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Is it Just Business? How to be Professionally Human

Play nice to winHave you ever worked with someone who uses the phrase “It’s just business“?

Or played a game with someone who, after cheating, back-stabbing, lying or just being a jerk, said “It’s only a game“?

How did that make you feel? Did you respect the person more, or less? Did you trust them more afterwards?

When someone is an aggressive, shouting, mean bully, do you say “Well, that’s just how they are. A straight-talker!“.

Last night I wrote and re-wrote this post in my head.

I wanted to rant. It’s not my style. But woah … I wanted to. Instead I want to turn my anger into a positive and show you how you can forge better relationships and be more professionally human in your interactions.

Canada’s Greatest … What?

I’m angry right now, but not angry for myself. I am feeling upset on behalf of my friend Ben Eadie, one half of Mechanical Mashup, and all round top bloke.

Ben is currently appearing in a Canadian TV reality show called Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All, on the Discovery channel. Judging from their apparent behaviour, a couple of contestants think the show is called Canada’s Greatest D-Bags.

Rather than demonstrating their brain power, two of the contestants have taken to back-stabbing, aggressive behaviour, bending the rules, and other associated d-baggery.

Now, the thing is, these reality shows always have to cast a villain or two. The only way you are going to root for the good guy is if there is a bad guy for the good guy to go up against. We know this. There is no shortage of people willing to take on the role with gusto.

In the short term, they might succeed. They might even win the whole thing. It would reflect poorly on the show and the Discovery Channel, but they might.

The problem is, after the show is over, people still remember who was a jerkface, and who were the nice ones.

I don’t think they got up each morning thinking “I get to be the bad guy today, yay! Let’s go bully a contestant!”.

Those lapses of judgement, visible for the world to see, however, will stick.

How does this apply to your blogging and business?

People Don’t Always Remember What You DO … But …

Have you heard the phrase “People don’t always remember what you do, but they always remember how you make them feel”?

These guys on CGKIA now have to live with the fact that thousands of people in Canada will remember how they made them feel. This will be further amplified and distributed by social media.

I nearly named them in this article, but then what if I started ranking in search for their names? That would compound the issue and make my behaviour appear just as bad as the bully behaviour they demonstrated, but longer-lasting (the internet never forgets).

Of course, Canada gets to see what a great guy Ben is too, which has kind of a nice karmic balance to it.

Business is Business, But …

Business is business, yes, but business is also personal.

I am repeatedly accused of being too nice. Being too soft. I can’t count the number of people who think that my wife and I should “just toughen up”.


There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. It’s people who lack empathy who are the problem. People who think treating others badly is just “straight talk”. People who think being tough as nails is somehow professional.

But the good news is people remember how you make them feel.

You know what happens when people make a habit of being a jerk? Well, I am not sure, because people don’t associate with those people for very long, so they fade into obscurity when nobody is willing to prop them up any longer.

We want to work with people we know, like and trust.

Not jerkfaces.

Bad actors shine brightly then fizzle out as people detect their true nature. The nice people win in the long term:

  • More referrals.
  • More links.
  • More shares.
  • More traffic.
  • More engagement.
  • More opportunities.
  • More friends, business partners and contacts.
  • More fun.

Just think of the people you enjoy following and keeping up to date with. Do they seem like nice people for the most part? Could you shake their hands without needing a shower afterwards?

But it’s not pretending to be nice, it’s being a genuinely good human being, because faking it can only last so long.

Who would you rather work with after the show ends, the mean bullies or super nice and resourceful Ben? Even if the folks with the bad behaviour wouldn’t act like that in normal life?

Five Elements that Make You Professionally Human

So, if it’s not about being a hard as nails super-competitor, what is it about?

  1. Empathy – Start by seeing things from the other person’s point of view. Consider other people’s feelings. What will be the consequences of your actions.
  2. Vulnerability – It’s ok to not be perfect, it’s ok to have feelings, and it is ok to show weakness.
  3. Balance – That’s not to say you turn up every day an emotional wreck, and get people down the whole time. Don’t go on constant outbursts. Nobody wants to be around that.
  4. Compassion – You know not everything has to be a win-lose equation, right? You don’t have to grind competitors into the dust? You don’t have to win at all costs?
  5. Character – Do you see yourself as trustworthy? Ethical? Likeable? Approachable? Do other people see you that way? Do you demonstrate it through your actions?

Bottom Line

What do people say about you behind your back?

That is your brand.

What are you doing about it?



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  1. Yeah, but what rubs me the wrong way are the complete jerks who know they are complete jerks but their businesses are still doing well, so they continue being complete jerks.

    Not my style. Falls into the life is too short category for me.

    • Social back channels are starting to expose those people more and more. I think a lot of the time, jerks are not self-aware enough to know what they are doing, so it comes as a shock when things turn pear-shaped, then they blame everyone else …

      • You’re right, Chris.. so many folks just don’t have enough self-worth to have the courage to look at themselves too deeply.

        But there’s another cohort out there.. always has been…. entire sub-cultures that champion being a bad-ass even thought their members have healthy self-esteem. For a large percentage of them, it’s a values thing more than you may realize. Those back channels only do such people a favor… they WANT to be exposed, and are pretty conscious of themselves and the effect they are having on others. Heck.. they’re reveling in it.

        What’s even worse is that they also have their following, many of whom are completely misguided. That’s the reason why I don’t allow myself to get riled up over those things any more. I’ve been on the planet long enough to have learned that they will make their choices, and I have made mine. We can use them in a positive way the same way you are doing right here with this post… by showing and teaching others how NOT to be. Ying will never be appreciated properly without the existence AND awareness of yang.

  2. “Nice guys finish last” is soooo 2012. The world is already changing. You can be a part of it or not, you get to choose. Of course choosing to remain in the past isn’t going to slow it down. Big business or small, being human is going to win.

    • Yup, I think the internet gives people a voice. Again and again we are seeing the bad guys getting exposed. It’s a slow movement, but it’s going in the right direction.

    • Totally agree, and It’s funny, Kenneth. ZMOT – the book based off a survey from Google – talks about customer service and how there’s not room for ego. You have to listen to the customer. It cites several examples of how it extremely relevant event to BIG business, like car companies – big.

  3. Just the way those people are posed tends to piss me off. I take one look and think “who died and left YOU in charge?” I totally agree…I work with nice people that have ethics and compassion. Ones that actually CARE about those they come in contact with. Whenever my daughter and I were out and about and someone acted like a jerk and is rude and she feels slighted, i would just tell her “honey, it’s ok. In the morning we are still going to be happy, healthy poeple and they are STILL going to to hate themselves! Who wins there do you think?

  4. Chris,
    I had an interesting conversation couple weeks ago. Someone asked me how is it working with people like You, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, Jay Baer, Neil Patel etc. and I found one common thing that fits to you all… you all are VERY NICE people.

    It’s a pleasure to work with you and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons why you’re all so successful. Business is business but we’re all human – we want to be respected and feel good with people we work with.

    Great article!

  5. In business some known jerks make it big time and stay there.

    It is thought that it is ‘only results (i.e. $) matter. There was a notorious Australian businessman called Kerry Packer. (I live in Australia.)

    It will be great if this changes.

    • It will be a slow change but it is happening from what I see. We are changing more and more to information economy, expert economy, networked economy – bad guys can only bully so much in that environment?

  6. Voted for your friend. Good stuff here as well. I do believe the converse is true, and you don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a nice guy, either. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great post as always, Chris –
    So true, and so positively and clearly put.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. In all your years of doing business nicely, have you ever been brutally taken advantage of and if so, how did you handle it and protect your business at the same time?

    • Yes, several times. Looking back, though, I can see things worked out ok for me, even when they hurt at the time.

      I try to not let it cloud any future opportunities, but it has of course made me a little less trusting. I am a natural worrier, which doesn’t exactly help.

      • The advice, “Be cautious as serpents but innocent as doves,” really applies here. A lot of times we can see it coming and as that other great sage, Mr. Miyagi said, “Best way to take punch: no be there”.

  9. I absolutely agree with your premise and perhaps can add a thought or two to the discussion. As a gamer myself, I’m very familiar with “it’s just a game” and as an online business man its cousins, “It’s just business” and “It’s just marketing.”

    This phrase is meaningless. No kidding it’s a game/business/marketing. You didn’t hurt a game, you hurt a PERSON.

    On a side note, most of what you see on a reality show is manufactured in the editing process. You see only what they want you to see.

    • “You didn’t hurt a game, you hurt a PERSON.” – EXACTLY 🙂

      Yes, I agree there will be a certain amount of “storytelling” in the edit, but it doesn’t change the fact they did actually say and do what we saw, and remember Ben was right there having it happen to him.

      I do hope those involved show some ownership for their actions, I can’t think they would intentionally had the impact they did.

  10. So many comments come to mind after reading this post but to keep it simple may be best….
    Integrity matters, being mindful of your own actions matter, and having a good heart matters!

  11. I whole-heartely agree. The internet creates a voice for anyone but also create a backlog. It’s quite possible to be a “dick” and have that follow you forever, or a long time at least.

    As Jay-Z once said “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”.

    For anyone who establishes their voice as part of their brand, this statement is very true so conduct yourself accordingly and be yourself or be who you want to be.

    Voted for Ben!

    • I love that quote from Jay-Z (his biography is really good, even though I don’t know anything about his music).

      And thank you for voting for Ben, I appreciate it.

  12. I’m Canadian and I’m often teased about being “too polite”. I just voted for Ben, and am heading over to his site to share my most favourite quote: “This above all, to thine own self be true”. You rock for supporting Ben, and Ben…you rock! Cheers! Kaarina

  13. Hi Chris,
    I’ve been following you for awhile but never felt like I wanted to comment. I love the information but we only have so much time, you know?

    Here’s the part that made me say “wow” and click out of the email and over to the site:

    “There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. It’s people who lack empathy who are the problem. People who think treating others badly is just “straight talk”. People who think being tough as nails is somehow professional.”

    Exactly! Those are exactly my thoughts, and you make me think of a few people I’ve worked with. People who know me know I’m a straight shooter, and I’ll never fudge around or placate or deliver a load of BS. And I don’t back down from what I believe or my values and standards (unless I find I’m wrong or something)–yes, I’m really tough. But strong and “tough” as in strong and confident isn’t synonymous with mean. It doesn’t have to be nasty. Honesty and straight talk can be done professionally, with empathy, and with compassion and sensitivity: we don’t have to be nasty about it at all. Any d-baggery (lol) is a personal issue, an anger issue, insecurity, emotional immaturity, a nastiness issue, and who knows what else, as far as I’m concerned.

    “Just think of the people you enjoy following and keeping up to date with. Do they seem like nice people for the most part?”

    Yes, absolutely. And I’m really impressed that you spoke up about this issue, so I think I’ll be paying a lot more attention to what’s going on over here from now on! Thanks.

    • Leah…I love your comment! Like you, I am a straight shooter. I always tell people that if they want someone to tell them the truth, they should come to me…no white gloves here. I take them off, for sure. But you can do that and still be nice, professional, sensitive, compassionate. You can, indeed, be tough and honest but not mean. Thanks so much for your comment. I agree with you–and with Chris–totally. And you know what: Most people appreciate someone who will tell them the truth, even if the truth is hard to hear.

      • Hi Nina, Cool! As I like to say and think and do: being compassionate or empathetic and and sensitive to others and ourselves doesn’t mean we’re doormats or weak–not at all. It doesn’t mean we don’t have boundaries or that we never say no–we just don’t get all bent out of shape about it and lash out on others. And you’re right, lots of people appreciate the truth. I try to be sensitive enough to know when it won’t be appreciated though I don’t always get it right 🙂
        Nice to “meet” you 🙂

  14. I think we all need to stop looking at games as zero sum. Yes the outcome is zero sum in the sense that one wins the competition and one loses. How about a non zero sum approach? The participants including the ‘losers’ can come out of it with a win in the sense of learning what works and what does not. But non of this involves the belittlement of anyone for any reason…

  15. Good post Chris. I’m based in the UK so dont know much about Canadian reality TV but it’s probably just as bad as the rubbish we get here. I stopped watching years ago when I realised that some of my own friends thought it was ok to start screaming at people in traffic and bars and living their own lives like a drama based TV show. As for nice people, if I feel good after reading blog posts (Jonathan Fields, Leo B, Chris G, Marie F etc) then I keep subscribing. As soon as I feel like I am being manipulated or smeared with grease then I unsubscribe. The world needs more good people, simple as that.

  16. Great post, as usual, Chris. You know….I get so much email, and most of it I delete unread. I always read yours. That tells you something.

    I’ve been accused of being too nice…giving away too much for free…but I have to do what feels right. And every once in a while I get angry about something or annoyed and speak up–out of balance–and I always regret it. It’s not really who I am.

    I’d love to be making more money than I am right now for sure. I’d love to have more clients. Those who come to me, though, always talk about how I’ve made them feel–confident, inspired, encouraged–before I ever even speak to them personally.

    So, yes…it’s all about what people remember about us and how we make them feel.

  17. As the producer of an online reality game/class for solopreneurs (, I’m consistently striving to find the balance between giving constructive feedback that someone might not want to hear and providing encouragement to keep going. We do have to score the missions after all, but the judging part is SO hard. I can’t just say good job to everyone or no one would learn anything. I hope I’m pulling it off. 🙂
    And as one of the founders of the burgeoning Slow Marketing movement (, I’m really happy to see this post from you, Chris. You’ve always been a quality guy, but more A-listers like yourself need to take a leadership role and help us find new and better ways to market ourselves. We can’t always focus on being epic, or world domination or creating a 6-figure biz in 6 weeks. Sometimes, we need to just step back and listen and be kind.

  18. I get the point you are making with this post, and agree that striving for gentleness and compassion is laudable, but I’m not sure how a reality TV show aligns with being more human. I figure we’d all be a lot better off with a lot less of tripe that most often promotes degrading hyper-competition.

    BTW, I saw a T-shirt recently that I must have, emblazoned with the words: “I’m Canadian and I’m not polite, eh!” Love subverting stereotypes 🙂

  19. Superb post! It makes me think… Thanks a lot!

  20. Hey Chris,
    Couldn’t agree more. That saying you mentioned: “People will seldom remember what you did or what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel” is a quote from Maya Angelou, I believe. Thought you’d like to know 🙂


  21. Hey Chris,

    I am a junior at Syracuse University (@NewhouseSU) studying social media in #NewhouseSM4 with William Ward (@dr4ward) and I aam currently subscribed to your blog.

    I just wanted to say great post. The point I can’t emphasize enough is being too nice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Patience is definitely required when being nice as you may not see the benefits and rewards immediately; however, the benefits and rewards that come aas a result of being sensitive and nice towards others outweigh any early advantage one may get from playing unfairly in the beginning. In a world today where business becomes more personal through more integrated communications systems, you are right in saying that people can judge a business by the faces they see behind the business.

  22. Hey Chris,

    Although I have been marketing in the “Offline” world for over 20years, my online journey has only just begun and so I find myself starting all over.

    Sure I could “Big it up” about what I have done offline but it means diddly squat in real terms, and though my journey has only just begun, I have seen far too many marketers who fit the description you mention in your article! Sad but true….

    For me it’s about treating others as I would want to be treated. Be truthful, help out if and when you can, and provide as much value as possible based on the knowledge you gain.

    It’s refreshing to meet people like you with the same ethos, and I truly believe that this is the right way to build a long term sustainable business online.

    It’s almost comical that many of those who hit hard and take no prisoners only do so through due to insecurities of their own! (putting others down is the only way to elevate myself!)

    Those who know who they are and where they are going will reap the benefits of what they leave behind them when it comes to trust, relationships and generally contributing to the IM community.

    Thanks for sharing and look forward to reading more of your posts as I take on this exciting journey ahead!

    All the best buddy!

    Andy Benson