Stop being 'the nice guy.' Why being a jerk... works.

Dec 2nd 2023

Stop being The Nice Guy. Or Girl.
But still be nice. A mini handbook

This should take: 4 minutes

Hi. Have you ever heard or felt this?

"I'm always the nice guy, and then I get taken advantage of"

If you believe that in order to get what you want, you have to be a jerk, it's going to be a hard road.

Most people believe some version of this. They actually believe that the Trump version of negotiation is effective.

Because IT IS.

Well, kind of.

The truth is, sometimes being aggressive or being a jerk works.


But here's the catch. It only works with some people and it only works temporarily.

If you're a jerk, some people will sometimes give in. If they need something. And right after that they will give up on ever dealing with you again.

You know what also works? Being super nice.

Well, sometimes it works. It doesn't work with the jerks.

In both scenarios, there is a part of the population who will give more to you because you are nice, or because you are aggressive.

But don't take my word for it. Look around you. You'll see examples everywhere.

Here's the secret:

Neither being nice, nor being a jerk will work as well as being strategic, empathetic and resolute.

Let's look at these three qualities and how to work on them.

  • Be strategic
  • Be empathetic
  • Be resolute

Side note: Craig's learning edge

Yesterday, a friend asked me about any guidance I had on meditation.
This is a topic very dear to me.

Excited, I found myself giving multiple monologues.

My learning edge these days is trying to lead a conversation with questions rather than statements.

What's yours? (Hit reply and tell me. I read your replies!)


Be Strategic

Most often, we're reacting to someone instead of proactively, and strategically interacting.

Being strategic means that you know the underlying purpose of what you're saying and where you are in the conversation

Old Way

"Well, I wanted to talk about compensation next."

You dive into what you want when you finally get up the courage.

New Way

"I'd like to understand a bit more about how the priorities of the team are shifting and how my work plays into them."

You know what you're trying to do at any point in the conversation:

  • Building relationship
  • Eliciting information
  • Making an ask

And you first figure out what is important to them before you voice your request.

Obviously, there's a TON I could say about being strategic. If you want more tips, try out this (free) 5-day course on negotiating with a manager.

Be Empathetic

You might think this is a passive person's strategy. It's not. It's about increasing your influence. You catch more flies with honey...

How do you increase your influence using empathy?
You demonstrate that you can see the world from their point of view.

Why does it increase your influence?
Think of the other person's opinions and feelings like a box of golden treasure. But this special box is only viewable to them. They want to protect it. No one else can protect it because they can't see it.

If you can show that you can see their box of treasure, and that you care about it, they can relax. They can be more open to spending their energy on other things. If they feel alone with their treasure, they will always look to protect it first.

Here's an example:

Old Way

"I'm sorry... I guess I'm not sure if...."

You immediately apologize and second guess yourself.

Your instinct is to be "agreeable" which is great, but instead you can end up being talked over, walked over and disrespected.

New Way

"It sounds like you are [insert feeling]. I'm curious about [clarifying question]"

When you're faced with opposition, try not to instinctively defend yourself. Instead, show that you see their underlying feeling, or opinion, then get curious by asking a question.

This is an example of validating without agreeing.

Be Resolute

Too often, we think that in order to get what we want, we need to be more aggressive. More take charge. More of a "tough guy." And at the same time we're scared to be looked at that way.

Because you already know what it feels like to deal with people who are aggressive. It's not great.

What if you could get what you want without doing that?

The answer is to be a wall. Not a wall with guards and guns... just a simple wall.

You don't argue with a wall. You just accept that you'll have to find another way around.

If a wall starts shapeshifting moving every time you go near it... you'd stop looking for a way around and keep pressing up against it to find a way through.

So be resolute (the verbal equivalent of a wall), but kind.

This is the key to making the first two steps work. If you are only empathetic, then you'll get rolled over. Instead, be kind and unmoving.

Old Way

"Yeah, I know you have to consider the budget. Okay."

When you get pushback, your reaction is to make them feel okay by backing off your request.

New Way

"I wanted to make sure you knew what I've been thinking. I'd love to figure out what's possible and meet again next week."

After they react to your request, you re-iterate what you thinking without changing it, and then start figuring out the next time to chat.

See you next week.

p.s. hit reply and let me know what tricks you use to be nice without being a pushover

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