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Kindness Is a Business Asset

Be kind to the people you meet on the way up because you'll meet them again on the way down.


I'll start with a confession. A few hours ago, I acted like a jerk.  A PR guy sent me an email containing a story idea and, rather than just replying that I'm not interested, I sent the guy a snarky remark.

After I sent it, I had a weird feeling of deja-vu.  Then I remembered a time when I was just getting started as a writer. I sent a pitch email to Chris Anderson, who at the time was an editor at Wired.

His response: "I can't think of any topic that would be less interesting."

That was 15 years ago. Anderson exercised his wit and as a result soured somebody who might now be a big fan.

As a contrast, consider Jay Leno.  Just so you know, Leno--in addition to being a hugely popular talk show host--is one of the most successful corporate speakers of all time. A while back, I wrote an article about his business.  One quote stuck with me:

"You meet a guy on the elevator and you say hello, well, for the rest of your career you are the greatest guy in the world...but if you go 'Excuse me, I'm busy' you are just an a**hole."

In other words, there's business value to being kind. Over the course of your career, you'll meet and correspond with thousands of people.  I don't know about you, I don't want a percentage of those people thinking that I'm an a**hole.

Because here's the thing: in today's business world, all you have is your reputation and if you get a reputation for being a jerk, it's going to stick with you.  Just like Anderson's snarky putdown stuck with me.

As for the PR guy, I sent him an honest apology.  Turns out he thought the original reply was funny, but that's not the point.  The point is that being kind (or at least polite) makes people into potential allies and being a jerk just makes you enemies.

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IMAGE: tanakawho / Flickr.com
Last updated: Sep 10, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.

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