The Power of Nice: A book review by Bob Morris

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
Crown Business (2006)

How to strengthen your “niceness muscles”

Frankly, I think it would be ludicrous for anyone to need to read a book about being nice, either to understand what that involves or to be reminded of why it is important. That said, the sad fact remains that there are many people in our so-called “civilization” who are thoughtless, inconsiderate, rude, mean-spirited, and in some cases vicious. Of course, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval know that. Presumably they also know that those in greatest need of this book are least likely to read it. Nonetheless, they clearly believe in the inherent value of kindness and convinced that it is possible to “conquer [or at least prosper in] the business world with kindness.” They also believe that kind people are happier and healthier, that they achieve a higher quality of life as well as a higher standard of living, and that kindness can be an effective shock absorber in a world that seems to become nastier each day.

Thaler and Koval identify and then discuss “The Six Power of Nice Principles” and devote a separate chapter to each. It is important to note that these principles do not involve self-serving strategies and tactics. They comprise the foundation of a mindset that must be authentic, consistent, and cohesive as well as pragmatic. It is no coincidence that many (if not most) of the companies annually ranked among the most highly-admired by Fortune magazine are also ranked among those that are the best to work for and the most profitable. Southwest Airlines, for example, attracts far more job applications than there are positions available and many of the applicants work for other airlines. Throughout 30 years of frequent experience with Southwest, not once have I encountered an employee (either in the air or on the ground) who was not nice.

Readers will especially appreciate the provision of “Nice Cube” exercises and applications at the end of each chapter. Whatever her or his circumstances at work and at home may be, any person can immediately complete the exercises and take the initiatives that will strengthen her or his “niceness muscles.” These suggestions offer no head-snapping revelations, nor do Thaler and Koval make any such claim for them. For most readers, they serve as useful reminders of what is regrettably uncommon courtesy. “If you take anything away from this book, we hope it’s the realization that there is untapped potential in even the smallest good deed, and that it can have a multiplier effect strong enough to change the world” or at least the world in which each reader lives. Thaler and Koval go on to observe, “Yes, a random act of kindness can help you become healthier, wealthier, and wiser. But, most of all, it will make you happier. And, after all, isn’t that the real power of nice?” Indeed it is.


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