Is it a fact that “Nice People Finish Last?”

“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
― Grant Ph.D., Adam M., Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

I have heard the old adage that “Nice people finish last” my whole life.  And when I started my own business, I really started to question if that was true.  I just finished reading the book, Give and Take by Adam Grant.  What he found in his research is that, Yes, nice people do often finish at the bottom of the ladder of success.  But, they also finish first. That old adage isn’t wrong, it just isn’t the fact.

Reading this book was such a victory.  With the new information I have gained I am adding back into my life a part of who I am that I have been trying to redirect for years.

According to Adam Grant there are three types of people:

Chapter 1

Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place. They feel that to succeed they need to be better than others period to prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Garden variety takers aren’t cruel or cutthroat; they’re just cautious and self-protective. “if I don’t look out for myself first,” Whereas takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them.

Givers tilt reciprocity in the other direction preferring to give more than they get. givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them.  If you’re a giver at work you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.

Matchers, strive to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting period; machers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.

For the most part I am a Giver. After going through this book, I can see how I was easily taken advantage of in the past and why I was trying to pretend to be a matcher or a taker at times in business. I can live with the fact that sometimes people might take advantage of me.  That just shows who they are and I will survive, I always have. He had some tips on how not to be a doormat and how to just walk away from the takers, once you realize your engaged with one.

I love what he talks about in Chapter 2.

Sociologist Fred Goldener wrote about what it means to experience the opposite of paranoia “pronoia” according to the distinguished psychologist Brian Little “pronoia is the delusional belief that other people are plotting your well-being, or saying nice things about you behind your back.”

I plan to continue to work on growing my “pronoia” muscle a little more. Not to the point of being totally delusional, just enough to not lose time, energy, or money being paranoid.

In chapter 8, I hit paydirt for me. The big “aha” moment was when he explained to me why I had to go to Al-anon for years to unwrap myself from the lives of a few loved ones in my life. This also applies to people in abusive relationships.  As an outsider, you just can’t understand why they are staying with the person or why they are doing the things they are doing.  It isn’t rational, but it makes total sense when you see it from this perspective.

Here is a summary from the book. It is better to contact, so I recommend you get the book.

Cialdini believes that when others hurt, we hurt and this motivates us to help. Cialdini’s first challenge to Barton’s claims was that when empathy leads us to help, it’s not because our ultimate goal is to benefit the other person. He proposed that when others are in need we feel distressed, sad, or guilty. To reduce our own negative feelings we help.

Even when people can reduce their negative feelings by escaping the situation, if they’re feeling empathy, they stay and help anyways, at a personal cost of time and pain. Batson concluded that reducing bad feelings is not the only reason people help and a comprehensive analysis of 85 different studies backed him up.

Cialdini argued that when we empathize with a victim in need, we become so emotionally attached that we experience a sense of oneness with the victim. We merge the victim into our sense of self. We see more of ourselves in the victim. And This is why we help: we’re really helping ourselves.

“by the imagination, we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and hence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something.” Adam Smith

“Empathy leads to a sense of oneness, self and other overlap, and this leads to greater helping. Altruism. If we empathize with other people to the point of merging our own identities with theirs, we care about them as much as we care about ourselves. Because we no longer place our interests above theirs, helping them is purely altruistic.

Isn’t that a wild insight?

One very financially successful and happy business person built his reputation and network on, “I can give you five minutes.” It was amazing how that philosophy paid off for him in the long run.

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.” Adam Grant

What the author was able to prove is that not only do nice people finish first, they finish happier, with more support, and with better insight. Being nice isn’t a flaw, it isn’t a defect, it is a gift and with just a couple of little awareness’, you can enjoy being a giver and not have to shapeshift into something you are not for fear of being harmed by the takers of the world.

I am enjoying a more pronoia outlook on life that this book has brought me the past couple of days. I think the world is full of giver people and I know that I would not be where I am today without them investing in me and believing in me the way that they have. I am filled with so much gratitude.  I look forward to all of the places I can continue to pay it forward.

Do you have just five minutes to help someone else?



JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach and Speaker

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