Back to Basics

Sometimes, you have to get back to basics.

A few weeks ago, I decided to start a worldwide revolution right here on this blog. Yep, you read that last sentence correctly. I know that sounds pretty ambitious, but believe me, it had to be done.

If you missed it, the goal of this revolution (and my lifelong dream) is simple:

I want to make the world a nicer place for all of us.

And in the hopes of speeding this process along (seriously, I’m not trying to wait until I’m 90 years old to see this happen), I outlined exactly how we can make this revolution a reality in 3 simple steps.

However, on my way to the revolution, something very interesting happened.

I believed that the hardest part of the revolution would be Steps 2 & 3 of the plan, but I’m noticing that a lot people in the world are struggling with the first, and by far the easiest, step of the plan.

In case you missed it, here is Step 1 of the “Make the World a Nicer Place” plan:

Resolve to treat the people of this world with kindness, dignity, and respect always.

Not that you needed me to tell you this, but there are many people in the world who are nowhere close to getting past this step.

In fact, based on some of the horrific behavior that I have personally witnessed in the past couple of weeks, I felt inspired to write the post that you’re about to read.

Maybe this niceness stuff isn’t as easy as I thought?

No worries though.

It’s time for us to get back to basics, and always, I’m going to need your help big time in order to make it happen.

Niceness 101

Below I’m going to break down Step 1 of the Make the World a Nicer Place plan by listing my “Top 15 Inarguable Ways” to make the world a nicer place for all of us.

I’ll admit, some of what you’re about to read may seem like common sense, but seriously, ask yourself this honestly:

Is common sense really all that common?


The sad truth is that what you’re about to read may be simple, but in reality, it isn’t happening nearly as often or consistently as it should.

Consider this post as my attempt to do something about it.

Of course, there is no way that I can come up with a completely comprehensive list on my own, so please feel free to fill in any gaps in the Niceness 101 Plan that I might have missed in the comments below.

And for the sake of clarity, the “you” that I’m referring to below isn’t “you” the reader. I’m talking to the figurative person who is in violation of these rules.

Let’s get to it, people!

1. Say “Please” and “Thank you” Consistently.

Besides being involved in a medical emergency or being the victim of an assault, there is absolutely no excuse not to say these things consistently. If you ask someone for something, say “please.” Once you receive it, say “thank you.” These are some of the very first things that we teach our kids as soon as they’re able to speak, for crying out loud. It’s shocking to me how many adults have forgotten this simple lesson.

And regardless of the lame excuses that you may have heard, no one is ever “too busy” to say these things.

2. Hold the Door Open.

Whenever you open a door, take a moment to look behind you to see if someone is right behind you. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a guy walk into a Starbucks and there was a woman with a baby stroller right behind him. I’m sure that he could have taken the 2 seconds to hold the door open for her, but instead, he just barged through the door, and allowed the door to slam in the face of the woman and her little baby who were both right behind him. Totally inexcusable, in my opinion.

All that it takes is a quick glance over your shoulder to see if someone is following right behind you, and if so, do the nice thing and hold the door open for him/her. It would only take 10-15 seconds of your time, tops. Who knows, you may end up making someone’s day in the process.

3. Cover Your Mouth/Nose Whenever You Cough or Sneeze.

Let’s be real–as someone who is currently working to get over bronchitis, I can confidently say that getting sick sucks. No one enjoys sniffling, coughing, and feeling worn down all day, right? That’s why it is an absolute must that we take the time not to spread that awfulness onto others. We can’t control when/if we’re going to cough and sneeze, but we can at least cover our mouths and/or nose when we do.

I went out to lunch last week, and there was a guy behind us who was coughing and sneezing up a storm, and the entire time he made absolutely no effort to cover his nose or mouth. Just so you know, I am the complete opposite of a germaphobe (I routinely eat food that I accidentally drop on the floor and share drinks with friends, and it hasn’t killed me yet), but it was like this dude was hell bent on spreading his flu to the entire restaurant.

Seriously, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze–it’s the nice thing to do. Also, on a side note, he was guilty of chewing his entire meal with his mouth wide open too, which admittedly has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of “niceness,” but I thought this would be a great place to randomly slide in a quick pet peeve of mine.

4. Say, “Excuse Me.”

“Excuse me” is such an incredibly versatile phrase, and that’s why it’s so confusing to me that it isn’t used more often. If you accidentally bump into someone, say “excuse me.” If you need to get someone’s attention, say “excuse me.” If you need to get past someone who may be accidentally blocking your path, say “excuse me.” If you’re in public and you let a bodily noise “slip past the goalie,” so to speak, say “excuse me.”

It’s the most versatile politeness phrase in the world. Use it.

5. Put Down the Damn Cell Phone.

I could seriously write an entire blog post on this topic, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

When someone is trying to have a conversation with you, give them your full attention and quit swiping through your phone. During meals with your family, on a date, or when you’re eating with anyone, leave it in your pocket/purse. Don’t use it while you’re in a movie theater, in a stall in a public restroom, or any other place where people can’t escape from hearing your conversation.

Seriously, the madness has to stop.

6. Watch Your Mouth.

In the spirit of full disclosure, there might not be anyone on this earth who enjoys a cleverly used curse word more than me. However, with that said, just like most things in life, it all comes down to two things: Time and place.

I’m definitely not against colorful language, but one thing that I am 100% against are people who do it at times that are wildly inappropriate, for example, in front of children. Seriously, stop that shit (yes, the irony of this sentence is not lost on me). As far as I’m concerned, people who can’t make it through a sentence without dropping multiple F-bombs aren’t “cool or edgy,” they just sound borderline illiterate and hopelessly stupid.

7. Show Up on Time.

If you’re expected to be somewhere at a particular time, then show up on time. If you’re running late, which is completely understandable, then make sure to let the person who is waiting for you aware of that fact. It’s the nice thing to do. Also on a related note, don’t be the guy/gal who constantly flakes out on plans at the last minute. No one likes that person.

8. Stop Interrupting.

During conversations, don’t be the person who consistently can’t control his/her urge to cut people off mid-sentence to deliver your “incredibly important” nugget of wisdom. Trust me, for the people on the other end of the conversation, it’s absolutely infuriating to be constantly interrupted. In a world where all of us have something to say, one of the nicest things that we can do is to be fullest present in a conversation by actively listening.

9. Apologize Quickly and Sincerely.

Somewhere along the way, people were led to believe that apologizing is a sign of weakness. For the life of me, I will never understand this. Nothing is further from the truth–in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Real strength is having the wisdom to admit when you’re wrong.

No one reading these words is perfect. We all make mistakes, usually on a daily basis. If you do something to hurt someone’s feelings (unintentionally or not), the nice thing to do is sincerely apologize. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing nice or cool about taking your bad days out on others–especially on the people who deserve it the least, like your family.

Your loved ones are not your emotional dumping ground, but if you happen to make that mistake, quickly apologize for it.

10. Show Gratitude.

I don’t know if there is anything nicer that we can do for each other than to show sincere gratitude on a consistent basis. Let’s be honest, we live in an appreciation-starved society. Taking the time to thank the people in our lives who have helped us in any way (whether it’s your best friend or the cashier at the grocery store) is one of the nicest things that we can do for another person.

11. Get Over the Road Rage.

Is there any place on earth where people lack kindness more than on the road? In an attempt to remedy this, here are a few things that all of us can do to make the roadways a much nicer place:

Give a quick wave/acknowledgement to someone who just allowed you to merge, remember that the left lane is for passing only (in other words, stay in the right lane, slow pokes), stop tailgating, don’t park your car in two parking spots, and most of all, don’t be a raging asshat who finds it necessary to lay on the horn if the car in front of you doesn’t move within .02 seconds of the light turning green.

12. Be a Team Player.

Simply put, choose to work with people and not against them. There’s nothing nice about stepping on people to get ahead, stealing credit from others, or creating mindless drama and disharmony just for the sake of doing it. You can choose to literally make the world a better place by consistently working with others in a spirit of mutual respect, kindness, and learning.

Just following this one step has the power to completely change the world.

13. Respect Other People’s Stuff.

If you’re visiting someone else’s home or borrowing someone’s stuff, treat it as well as you would treat your own stuff. And if you treat your own stuff like crap, then treat their stuff nicer than you would treat your own stuff.

14. Be an Epic Customer.

Do you plan on going shopping this holiday season? If so, read this first and make sure to follow it to a “T”: The 21 Inescapable Laws of Customer Epicness.

During the holiday season, there is nothing nicer that you can do for the retail employees who will have to deal with the absolute worst behavior that humanity has to offer for the next month and a half.

15. Don’t be an Asshole.

This one is pretty much a catch-all for anything that I missed. If you’ve heard from multiple people that you have an “attitude problem,” have been called a “bully,” or have been known to think that you’re somehow “better” than other people because of your income, race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or the car that you drive, chances are that you’re guilty of this point.

Creating a nicer world will be a much more challenging job as long as you and your asshat buddies continue with these shenanigans.

Knock it off.

Back to Basics

Like I said before, making this world a nicer place is going to take some serious work–and remember, all of this is only Step #1 of the 3-step plan to make this world a nicer place. This doesn’t even cover the two much more difficult steps of the process.

But even so, if all of us simply committed to mastering Step 1 of the process, we would see a noticeable difference in our world practically overnight.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I know that if you’ve read this entire list then you’re up for the challenge.

And for real, I need your help to make this dream of making a nicer world a reality.

You’re with me, right?

Man, I hope so.

It would be the nice thing to do.

Your Turn

Which one of these 15 Niceness tips resonated with you? Were you able to go 15-for-15? Did I miss anything from my list? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!



Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.

Latest posts by Shola (see all)


  1. I love, love the idea! however in order to carry the revolution throughout the world, it needs to be translated, at least to Spanish. Please let me know if you need help! I will gladly do it…. I LOVE THIS IDEA!

    • Absolutely Fay! I’m down to translate this stuff into any language imaginable. Any method to spread the message of making the world a nicer a place works for me!

  2. Colleen Lusk says:

    Hi Shola,
    Great list for Niceness! As a grade 2 teacher I pretty much live this stuff daily. However, being kind to animals is up there on my list too! Love the cellphone comment! I would add “Try to give people the benefit if the doubt. So, before you make a snap judgement call on someone, try to see things from his or her perspective. Not always easy, I know. But I find that in the workplace you don’t know the burdens people carry around with them. It’s not like they have a sign around the neck that says “Sorry, I snapped at you but I was in the hospital emergency dept. half the night with my 90 year old mother who has dementia and I’m kinda tired.”

    That’s my two cents worth, Shola!

    • Hey Colleen! Great point about the animals and especially giving people the benefit of the doubt. There is an AMAZING video on YouTube put out by the Cleveland Clinic that has helped me enormously in reminding myself about the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt and empathizing. Google “Cleveland Clinic Empathy video” and check it out–it’s only 4 1/2 minutes long, but it’s absolutely life-changing. Thanks for the comment, my friend!

  3. Shola
    Absolutely love this! These are so simple. Anybody can do these. If everybody did, what a great world we would have. Thank you.

    • Thanks Rita! Can you imagine how much nicer this world would be if we all did these simple things consistently? I’ll keep fighting for the dream!

  4. Love this, as usual Shola! We have to go back to basics! My son had a kindergarten teacher who would not let the kids onto the school bus at the end of class without shaking their hands! I always thought this was kind of odd, but a few years later, when we moved, and my then 7 yr old was starting a new school, he walked in there on day one and shook hands with the principal, VP, secretary, teacher, students, anyone he met for the first time! You want to bet that I emailed that kindergarten teacher and thanked her for what she had taught her kids! Basics! At 14, he still does the same thing when meeting new people!
    Everyone is in such a rush these days that manners seem to be the first to go. Cell phone use is an absolute pet peeve of mine. I was shopping a few weeks ago and expecting a phone call. When my phone rang, I apologized to the clerk, letting her know that I needed to answer the call. I kept it quick (it was my hubby) relayed the necessary info and told him I’d call him back later. When I hung up, I apologized again and my son asked me why? I explained, in front of the clerk, why, and she thanked me!
    I’m definitely not perfect, but have become more aware of how I treat people in my day to day interactions and have to thank you for the reminder!!!
    Keep up the good work my friend!

    • Kelly-Kel! If you ever get to see your son’s kindergarten teacher ever again, make sure to give her a high-five (or a handshake) for the awesome lesson that she’s teaching those kids. And props to you for the cell phone situation at the department store too! A few weeks ago, I was out to dinner and I was saw a family of four (dad, mom, and two young kids under 10) all sitting at the table in restaurant with their heads buried in their devices. Both parents were swiping through their phones and both kids were playing with their individual iPods–it was so strange to me. Like I said, I absolutely LOVE my cell phone more than most people do–but seriously, whatever happened to creating real human connections? And I definitely hear you about your final point. I am far from perfect either, but as long as we’re all making moves in the right direction, that’s all that we can ask for 🙂

  5. Hi Shola! I read this post last night, and this morning on my way in to work, I found myself trying to count the number of times I said please, thank-you or excuse me. I walk a couple of blocks from the parking garage to the office. I lost track of how many…lol…tomorrow I will try to count the times I hear it instead. I hope I lose count!

    Also, I’m right there with you on the cell phone thing. Just put it away until you are done interacting with people. Not hard!

    I will admit that I can get a little “road ragey”…I don’t do anything about it, just swear and yell to myself in the car with the window rolled up. Just letting off steam 🙂 …Which leads me to the swearing issue. OMG!! TOTALLY!! I swear. Everyone does sometimes, right? Swearing at inappropriate times makes you sound like a complete moron! Just stop already!! It doesn’t make you sound tough or cool or anything but illiterate…

    Great post this week…We definitely need to get back to basics. What is Miss Manners up to? Maybe we can give her a digital revision and get her mainstream again? 😀

    Have a great week Shola.

    • Hey Spring! I hope that you lose count of your “thank yous and excuse mes” too! Believe me, I 100% in favor of swearing. For real, I am–I think it’s a great way to let off steam and I do it more than I would like to admit here. BUT (and it’s a big BUT), like you said, time and place. I went to go pick up my daughters from daycare a few months ago, and there was a guy on his cell phone talking about the sexual positions him and his girlfriend were enjoying the night before. Mind you, there were tons of little kids within earshot of this clown, and it was like he was in his living room as he described last night’s escapades in graphic detail. I mean, seriously dude??? Time and place! And yes, I need to get Miss Manners on speed dial, stat!

  6. Hey Shola,

    Amen! Especially being an epic customer, I took a seasonal job at JCPenney, oh the horror!!!! I just wish I had the email of some people so I could forward this to them. All I can do is practice these points myself and hope it rubs off.

    • Hey Kat! I’ve worked retail during the holidays too, and as you know, there is NOTHING that can prepare you for the horrific behavior that you’ll encounter during this special time of year. For some reason, the holiday shopping tends to bring out the worst in people–and as I tell my buddies, unless you’ve gone through it as a retail employee, you’ll never understand it. Like you said, all we can do treat people with dignity and respect and hope that it rubs off. Fingers crossed!

  7. Shola, this is so great and so important.

    After I first read this yesterday, I thought about what I would comment to you. I even wrote up my reply. Then I decided not to post it. Something kept eating at me…

    I am kind, at least I think I am. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I am very kind with strangers on the street. I am always kind to waitresses and waiters. I am kind to people when I answer the phone. I’m even kind to salesmen when I’d rather they leave me alone.

    HOWEVER, when I am dealing with my daughters and my students, I am often more impatient than I am kind. When I ask my children to do something, I neglect to say, “please.” When I call students into my office, I say it as a demand, not a request. For some reason, when I am a teacher or a mom, I am unkind. Well… not really unkind, but I am not kind.

    I resolve at this very moment to change that. I resolve to say PLEASE and THANK YOU to every person I meet. I do so with strangers quite easily! And yet, those whom I adore most seem to get short-changed by me.

    Thank you for the reminder, Shola. It was convicting and I needed it.

    • Kathy,
      You are SO right. I too am guilty of not being the kindest person when it comes to my family. This needs to change and I ‘m there with you!
      Thanks for that reminder too

    • Kathy, thanks as always for your very real and thoughtful comments. I was just discussing this EXACT topic with one of my friends the other day! For some reason, with the people we love the most, we often feel that it’s okay to leave out the “please’s”, “thank you’s” and other niceties when dealing with them, because well…we love them. And since they know that we love them, we don’t always feel like it’s necessary to do those things. Believe me, no one in the world was more guilty of that than me. Ever since I had my oldest daughter (almost 5 years ago), I resolved to change that. It’s always cool to be consistently nice to strangers, coworkers, customers, etc–but the ones who deserve our kindness the most are the ones we love the most. Thanks so much for your honesty Kathy, this is why I adore you!

  8. I think I’m going to spend the entire holiday season working on #6. One of the perils of being a sassy lady blogger in this day and age is that you get WAY to used to dropping F-bombs in every other sentence. I didn’t realize until hanging out with my sisters recently (all grown up, not cussing around kids!) that I apparently swear like a sailor on leave, without even being aware that I’m doing it. This is disconcerting, to say the least. Here’s to a real mindfulness test in the coming month!

    • Kell, believe me, you’re not alone! I think most readers would be shocked if they knew how many F-bombs this positivity blogger has been known to drop when the mood strikes :). But the thing is, you already totally get it. It’s your sassiness and realness that attracted me to your blog, and inspired me to create this blog that you’re now reading. There is no Positivity Solution with Cordelia Calls It Quits, and that’s for real–so don’t switch it up too much ;). I’m on the mindfulness path too my friend, so I’ll be there right alongside you!

  9. I would add to the list:

    Don’t use the anonymity of the internet to be MEAN.

    This is an extremely pervasive societal ill. Most popular comment areas and public social media is disheartening to read and draining to the spirit. I’m a reformed horribly mean anonymous poster. About a year ago I decided to never post anonymously because I can’t be nice or kind when I do that. I would encourage others who have the same problem to just put their identity out there and stand behind their words. The total assholeness we are exposed to every day out there on the interwebs definitely contributes to making the world a meaner place.

    • Great point Lora!!

    • Hey Lora! It would be humanly impossible for me to agree more with what you just said. You are so right, internet cruelty/cyber bullying is an extremely pervasive societal ill. In fact, what you just described is Step #2 of the Niceness Revolution (this post was only focused on Step #1). Check it out here: Rise of The Nice Guy. I am so glad to hear that you are a reformed “horribly mean anonymous” poster (I’ve dealt with quite a few of those since I’ve started blogging!) You said it perfectly–if someone has the motivation to say something, at least they should have the courage to stand behind their words too. Well done my friend, and thanks for officially making the interwebs a more positive place–we need all the help we can get! 🙂

  10. Kristen Quinn says:

    Love this article entry! I was reading along, thinking I already follow these guidelines, until I busted out laughing reading the statement on Road Rage! So me. Something I struggle with. I am okay most of the time, except my morning commute to the office, or running a few minutes late for a meeting (I tend to always be on time). Anyways, I have a very low tolerance for ‘stupid’ drivers. I keep telling myself that they could be having a bad day or something going on in their lives, effecting their driving. Nevertheless, I have to keep myself in constant check with my road rage! Oh! One of my BIGGEST Pet Peeves is someone taking up two parking spots or parking in a handicap spot, when they are not handicap! Drives me insane and there is no need for that in my opinion!! I usually do hold the door open for anyone behind me coming in or out of the establishment. However, the other evening, I was picking up Chinese food for dinner and it was raining. This woman, in her new truck, dressed to the hilt, must have thought she was too important to get wet. She parked in the handicap spot, right in front of the restaurant, when she could have parked 2, yes 2 spaces over. Made me so angry that I walked ahead of her and let the door swing back in her face. Probably not the nicest thing I could have done, but I am quite sensitive to the handicap population, since that is the population I work with. She did NOT have a handicap pass, I checked her vehicle twice. She was in high heels and did not place her order by phone, but at the restaurant, then sat and waited for her order, still sitting there when I left!

    • Kristen, I’m so with you on the handicapped parking spot thing. When I was much younger, I was too lazy to park in a normal parking spot, so I parked in a handicapped spot because it was right next to the restaurant. As I was walking back to my car, I passed by a woman pushing her daughter in a wheelchair who gave me the glare of death as I happily bounced to my car with my food. Even though I was barely out of my teens at the time, that moment stuck with me. Looking back on it now, you have to be insanely self-centered, lazy, or both to be able-bodied and park in a handicapped parking spot–and that is something I have never done again. Doing so is definitely the opposite of making the world a nicer place, that’s for sure. Hopefully that lady in her fancy outfit learned that lesson too!

  11. Hi Shola,

    I think it’s easy to underestimate how important niceness can be — it can really make the difference between barely getting through the day or feeling good about the day.

    I’m going to try focusing on two specific items: show up on time and stop interrupting. With a little effort and a few small changes, I think I could make the world just a little nicer.

    • Annie, just doing those two things will definitely make the world a nicer place! And like you said, it really is the difference between just barely getting through the day or really feeling great about the day. And in my opinion, all of us deserves to feel great our day as often as humanly possible 🙂

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