If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Maybe you have heard this phrase, long ago being spoken by someone older and wiser than you.
“If you cannot say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
It is great advice.
Remember the last time that you were saying something unkind about someone.  Even if it were true, the things you pointed out, the way you phrased them and your tone were unflattering, at best.
Then pops up that person, the object of your description, out of nowhere, having heard your whole speech, or at least enough to get the point.
Your eyes dart around for a hole to crawl into. You rifle your brain for some excuse, but frantically realize that you are caught, apprehended, trapped.   You blush and stammer and panic, then give up and get ready to take your medicine.
Your sheepish smile doesn’t make anything better, but you can’t help smiling it.
And in the back of your head, ever so faintly, you hear that voice of wisdom echoing around in the panicked emptiness of your skull: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
“When oh when am I going to learn to live by this?” you ask yourself.  “How many times am I going make this mistake before I remember to live by these words?”
You smack your forehead with the flat of your hand, and mutter and shake your head.
When your nephew starts to run somebody down, as soon as he starts, just stop him.  Do not brook this behavior.  Just say, “Oh, we don’t do this around here. If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”
Give that a moment to sink in, then…
“Would you say that if the person were here and could hear you? No? You wouldn’t?
“Then let’s not do it behind his back.
“Because some day, if you say bad things about others, that person will hear you.  What do you think that will feel like?
“Everybody in life is in a bit of an uphill struggle.  We should be kind to them.”
Maybe your nephew will pick up this wisdom and live by it. We can hope.
What are you going to do to finally, once and for all, live by these words?
Try this:
Make a little movie in your mind’s eye of the next time you get a chance to say something bad about somebody (else).  Now right before you start in, in your own movie, have yourself say, “I wouldn’t say this to the person’s face, so I won’t say it now.” And make another short movie in your mind’s eye of another time when you have the opportunity to live the magic phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice…” and have the movie go just as you wish it to.
And then picture your nephew, who reveres you, and think of how shocked, shocked he would be to discover if you didn’t live by your own advice.
Live by the words.  Set an example.  Be one of those people who never get caught saying unkind things about others–never caught because you never say them.  Picturing your nephew and being the stand-up person he thinks you are–that will be your ally.

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