something nice to say

From the time we were in Kindergarten, we’ve heard the old saying:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

While I agree with this bit of advice on a certain level, it seems to focus on what not to say.  That is, it is phrased in the negative.  Usually spoken by way of admonition, I fear that it leaves most people thinking, Well, what I wanted to say wasn’t very nice, but by gum, I said nothing at all.  And so they pat themselves on the back, feeling they have rather smartly fulfilled their moral duty by having remained largely silent in life.

I might suggest a different approach, one rooted in the positive:

“Find something nice to say, and then say it!”

There is always something nice waiting to be said.  And I’m quite certain that it would be impossible to deliver too many sincere compliments in a day.

Here are some sincere compliments I gave in the last 48 hours (and not because I planned to write a blog post about it; this is a pretty typical couple of days for me, by way of compliments!):

While out with a teen at a local ice cream place, I saw Dave (I only know his first name).  Prior to this night, I’d only ever seen Dave working the counter at the corner convenience storeYet here he was at the ice cream place, also working as a bus boy.  It was the end of the night, and bussers hardly make motivational pay.  Yet Dave was hustling to clear tables, working with purpose.  When I said hello and introduced him to my young friend, shocked to see him there since he works more than 40 hours a week at the convenience store, he was all smiles.  He informed me that, in addition to these two jobs, he also works part-time as a warehouse worker.

When I left, I “bragged” on Dave to the nearest manager and in front of the other workers: “I don’t know anyone who works harder and with a better attitude than Dave there!  You better keep him around!”  All heartily agreed.  Of course, I said this plenty loud, so that Dave – just back in the kitchen scrubbing items in a sink – could hear me.

Later on, in the wee hours, I stopped in at the convenience store – and there was the seemingly ubiquitous Dave, stocking shelves.  Even after a full shift at the ice cream store, he was moving like his life depended on getting those energy bars neatly stacked in place.  And he was still smiling.  I told him how impressed I was with both of these admirable traits.

Yesterday, while grabbing a sub, I complimented a stranger on his choice to wear a pink polka-dotted bow tie (and a well-tied one, I might add) with a blue striped shirt.  I smiled when he walked in, since some of my favorite people wear bow ties.  I find it a daring move.  And yet it shows a willingness to take one’s self a little less seriously — a quality which you may have noticed that I find noteworthy.  The young businessman definitely did not see my impromptu compliment coming!  He grinned with pride, expressing his sincere appreciation for my having said so.

Later that evening, I told a teen I was with that he is one of the kindest people I know.

While picking up muffins for my grandmother this morning, as well as an iced coffee for myself, the drive-through line was quite long.  Yet I noticed that the server at the window, a young girl, smiled pleasantly at each customer while wishing them a great day.  Whether she was required to deliver the well-wishes to customers, I couldn’t say.  I only know that I believed her.  Her smile was authentic, not plastic and rehearsed.  When I reached the window, I said, “I noticed that you smile genuinely at every single customer when you say, ‘Have a great day!’  I’m very impressed that you can maintain that kind of enthusiasm!”  This elicited an even bigger smile from her.

In addition, I waved the young man wearing the order headset over to the window.  “I have a very complicated coffee order,” I told him [a medium decaf French Vanilla iced coffee, light with milk and with two Sweet & Low], “and you got it right without having to ask me to repeat it!  You’ve got a great memory!”  Though a bit bashfully, he too smiled broadly.

It’s easy, really.  And fun, once you get the hang of it.  If you are looking to feel more connected in the world, this is one of the best ways to do it.  In going beyond what not to say, to looking for opportunities where we can point out the finer qualities in others, our outlook on life as a whole changes drastically for the better.

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