Common wisdom holds that it takes ten affirmations to overcome one criticism. A quick look at Facebook or Nextdoor.com reveals the ways in which we notice and respond to the negative more than the positive. The news outlets have known for years the way we respond to fear or tragedy as we see in the aphorism, “if it bleeds, it leads.” If we consider our own experience, we are more likely to remember the person who cut us off in traffic than the one who yielded and let us merge.
Given our propensity to notice the negative, it takes intentional effort to notice the nice. As we enter November, the traditional month of gratitude, it is worth remembering that gratitude begins with noticing the nice.
We can notice the nice in our interactions with the people we encounter. We can notice the person who holds the door when our hands are full, the person who greets us with a smile, or the person who remembers our name. We can notice all the small ways that we encounter nice in a world that at times can seem over run with meanness.
We can notice the nice in our close relationships. Sometimes it can seem like we expend all of our nice during the day and nice is in short supply among our family members when everyone comes home for the evening. As one of our children remarked, “It’s hard to be good all day long.” When we are tired, frustrated, and just plain peopled out, it takes extra intentional effort to notice the nice in our own homes.
We can notice the opportunity to be nice. We might practice a random act of kindness. We might recognize in ourselves the things that reduce our nice. I am often not very nice when I am tired, hungry, in pain, or worried. At these times, it takes extra effort for me to be nice. It also takes extra effort on the part of those around me to notice any nice in me.
The interesting thing that happens is that as we practice noticing the nice, we notice it more and more. Similarly, as we practice being intentionally nice, especially in difficult situations, we find our own frustrations and worries to be less overwhelming. As a friend of long standing observes, “You can’t smile and frown at the same time.” Likewise, you can’t be self absorbed and nice in the same instant.
How might you notice the nice this week?