Friday, May 14, 2010

Suppressing That “Nice” Reflex

I was negotiating a contract with a client the other day. The client sent me their contract, I looked it over, and found a term I wasn’t too comfortable with. The job was interesting and paid well, and I wanted it—but not with that term. This was someone I’d done business with before, and was on great terms with. But that one thing in the contract bothered me.

So I wrote a note mentioning it and asking if we could change the contract to eliminate that one thing. And immediately regretted it. It was kind of “mean” to do that, wasn’t it? I mean, this guy and I were practically best buddies! We’d gone out to drinks together! We’re friends on Facebook! If I make waves about his contract, won’t I look like a jerk?

Then the client got back to me and all was fine. We took that section of the contract out and the project went on as scheduled. If I had listened to that voice inside my head—the one that told me I wasn’t being “nice”—I would have been stuck with a contract I wasn’t crazy about.

Being nice is all well and good with friends and family. But when you’re in business, you can’t let it get in the way of your livelihood. People who are great friends of yours will take advantage of you—and as a friend, you’re supposed to let them. But in business, it doesn’t work that way—and that’s why it’s rarely a good idea to do business with close friends.

What’s your opinion on “nice” in a business environment? Does it get you ahead—or is it self-destructive?


Ms. Bitch said...

I think people spend too much time trying to be nice and not enough time thinking about the consequences of using personal feelings in career decisions. I've had to train myself to think of things in another way because I was raised to let others go first, never take the last of anything and not to make waves in general. As a businesswoman, I've learned that the only person that ALWAYS has my best interest in mind is me, whether I'm friends with the person or not.

In fact, I would have thought he wasn't being nice to me for having a potentially contentious clause in the contract. And the only time I would have tried to keep it as nice as possible was when I was writing the note to him. I would have said I would like to talk about changing the contract to something I could be more comfortable with.

Janet said...

I'll second everything Ms. said, and simply add this: there is a difference between "nice" and "respect." You've got to respect yourself, and you've got to respect your own business practices. If someone's contract terms don't allow you to do business the way you think it should be done, you owe it to yourself to negotiate a change. This was a timely post for me - I've got a friend about to give me a great project, but the price he wants to pay is far below market value. Thanks for the reminder to stick up for myself and properly value the expertise I have and the work I can do.

Lori said...

Nice is fine for communicating and building a relationship, but negotiating a contract requires cordial. I'm nice to people AND confident in my communications. A few times that's caused the clients to back off and approach negotiations in email, but I'm still upbeat as I tell them my price again. I don't back down on what I need. I can't. I see it as my own survival. I can like them all day, but I cannot resent them OR me for a bad deal.

Jenn Mattern said...

Congrats on silencing that "nice" nag in your head. I'm a big believer in an honest, blunt, firm approach. Some people perceive it to be bitchy (ironically that's never coming from a client, who actually appreciate it -- usually colleagues who feel like they have to make everyone like them). You're not in business to make friends. Sure, that's a great side effect, but if you spend all of your time worrying about others and not your own business, you'll probably hate yourself for it later.