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Book Review: The Power of Nice

July 4, 2014

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Sometimes you stumble upon a treasure you weren’t even looking for. That was my experience with “The Power of Nice” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. I found it discarded on a book shelf at my new job. Apparently left by a previous occupant. Or simply overlooked.

Jay Leno writes the introduction to “The Power of Nice.” It’s a short introduction for a short book. He captures the essence of both the book and the message in the first paragraph. “[Y]ou cannot eat the whole pie or you’ll make yourself sick. Eat some, and then give whatever is left over to other people.”

The Kaplan Thaler Group is one of the nation’s fastest growing advertising agencies. At least that’s what it says in their book. Personally, I don’t know a lot about advertising agencies. I like to think I do know a thing or two about being nice. And I think Thaler and Koval got it right.

At 119 pages, their book is easy to get through. But, it would be a mistake to dismiss their message as overly simplistic. They lay out an approach of how business can be conducted based on the principle of being nice.

They break down the approach into what the book calls “The Six Power of Nice Principles.”

#1. Positive impressions are like seeds
#2. You never know
#3. People change
#4. Nice must be automatic
#5. Negative impressions are like germs
#6. You will know

I was struck by parallelism the authors built into their list. Positive == seeds. Negative == germs. You never know — you will know. And right in the middle is the idea that people change and you can’t fake nice. The authors take the rest of the book to explain how to apply the lessons. They include “Nice Cube exercises” that are designed to help you put into practice the lessons they are teaching.

The authors bring the story back to the pie metaphor. And it’s aroma wafts through pages and chapters: Bake a bigger pie; Sweeten your pie. And throughout all of it the simple message that we all learned as toddlers: play nice.

We’d all be better off if there was more nice in the world. The more people who read “The Power of Nice” and follow its principles the nicer.

What I liked
As you probably gathered, I liked this little book: a lot. In addition to metaphors about pie, the authors sprinkle the chapters with personal stories and anecdotes to illustrate their points. It helps that I believed in the power of nice before I ever read this book. The message traces its origins back to Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People.” It’s found in the message of the Arbinger’s group “The Anatomy of Peace.” I stumbled on “The Power of Nice” by accident. I’ll return to it by choice.

What I Didn’t
I understood what the authors were trying to accomplish with the Nice Cube exercises. But, they often missed the mark. They were overly simplistic and didn’t always match up with the message. The book would have been just as good, or better without the Nice Cubes.

What it means to you
You don’t need a book to tell you to be nice. I’m sure your mother taught you that, like my mother taught me the first time I hit my brother over the head with an action figure. What “”The Power of Nice” will help you do is to connect those lessons from when you were kid with business situations. And Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval will keep you entertained as they explain what you really already knew. Being nice really is the best policy.

4 out of 5 Stars

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. Thanks for another great post Rodney. The failure to understand ‘nice’, or ethics in business is very frustrating. Yes, you can make money by skinning the sheep, but there’s a great deal more to make with continuing business – with the sheep analogy, shearing the sheep for the wool. (You probably know that shearing doesn’t hurt, and frees them of a coat humans have bred to be artificially heavy by springtime. Shearing is a net benefit to the sheep as well as the human.) Business ethics are generally anything but, so the exceptions are appreciated even more.

    • I completely agree Randy. Part of the problem is that “nice” is taken to mean naive. I do the book reviews on holidays. (Happy Independence Day!) I’m always surprised how popular they are.

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