I played a tennis match yesterday against two of the nicest opponents I’ve ever faced. They consistently applauded the good shots my partner and I made and were genuinely gracious when they lost (sure, they were sweet, but it still felt great to win). Their kindness made it difficult to be angry about iffy line calls and net slams, and it made for a most pleasant experience overall.

We often default to being catty or snippy or sarcastic or even jokingly abusive to the people around us because negativity almost always gets a laugh. But this almost always comes at the expense of the one being joked about.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was standing at a department store makeup counter when a guy walked by whom I had a serious crush on. Instead of saying hi to me, he looked at the lady helping me and said, “Oh, Beth doesn’t need makeup. She’s pretty just like she is.” I thought I would melt. I’m not even sure I got a reply out. And in thirteen years, I haven’t forgotten that encounter.

Mike and I have made it a point to never, ever, ever even jokingly say negative things about one another in social settings. The three seconds of uncomfortable laughter it might elicit is not worth the detriment to our marriage.

So just be nice. It’s way more fun.