7 Words: The Key to Being Nice

by Jon Acuff

I know a few jerks who have made it pretty far in life. To pretend otherwise would be a lie. Jerks occasionally win. They make lots of money. They get famous. They accomplish lots and lots of things. They succeed in a million different ways, but, there’s a catch.

Jerks who win, only win temporarily.

The people around them are just biding their time. They’re waiting until they get brave enough to leave, have a slightly better option or life catches up with the jerk and they finally lose.

When any of the above three happens, people will abandon ship as fast as they can, because no one healthy likes a long-term journey with a jerk.

Being nice is a much better long-term plan. Not only does it allow you to build something really amazing with really amazing people, it feels a whole lot better, too. Being a jerk is always an experience that empties you out. It might gift you with outward success, but inwardly, being mean, cruel or dismissive to other people hollows you internally.

Nice works better.

So how you do you be nice?

I will give you 7 simple words that will completely change your ability to be nice.

Ready? Here they are:

“Pretend you live in a small town.”

When you live in a small town, you are not anonymous. People know you. Those people will see you again. You can’t burn bridges because small towns don’t have many. You might disagree with someone, but when you realize you’ll probably see them at the grocery store, the elementary school, church and the movie theater, you have greater incentive to be nice.

When you’re anonymous, it’s a whole lot easier to be a jerk. (See the Internet.) The worst of you can come out because you don’t think you’ll see those people again anyway. Who cares? Say the passive aggressive statement. Cut off the stranger. Climb over someone because they were just in the way.

Maybe right now you live in New York City and think this is the silliest idea you’ve ever heard. You don’t live in a small town. There are millions of people flowing through that city every day. Fair enough, but keep this in mind, every industry is a small town.

You will work with the same people again. You will see the same people again. You will run into the same people again.

I got a speaking engagement at a company recently that has 100,000 employees. It’s one of the most valuable companies in the world. The person who booked me said, “One of my coworkers worked with you 20 years ago. He’d love to say ‘hi’ when you’re in town.”

I shared an office with this person at the first real job I ever had in 1999. Did I think I would see him again? Did I think we’d both change cities and industries multiple times only to cross paths two decades later? Of course not. Thank goodness I wasn’t a jerk to him.

That’s not always been the case. I’ve burned some bridges. Some out of necessity, some out of immaturity and arrogance, a dangerous cocktail. I wish I’d been nice.

I think you’ll wish you had been, too.

Nice wins long term, for you and everyone around you.

Pretend you’re in a small town, because you are.

Every industry is smaller than you think.

Don’t be a jerk.

P.S. This is the nicest piece of paper you will ever see and you will love what it helps you do.


“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

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