niceN-I-C-E. a four-letter word that does not exactly inspire excitement (read: boring). However, theres a lot to be said about it. Being nice doesnt mean being a pushover or dull. In fact, nice folks can, and do, finish first. According to Linda Kaplan, who wrote The Power Of Nice, niceness is a set of skills that you can work on, not a predetermined trait. She says, “It’s not a sign of weakness to be nice it’s a sign of power, it’s a sign of strength.” Indeed, you can go far with acts of kindness and niceness.

Remember that what goes around comes around. Here are some good old fashioned ways to make nice. Smile and say hello, Youd be amazed how far a smile and friendly acknowledgement can get you. People with sunny dispositions are more enjoyable to be around. They also attract more friends and radiate an infectious positive energy. A warm greeting doesnt cost anything, so the next time you see a familiar face on the street, instead of stony indifference, try saying hello. Keep it up and before you know it, you’ll have a circle of newfound friends just because you showed some teeth.

Compliment people

Make someone’s day by saying something great about them. We all like to be appreciated and affirmed. The key is to be sincere. If you think a friend looks great in a new dress or a colleague did outstanding work on a project, tell them, and see their faces light up.

Rein in your temper

Life will always throw obstacles your way. We all have our ups and downs. Learn to accept and work around a stressful or frustrating situation, and move on, instead of letting anger get the better of you and you end up blaming or lashing out at others. The trick is to step back and take time to assess things calmly and rationally.

Be empathetic

Nice people put themselves in the other persons shoes. If the service at a restaurant is a little slow, maybe it’s because the waitress has been on her feet for eight hours without a break. If a junior staff hasnt been performing at her peak, perhaps she’s exhausted from having to care for an elderly parent or young child. Take her aside for a chat instead of immediately reprimanding her for a lackluster performance. Until you see the full picture, give people the benefit of the doubt.

Put others first

Let the harassed-looking mother have the parking space or the seat on the bus. Stand a few extra seconds holding the door for an elderly person. At the supermarket check-out, let the person with a small grocery load behind you go first. Such small acts, yet the effects are immediate and gratifying.

Volunteer your time

One of the best ways to cultivate empathy is to help the less fortunate. Choose a cause or charity that you believe in and make a commitment to dedicate your time and resources. Nothing beats knowing you made a difference to someone else.

Do favors

Make a habit of being thoughtful. Babysit your friends kids, pick up groceries for a neighbor, or drive your sick friend to the doctor. Small gestures are often more appreciated and better remembered than grand ones.

Cherish someone

Every day for a year, jot down one thing you love about your child/husband/ friend/colleague (he helps do the laundry; she bakes the most amazing cakes; his laughter is infectious). At the end of the year, give the person your one-ofa- kind, 365-item appreciation list. Trust us, they will be deeply touched.

Make a thoughtful gesture

When you come across a newspaper or magazine article you think someone you know would find interesting, take a moment to cut it out. Attach a note that reads “Thought you’d enjoy this” and drop it in the mail. Or if it’s on the web, forward the article. It shows the other person you’re thinking about her.

Surprise with little treats

If you know someone is going out to dinner to celebrate a special occasion, call the restaurant in advance and ask to pick up the cost of her wine or dessert. Or bake a batch of brownies for your co-worker’s birthday orpromotion.

Share your bounty

Invite someone who has moved from another country to come over for dinner. Donate old magazines and books to a local women’s shelter or a charity. Or when stocking up on school supplies, pick up a few extras and give them to your child’s teacher to pass on to the school’s low-income students and families. Lunch with a new colleague Starting a new job can be stressful, so make a point to invite that new colleague to lunch. That way, until they get to know everyone, they have a friendly face to say hello to and feel more at home in their new office.

Be a considerate driver

Take a deep breath and hold in those expletives! Stop your car to let someone merge into traffic on your lane, let another driver go ahead of you in a traffic jam, or wave someone into the parking spot you were both eyeing.

Help strangers

At an event or a party where you know lots of people, look around to see if anyone is there alone. If so, introduce yourself — and then introduce him or her to others. Or if someone looks lost or is struggling with a heavy load up some stairs, stop to assist.

Be a friend in need

If someone you know is going through a difficult time, call to let him know that you’re thinking about him and you are there for him you dont have to come up with solutions to his problem. Just knowing you care is comfort enough.

Pay it forward

For every good deed done to you, pass it on. For example, if a colleague helped you meet a work deadline, offer a listening ear to a friend in need. Then, encourage your friend to do something nice for someone else. That way, you spread the goodwill and start a “nice” movement.

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