Guest column: Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last?


In our overworked, stressed out lives being nice helps forge and improve relationships, whether in marriage, family, business or everyday life. But, do nice guys really finish last?

“Nice” is a funny word, and it has many definitions. But, regardless of the definition, being nice is so simple and it can make all the difference in the world to a friend, a family member, a life, or our world. It is so simple that we often forget what we learned as kids; to use words like “please” and “thank you”.

The “power” of being nice is something we all possess, and when we use it properly, its power can be felt by all of those around us – whether or not they acknowledge it at the time, and we feel better when we do it. Even when people in a family become angry at each other, if they act as if they care about us and do nice things for each other then most of the anger will dissipate.

Similarly, courtesy and good manners are components of nicety, and exist as the “oil” that helps all kinds of contacts run without unnecessary friction or wear. It was once assumed to be the distinguishing mark of a civilized society — which may explain why being nice today is becoming so rare.

Just as important it is a bad mistake to see good manners as nothing more than empty rituals of a more formal way of living. Informality and courtesy are perfectly happy bedfellows, but what distinguishes courtesy and nice is not formal ritual but a natural concern for people or a wish to interact with them in a way that preserves or enhances their dignity and sense of well-being. Consequently, if you have no respect for yourself, then that’s another problem that may prevent you from being nice or courteous to others.

Being nice helps lives run smoothly, which is the “oil” in human relationships, at home or at work. For example, it you try to run a piece of machinery without lubrication, you will ruin it. Before final burnout and total seizure of all moving parts, there will be a great deal of heat, considerable wear and damage, and the spaces between surfaces will be filled with all kind of fragments and grit.

A life without sufficient attention to simple courtesy suffers in much the same way. A great deal of heat, hostility, aggression, and anger is generated rather quickly. As people rub up against each other, they cause irreparable damage and “wear”, twisting each other out of shape and distorting attitudes. All the minor, inevitable irritants of human life—the “grit” that would have been smoothed away by the lubrications of courtesy or being nice—build up until they scour relationships with pain and frustration.

Over time, more and more energy and effort has to be expended to keep the social machinery moving at all—an expenditure of energy that would be entirely unnecessary in a more civilized environment. Small sections probably burn out and stop working. People are permanently damaged, and the atmosphere is thick with the smell of tension and friction.

However, time and time again, we have seen the extraordinary power of nice in our professionals dealing, and our personal lives. It is the patient passenger who politely asks the airline ticket agent to please check one more time who gets the first-class upgrade, rather than the “I’m a triple platinum member” blowhard. It is the driver who is polite and apologetic to the police officer who sometimes is forgiven for driving over the speed limit.

Unfortunately, society has created being nice as meaning the other person has little else positive to say about you, and to be nice is to be considered Pollyanna and passive, wimpy, and Milquetoast. Fortunately, “we do not live by society’s rules.” Let me be clear: Nice is not naïve, nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you, nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, it can be argued that being nice is the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear. Being nice means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people’s needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want a win-win situation.

For example, nice people are the healthiest, nice people spend less time in court, nice people have more money, and nice people are luck in love. For it is often the small kindnesses — the smiles, gestures, compliments, favors–that make our day and can even change our lives. Whether you are leading your own company, running for president of the PTA, or just trying to conduct a civil conversation with your teenage son or daughter, the power of nice will help you break through the misconceptions that keep you from achieving your goals. Oh, do not think for a minute that just because someone is nice and smiles all the time that they are weak, if that is your thought process then you may be in for a rude awakening.

The power of nice will help you to open doors, improve your relationships at work and at home, and let you sleep a whole lot better. Nice not only finishes first; those who use its nurturing power wind up happier, to boot!

So again the question can be asked, do nice guys really finish last?

Derek Boyd Hankerson
St. Augustine, FL

Derek Boyd Hankerson is the Managing Partner of Freedom Road, LLC. Derek is former vice president of the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee and was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Derek has been a leader in numerous community projects in support of Fort Mose, multicultural education and heritage tourism. Historic City News is pleased to be able to publish Derek’s periodic guest columns which are both informative and entertaining. Derek and his wife live in St. Augustine.