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How to Get People to be Nice

How to Get People to be Nice

Did you ever have the kind of day that made you wonder where all the nice people went? It was as if there was not a single nice person left in the world. Vendors were cranky, your coworkers were grumpy, even your best friend was a little testy. What happened? Was it something in the water? Were the stars lined up wrong?

While there are times when we all get a little crabby, I do believe there is something we can do to bring out the "nice" in people.

My Experience

Let me share a story with you. This happened to me over 30 years ago but it's an experience that I have never forgotten. I was driving along in the fast-moving, left lane of a four-lane highway in a rather busy section of town. My friend, Kathy, was with me and we were having a great time, laughing and talking as we rode along.

Suddenly I noticed that the man in the lane to my right started drifting over into my lane. At first I thought he would just drift back, but instead he encroached further into my path. I hit the horn to alert him to the error of his ways, but to my chagrin, my horn didn't work. I started moving further to my left toward the oncoming traffic lane. He kept coming toward me. Just about the time I was heading onto the median, he noticed what he'd done and he swerved hastily back into his lane.

My heart was in my throat. I just knew that we were going to die. I was livid! How could he be so stupid? I couldn't wait until we got to the first red light so that I could tell him exactly what I thought of him!

As luck would have it, the very next light was red. As I started to slow down, I noticed that he was rolling his window down. I couldn't believe it! Was he going to try to say that I had done something wrong? Could he possibly be that idiotic? I was ready for a fight!

"Kathy," I snarled. "Roll down your window." (Yes, this was in the days before electric windows.) She looked pleadingly back at me and said, "Oh, Linda, you don't want to do anything stupid here, do you?"

"Just roll down your window," I replied through clenched teeth. About this time, we arrived at the light. Both of our windows were down and I was glaring for all I was worth, waiting to see what he would say.

He took a breath and, with the utmost respect, said, "I am so very, very sorry."

I felt like someone had just popped my balloon. All that anger just sort of deflated. Why did he have to be so NICE, for crying out loud? I couldn't be mad at him if he was so darned NICE!

I kind of mumbled something along the lines of, "Well, that's OK."

Being Nice First

Afterward, I started thinking. Why was I being nice to someone who was obviously in the wrong? The answer was clear. It was because he was so nice. It was because he was honest and sincere and genuinely apologetic. I just couldn't be mean to someone so nice.

OK, that was a long time ago, but the lesson stays with me. If we want more nice people in our lives, then we must be nice first. And the graduate-level version of this message includes the following: and we must be nice first — even when it would be most justifiable to be otherwise.

Not easy, but very effective.

By Linda Larsen, C.S.P.

Learn More From Linda Today

Linda Larsen, C.S.P., helps individuals think strategically, communicate effectively and celebrate success. She is an international keynote speaker, trial consultant and author of the book, “True Power,” and the best-selling audio program, “12 Secrets to High Self-Esteem.” She can be reached at or 800-355-4420.