Read an Excerpt
Chapter One:N.I.C.E.—How to Beat Them Without Joining Them
Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People are everywhere
They’re at the office, down the street, at the mall, on an airplane, in the checkout line, in the next highway lane, on the Internet, on the phone. They’re male, female, old and crotchety, young and feisty, strangers, relatives, and even people who call themselves friends. Sometimes it seems like everywhere you turn, there’s another one: your nothing-you-do-is-good-enough boss, your no-price-is-ever-low-enough client, the next-door neighbor whose dog barks all night, the guy at the movies who sits between two empty seats and won’t move over so you and your friend can sit together, the maître d’ who looks through you like you don’t exist, the granite-hearted lost-baggage attendant, the meter maid who sees you running up with change but won’t stop writing that ticket, the piggish developer who’d rather lose the property than share the profit, the purchasing agent who pits suppliers against each other until one crumples, the broker whose commission is more important than the sale, the chief executive officer (C.E.O.) whose fragile ego is all that matters.
Life’s difficult people can make everyday life hell. Every conversation is a conflict. Every sale is a test. Every contract is a headache. Every meeting is a battle. Every deal is a war. They make life difficult, if not impossible. They even tempt you to become one of them. Fight fire with fire, stubborn with stubborn, anger with anger, temper with temper, ego with ego. But that rarely works. It usually just brings an unpleasant situation to an unsatisfying end.
You’re Nice. So what?
You’re a nice person. Maybe not every hour of every day, but in general you’re basically nice or try to be or, at least, want others to think you’re nice. And there are plenty of others like you: people who have their ups and downs, people who don’t want to be seen as pushovers, people who are deal breakers, who have short tempers, points they won’t bend on, “matters of principle,” or even occasional bouts of plain old stubbornness. In the end, however, most of us “nice people” find a way to work out our differences in the confrontations of life, whether they’re business encounters, social situations, or family issues.
If the person with whom you interact is reasonable, ratio- nal, and sensible, resolutions are relatively simple. Sure, some issues may be challenging, some take longer than others to resolve, some are complicated, even temporarily aggravating, but usually you find a way. You each give and take, listen and learn, and find enough common ground to reach a conclusion.
But—and this is a big but—what happens when you face someone who isn’t nice, who doesn’t try to be nice, or who doesn’t care whether other people think they’re nice or not? What do you do when you come across a really impossible person (and there are plenty of them)? Then what, Mr. Nice Guy? When the other side isn’t sensible or reasonable or sane, how do you resolve your issues, make a deal, settle a dispute, or decide where to have dinner? When you find yourself across the table, backyard, room, or phone line from a truly nasty, difficult, even irrational individual, then what are your choices?
A. Give up? Run for cover, close your eyes, and wait until it’s over? If she attacks from the get-go, do you wave the white flag and surrender? If she blindsides you the moment you let your guard down, do you turn the other cheek and get clobbered on the other cheek?
B. Get nasty back? Must you stop being nice and turn nasty, difficult, and irrational yourself? Must you turn even nastier, more difficult, and less rational than she is?
C. Find another alternative? Is there a “nice” way to get what you want?
N.I.C.E.—the antidote to B.T.I.P. (Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People)
The next person you encounter may be difficult, angry, irrational, emotional, demanding, close-minded, tyrannical, illogical, rude, or all of the above and as a result can create a personal encounter that is dreaded, feared, hated, upsetting, intimidating, challenging, distasteful, disgusting, offensive, stomach-churning, or all of the above. Many of us would rather make no deal, have no meeting, not sit down, and even avoid all contact than face one of these types. But we can’t just put our heads in the sand and hope the problems and problem people go away.
That’s why we created N.I.C.E.
C—Control the encounter
N.I.C.E. is a systematic approach for successfully dealing with all of life’s most difficult people without becoming one of them. It’s simple, proven, and applicable to virtually any type of difficult person and any difficult situation.
The System and How it Works
N—Neutralize your emotions. Dealing with difficult people can be an emotional challenge. The more emotional you are, the less rational you behave. Conversely, the more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of a positive outcome.
I—Identify the type. There are three basic types of difficult people (and several permutations of each).
• The Situationally Difficult: those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult
• The Strategically Difficult: those people who believe being unreasonable is effective
• The Simply Difficult: those people with an ingrained personality characteristic C—Control the encounter. Once you know which type of difficult individual you face, you can employ the appropriate techniques to help shape and determine the outcome of the encounter. If you utilize the right techniques, you can change the fate of deals, meetings, and everyday confrontations.
E—Explore options. Even after shaping the encounter, you may still be at an impasse. The process of getting “unstuck” often requires the development of options—alternative solutions—so both sides can give and get. (This includes the option of ending without escalating, reserved for those instances in which the best deal is no deal, which can preserve the possibility of a future deal.)
Our system is a sensible, logical, sound approach but, until you fully understand and practice it, not always easy to apply. Emotions don’t necessarily respond to logic. Types are hard to pinpoint and may be multiple types at once. Creative options are elusive and require real creativity. And escalated ends can be tempting. The process requires analysis and steadfast discipline. Never forget you are facing a challenge, a human obstacle, a walking talking barrier to civil exchange or progress, someone who, knowingly or unconsciously, does not make things easy.
B.T.I.P. are those whose behavior is reactive, manipulative, uncooperative, or some combination of these characteristics. Examples: high-profile types like Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, mythical types like the Big Bad Wolf, or everyday types like an impolite waiter.
People often think that a nice person is someone whose behavior is malleable, passive, or excessively accommodating. Examples: Mr. Rogers, the ambassador of a weak country at the United Nations, or the teacher’s pet.
But the way we define a N.I.C.E. person is someone who is focused, assertive, and resourceful. Examples: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Henry Kissinger, Warren Buffet, Joe Montana—diplomats, steady successes, cool and composed athletes.
Let’s make it very clear that being N.I.C.E. does not mean being a wimp or pushover. By using the systematic approach, a N.I.C.E. person is someone who is going to get his or her way without becoming a B.T.I.P.
Don’t give in to the temptation to just react. Use the systematic approach—N.I.C.E.
N.I.C.E.—not just a theory but a systematic approach with proven results
N.I.C.E. is a systematic approach, that is, a set of practical tactics tested, modified, refined, and ultimately proven, over and over, in real-life business and social encounters, events, negotiations, deals, showdowns, standoffs, and human confrontations. Don’t go out in the world without it.
The N.I.C.E. system works for the following reasons:
• It enables you to know, almost automatically, what to do before you encounter a difficult person or situation.
• It helps you practice putting new, more effective, nondefensive habits in place.
• It helps you understand what you did right or wrong in a situation so that you can learn from your successes and failures and not repeat your mistakes.