100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 65. Say Something Nice To Somebody

Just like that. Out of the blue. Pick an unknown person and say something nice. After the initial surprise you’ll be amazed by the unmasked joy and gratitude they?re expressing. Admit it: you would like that too, isn’t it?

Saying something nice to people out of the blue is one of my favorite social exercises. People don’t expect this to happen. When it comes to social interaction, our mind is wired into “appropriated” rather than into “nice”. And you’ll see down below what I mean by that (hint: it’s something that we really need, this “appropriateness”, to some extent).

At the supermarket, on the streets, at social events, I love walking towards somebody I know – and sometimes to somebody I don’t, too – and saying something nice just like that. That genuine, surprised smile on their faces makes my day. Again, you’ll see below my not-so-hidden agenda about that smile.

Imagine how would you feel if you were told nice things all of a sudden. 

The “Say Something Nice” Social Formula

I practiced this for a very long time. Although I was – and still am – quite shy by nature, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a lot of social interaction. And many times I used this simple approach to make my life better. Yes, although I – apparently – do something for somebody else, in fact I improve my own life with this approach.

Here’s how this work.

Before we start, though, let me tell you a bit about this “appropriateness”. In many highly formalized cultures, the social approach is based on predictability, rather than empathy. In other words, when we interact with someone else, we do what we learned it’s appropriate to do, not what we feel like. If you ever witnessed social interaction in Japan, one of the most formalized cultures I know, you’ll understand what I mean.

The degree of formalization has nothing to do with the technological advance, by the way. There are tribes in the Amazon that are doing just the same: you have to act in a certain way in order to be correctly perceived.

The reason behind this is predictability. We need to know that the other person understands our social behavior and complies with it, before engaging in further interaction.

This gives us stability. A little bit of comfort. Safety.

But we get this at the price of empathy.

And empathy is what makes us feel accepted.

Now, switching to empathy may require some stretching. We all obey those social rules and, to some extent, we all need them. And, in all honesty, without rules, our life will be pretty much chaos.

But there’s a fine line between blindly obeying the rules and letting a little bit of empathy to blend in. In other words, if you want to say something nice to someone, you can still make it in a polite way, in a such a way that you’ll not be perceived as a threat. That’s definitely not the goal.

So, back to the beginning: what happens when you say something nice to someone, out of the blue?

The other person will instantly smile. Try it. It works every time. Every time a person hear something nice (about him, about the weather, about everything) he or she will smile.

And that smile will be the “secret formula” that will make your life so much better. With that smile, that person will unconsciously glue your person to something nice. If you do this long enough, that person will start to smile even before you say something nice. As a matter of fact, he or she will smile even before you say anything at all.

And that, my friend, is one of the simplest life hacks to make you surrounded by shiny, smiling people, all the time.

further reading

It’s In The Small Things

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