of immediate rewards. There is little recognition or incentive to live, much less promote, this kind of lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are rewards; they are more intrinsic, nurturing and without fanfare. They provide benefits to more than just the person being kind. They encourage humanity while promoting honesty and integrity.
A new system
Is it possible to weave the “Golden Rule” into an economic system? Economies have been around as long as there has been the need to trade. For the most part, the emphasis has been on profit because unprofitable businesses rarely remain viable.
But what if the focus were different? What if it were based on exceeding expectations rather than concentrating how much we can squeeze out of everyone to maximize profits? Let’s call it “Exceedonomics,” where the goal is to exceed and provide more than what the consumer expects.
This business plan would be frowned upon by many CEOs, and more than likely would be the brunt of their jokes. But think of a time when you unexpectedly received more than you anticipated. It is more than a pleasant surprise and undoubtedly created feelings of gratitude and thankfulness.
This would not render business unprofitable; in fact, it would generate more opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship. It would mitigate risk because there would be less worry about predatory practices. Employees would work harder and be more loyal because their efforts would be appreciated and fairly compensated.
Exceedonomics would not have to be relegated only to business. It could permeate every aspect of our lives. This would truly be a whole new world, one of hope and prosperity. Frankly, one in which I would love to inhabit.
It may be a dream. It may be like praying for world peace. But it also would be a place where nice guys would finish first.
My thanks to NASA for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.
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