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By Ken Sterling

Do nice folks in business come in last?

If you watch any Hollywood movie or read any business biography, you might believe the only way Hollywood producers, tech founders and billionaire investors become successful is to mistreat people. Often, our takeaway is you have to be a jerk to be successful in business.

Reality check: Kindness pays.

Exhibit 1: A 2023 Baringa survey found that 47% of companies that consumers deemed as kind doubled their earnings in the 10 years preceding the study. In fact, Baringa also found more people want to purchase from companies that are kind.

Meanwhile, rudeness is never a great long-term strategy.

Exhibit 2: A 2002 JAMA study, “Patient Complaints and Malpractice Risk,” found physicians with the highest numbers of malpractice lawsuits didn’t make the most mistakes. Instead, they were the biggest jerks. Patients accused them of not listening, not returning calls, not showing respect, or being plain rude.

I’ve found in my professional career—as an attorney, talent agent and entrepreneur—I’ve had more success with kindness. So much so that in my dealings, all my clients, other agents and attorneys refer to me as the “smiling assassin.” Not because I’m a cold-blooded killer. It’s because I use kindness to win deals.

How To Use Your Kindness As A Strategy

We all want to be seen, heard and remembered. Knowing that, practicing empathy and checking your ego are the foundations of kindness.

1. See.

People like to be seen and feel important. One way to make a person feel seen is to look straight at them and smile. It makes most situations friendlier from the start.

2. Hear.

The best way to make a person feel heard is to listen. Kind people listen attentively to what another person has to say. Rude people tend to interrupt, ignore or both.

You can make someone’s day by giving them the time of day. Show interest. Ask questions. It makes people feel special.

3. Remember.

People want to know they made an impact. That’s done by remembering. It could be as simple as remembering their name, their child’s name or their favourite food.

Or you could follow up with a thank-you note for their time, showing that the person made a memorable impression on you. Remembering also means you can empathize. Think of what it’s like to go through what they are experiencing; remember a time something similar happened to you.

How To Stay Kind Even When It’s Not Reciprocated

Being kind does not mean being a pushover.

Sometimes, you’re going to work with jerks, even if you make a person feel seen, heard, and remembered. That’s part of the business.

If that’s the case, maintain your kindness with these tips.

1. Treat everyone with respect.

Regardless of someone else’s behaviour, treat everyone with respect. Remember Exhibit B about the doctors who didn’t treat people with respect? Those doctors were sued for malpractice more than respectful doctors. Even if someone is not being kind to you, that doesn’t mean you have to disrespect them.

When you treat people rudely, it triggers them into “fight or flight.” Either way, you’ve lost their business.

2. Don’t react.

Keep your cool when people are being uncool. When someone is being a jerk, stop the conversation, breathe, and, if necessary, step away from the situation. You could pretend you have a call, need to use the restroom or have any number of reasons to stop the moment. Then come back with a smile again.

It gets easier with practice.

3. Set boundaries.

Finally, some people will act like jerks, no matter how respectful or calm you are. So, in this case, you might need to set clear boundaries on how you wish to be treated. Or, in extreme cases, you can even fire clients or customers who don’t treat you well.

Over the years, I’ve sometimes acted like a jerk, and I’ve treated people with respect. I found that kindness is the best method for a long-term business relationship.

That’s why my companies are always known as the good kids in the sandbox. Kindness not only makes clients and employees happier, it also makes your bank account happier.

Don’t just take my word for it. Start your next deal with a smile and a pause, and go make new friends.

Feature Image Credit: GETTY

By Ken Sterling

Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Los Angeles Attorney & Talent Agent | EVP Business Affairs BigSpeak. Principal Sterling Media Law. USC researcher on media and law. Read Ken Sterling’s full executive profile here.

Sourced from Forbes

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