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The Power of Nice in the Age of Mean

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The demeaning insults, the angry diatribes, the total disrespect and disregard of any opinion that isn't an exact replica of our own.

And we're just talking about this past Thanksgiving dinner. Millions of our own beloved relatives and friends could not resist talking turkey about their political views, red, blue, purple, green and rainbow colored. (Who knew that tryptophan could be such a life-saver, mercifully putting to bed myriad arguments with a self-satisfied snooze before the pumpkin pie was served?) And now with the winter holidays approaching, the familial season of good tidings and cheer might well snowball into a wrath of infighting and tears.

So as we approach the New Year, let us not rush to usher in the age of mean, where nastiness, bullying and intolerance become the new black. Instead, we'd like to offer you some "nice" facts that may help guide your better angels:

1. Nice is Luckier in Love.

A University of Toronto study found that people who are congenial have one half the divorce rate of the general population.

2. Nice Makes More Money.

Daniel Goleman, author of Primal Leadership, found that every 2 percent increase in the service climate of an organization- that is, the cheerfulness and helpfulness of the staff - saw a 1 percent increase in revenue.

3. Nice is Healthier.

Ervin Staub, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, found that people who regularly perform acts of kindness have fewer trips to the doctor. And a University of Michigan study found that older people who are altruistic have a 60 percent lower rate of pre-mature death than their unhelpful peers (University of Michigan study). Live mean, die young?

4. Nice Spends Less Time in Court.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine found that doctors who have never been sued speak to their patients for an average of 3 minutes longer than physicians who have been sued twice or more. Just by being more empathetic, doctors might avoid malpractice suits altogether.

5. Nice Teams are More Productive

In a 2102 Google study of its own employees, they found that the most productive groups were not the ones populated with Mensa I.Q.s, but the ones where everyone's opinion was respected and where team members felt "psychologically safety" with their peers.

Regardless of the current "you must eat your young in order to survive" political environment we have been mercilessly mired in, we have found that many of America's most successful business leaders are nicer, kinder, and more collaborative than many of their competitors. As founders of one of the country's fastest growing and most successful ad agencies, with blue chip clients that included Wendy's, US Bank, Aflac, and Procter & Gamble, we can attest to the fact that CEOs who treat their employees with dignity and respect have less turnover, more productive employees, and a staff willing to go the extra mile (and a half) to build their companies.

In a study published by the Harvard Business Review, (WSJ, Christine Parath), employees who found their leaders were respectful and considerate reported "92% greater focus and prioritization, 56% better health and well-being," and feeling "55% more engaged." Conversely, in a University of Florida study where subjects were made to feel belittled or disrespected, the participants came up with 39% fewer creative ideas than their respected counterparts (University of Florida, Erez & Porath).

Yet "nice" continues to get a bad rap, so let's clear the air here. Nice does not equate with being a doormat or endlessly filling everyone's champagne glass. Nice is being assertive, yet empathetic, strong, but collaborative, taking the stage, but willing to share the spotlight.

Harry Truman, one of our country's most unpretentious and least self-aggrandizing presidents, famously declared:

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

We couldn't agree more.

So as the holidays approach, can we, as a divided and angry nation, find a way to work with each other, through our business and personal lives, so that we can accomplish the goals that will move us all forward?

Today, many of us view the world with our nose to the canvas, seeing only bleak lines and dots. Our perspective makes us unable to discern the expansive palette of our incredible history: the millions of immigrants of all colors, races, and religions who, by working together, were able to win two World Wars, survive the Great Depression, and improve the lives of all Americans.

Now, more than ever, we need to take a collective step back and focus on the bigger picture, knowing in our hearts and minds that we will only realize our dreams when we treat each other with compassion, respect and kindness.

Now wouldn't that be nice?

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval are the bestselling authors of The Power of Nice and have co-authored three other national bestsellers together: Grit to Great, The Power of Small and Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World.