How to Be Nice

niceDisclaimer–I don’t always feel like being nice.  This surprises a lot of folks because I’m a pastor and pastors are supposed to be nice.  That’s true (to an extent) and I really want to be a nice guy.  I want to smile, engage in friendly conversation and be the kind of guy people genuinely love to be with.  I’m not always that guy.  And that bothers me.

Sometimes I’m just not in a talkative mood.  Sometimes my mind is preoccupied with other worries.  Sometimes I just don’t like the other person that much.  I hate to admit that because some of you are now asking yourself “is he referring to me?”  The answer is No!  If you read my blog you’re obviously the kind of intelligent, thoughtful person I love to be around.

I say all that to say this, it’s with a bit of irony that I provide the following tips on how to be nice.  These are things I struggle to apply to my own life.  But as with a lot of pastoral advice, the teaching is solid even when the teacher is not.  So the next time you enter a conversation (with friend of stranger) here’s five ways to be a little nicer:

  1. Cut out the cynicism.  This attitude is the ultimate conversation destroyer.  If every point of discussion is followed by an eye-roll or under-the-breath comment you’re sabotaging any chance you’ve got of being likable.  A little cynicism can be funny.  A lot of cynicism can be annoying.
  2. Don’t say everything you think.  Nice folks know when to challenge something and when to keep their mouths shut.  They know that not every opinion they form should be shared.  They realize that “being right” and “winning the debate” are not virtues that endear you to others.  Remember this and you might become one of those nice folks.
  3. Get over yourself.  Too many times we enter conversations asking “what’s in for me?”  If we feel like we’re wasting our time or could be doing something better it usually comes across in our attitude.  So do something novel like “consider others better than yourself” or “look after their interests.” Seems like the Good Book had something to say about that.
  4. Pay attention to the present.  It’s not always that we’re intentionally being rude.  We’re just not present.  Our mind is somewhere else.  On the past.  On the future.  On our phones.  The nicest thing you can do for another person is be present in the moment.  It takes a little discipline but the return on investment is worth it.
  5. Assume the best.  Whenever I assume the worst of people I get grumpy.  I start questioning their intentions and doubting their sincerity.  I’m much nicer when I assume the best in others.  I find myself being more compassionate, caring and interested in what they have to say.

So there it is!  A sometimes not-so-nice preacher’s guide to being nicer.  I hope it helps.

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