Nice guys finish first *and* last

If you’re not reading Eric Barker’s blog, Bakadesuyo, take a moment to subscribe (at least for as long as RSS readers still exist) before reading the rest of this post.  Eric spends an incredible amount of effort distilling the nuggets of wisdom from hundreds of books so you don’t have to.  You’ll thank me later.

Done?  Good.

One of Eric’s recent posts tackled the old saying, “Nice guys finish last,” by looking at the actual research. (As an aside, the saying is actually a misquote of legendary baseball manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher, but the misquote is true to the spirit of his words):

You should read the entire piece (it’s not that long), but here is the gist:

  1. Disagreeable people earn more than agreeable people
  2. Ethical character is negatively correlated with men’s wages (at least for b-school students!)
  3. Disagreeable people have higher credit scores
  4. Manipulative arrogant men were more sexually active and had more sex partners
  5. Narcissists are more likely to be hired, promoted, and given raises
  6. Anger conveys competence
  7. Warmth and competence are seen as inversely related

Wow, that’s pretty grim.  Is there any hope for the nice guys of the world? 

  1. Conscientiousness is the trait most broadly correlated with marital satisfaction
  2. The U.S. Navy’s best commanders are openly encouraging, doing better on evaluations than negative, aloof captains.
  3. Nice guys have higher quality friendships, are better parents, have better academic and career performance, as well as better health
  4. Generous people make up a disproportionate number of the people at the bottom *and top* across various industries.  In other words, being nice helps you succeed, unless you’re a doormat.

In other words, nice people are better for the world.  But if they take it too far and become doormats, they suffer the consequences.

The broader pattern I see is that niceness is the better long-term strategy for both you and the world, but that meanness can drive short-term results for you (“Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, anyone?), albeit the cost of making the world worse off.

Finally, I’ll note that while this information is great, you still need to be who you are. I’ve been in situations where the people around me wanted someone to yell at and abuse them.  That was how they were motivated.  Rather than figure out how to tap my inner psychopath, I decided to get out of the situation.

In other words, if you’re a nice guy, don’t try to become mean (no matter how horny you are!). Just don’t be a doormat.

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