I grew up on the adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all." There's a lot of wisdom in that statement, but the flip side should also be true. If you can say something nice, do it. Every time.
I've actually tried this and it's amazing how much fun it is. Like any habit, once you get used to saying nice things, it comes pretty naturally.
Whether it's a complement in passing,"What a pretty dress!" or a text, "Worship was so powerful this morning. Thanks for leading us." Saying something nice doesn't cost us anything, but it may be priceless to someone who needs to hear it.
We've all read those heartwarming articles about how the right thing was said at just the right time and it made all the difference. But these interactions don't have to be huge, article-worthy events. Over the years, I've the privilege of sitting in circles with women studying the bible. In those circles, I've heard countless accounts of someone coming along in just the right minute with an encouraging word or a note. It was what they needed to keep faith or even keep going in some cases. As you're reading this, I'm sure you have something that comes to mind. A time when someone said exactly what you needed to hear at exactly the right time.
If you are a Christian, these urges are often the work of the Holy Spirit. When you feel like saying something, it could be because the Holy Spirit is leading you to do so.
There are also times when you say something nice and it's not earth-shattering. But who cares? We may never know which encounters are life-giving and which are just encounters. Say it anyway.
Simple ways to say it: 1. If you like something, say it.
Take the time to give positive reviews online for businesses and products. Tell a manager you had wonderful service name the employee who gave it to you. When I read a book I love, I write the author an email to let them know. It sounds crazy, but if I'm going to spend 10-14 hours reading a book, I can spend an extra 20 minutes sending the author a quick note to tell them I appreciated their work. (I have gotten amazing responses from authors from these emails by the way.) They've all been personal (not your typical form letter) In fact, a couple of them even friended me on their personal Facebook page. It's amazing how far a few nice words can go.
2. If you see someone striving, let them know.
We all have friends who are being unbeatable odds. Whether they're killing it as a single parent, dealing with illness, or working hard in their job or volunteer position, let them know you notice it. A couple of weeks I talked specifically about volunteer coaches, but this kind of encouragement works for anyone who deserves a pat on the back for effort. I got the most encouraging note from a friend last week. It was a quick email, but I can't tell you how many times it's popped in my head since I got it. And it makes me smile.
3. When a friend does something nice, thank them.
True friends don't do nice things so that others will thank them, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't. For some, this niceness thing comes pretty naturally. They like to be nice. But they're also human and it feels good to be appreciated. Feeling like you're doing okay here? How about with your family? Do you have a parent who always helps with your kids or a spouse who goes the extra mile to make sure things are taken care of? Thank them. They need to hear that you're grateful for all they do for you.
People go where they're celebrated.
This is a phrase my pastor, Keith Minier, always says. And it's true. Parents of teens, if we nag our kids about every dropped towel or dish found in their room, we can't be surprised when they'd rather be anywhere but home. People go where they're celebrated. When my daughter comes down in the morning for school, I always find something to compliment about her appearance. Not because I'm shallow and want a daughter who thinks she's only as good as she is pretty. But because she's just spent time picking out an outfit and doing her hair and makeup. She feels better going into the jungle that is middle school knowing her hair looks awesome today. I also complement her on her character and work ethic and all those more important things. But she's beautiful and I want her to know that.
If nice things don't automatically pop into your head, figure out why. If you always find yourself thinking critical or negative thoughts, there may be some deep seeded bitterness or jealousy that you need to let go of. Pray about it. Ask God to help you see the good in others. He will answer this prayer. He loves his creation and He will show you it's beauty if you're open to it.
If you feel like saying something nice, don't hesitate. Hesitation leads to inaction. Just say it. It may feel unnatural at first, but with a little practice, it'll be second nature. People flock to those who make them feel valued. Let's get to the business of valuing people. We may be the only Bible they ever read. Just say it.