My sister-in-law, Tanya, gave me a sign for Christmas last year. Its inscription is simple, but important. It reads, “because nice matters…”

We know this. We don’t necessarily need any urging from others. Being nice is a bit like chocolate—one taste is never enough and it makes everyone happy. Kindness is contagious. And, it’s universally understood, no matter where you live or what language you speak. Mark Twain had it right, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

It’s not always practiced, but it is valued by most.

A couple of years ago I was part of a group email that got quite heated and mean. To their credit, many of the recipients went on with their day without engaging in the conflict. There were a select few who continued to provoke the group with their nasty replies. To add to it, the unkind responses were sent to “all” on the email chain. I stewed for a while, and then crafted a message that attempted to be positive and productive…and, well nicer in tone. I—almost—felt the [cyber] pat-on-the-head and was told that I was “naïve,” among other things.

The rude emails stopped…or, they took me off their list, for a time. Either way, I got calls, emails, and texts thanking me for trying to change the tone.

When it comes to being nice, we’re all human and slip up from time to time. There are moments when it takes an inscription on a sign—or a freckle-faced child—to remind us that “nice matters.” As parents, we drill this into our kids’ heads, “be kind…be nice…that’s mean.” Lest we think they’re ignoring us…they hear.

On a recent trip through the coffee drive-up window a chipper, heavily caffeinated, very polite voice greeted each customer with the low-down of the day’s specials. Only this time, he was interrupted mid-sentence by an exhausted, coffee-starved, rushed mom of three who blurted out her order with gusto: “No thanks, I’d like a Venti bold with extra cream and one Splenda. That’s all. Nothing else. Thank you.” The car practically peeled around the corner to collect the mood-enhancer.

That customer was me. I was in a mad-dash to get the kids to their activities…and did I mention in desperate need of a java jolt? Excuses aside…

My daughter jumped to the defense of the high-spirited barista quoting the sign in our home, “ah-hem, mom ‘because nice matters…’ you were kinda rude to that guy and probably hurt his feelings. He’s just doing his job, mom.” GULP.

Nobody dishes out a dose of humility quite like a child.

I was embarrassed. “You’re right, honey. I was rude, wasn’t I? I’ll fix it.” I immediately apologized for sounding rushed and not very nice. Fortunately for me, the server was courteous. He accepted my apology…and even thanked me for it! WOW—NOW, THAT’S NICE.

I have thought about that experience many times since then, especially when my impulse is teetering on ill-mannered.

Being nice is contagious and basic. It’s not always easy, and may require some caffeine at times, but it really does matter. In fact, being kind shows its own strength. We should never confuse it with being weak or naïve.

Humans crave “nice.” Most of the world is kind. If you’re nice, people will ignore just about anything—a soggy cheeseburger when you ordered the pizza, traffic blunders, or even a rude, rushed customer. A nice affect will almost always deflect a nasty response. We refer friends to businesses with nice people. And, heck, I’ve even spent money on things I didn’t need, when the salesperson seems genuine.

It makes sense. Whether you’re in business, sales, or just an average mom in need of caffeine, being nice puts us on top.

And, if that’s not enough—there are even health benefits to being nice. Social Scientists have researched and studied the effects of being kind. Results show that simply being nice:

• decreases stress-related health problems
• increases our sense of self-worth, optimism, and happiness
• promotes a healthy immune system
• decreases our awareness and sensitivity of physical pain
• may reverse feelings of depression, hostility and isolation [who wants to be around someone mean!]
• and provides people with a helper’s high

For Pete’s sake, do it for your health! Politely grab your cup of Joe and spread your smiles…”because nice matters.”