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Culture Shift: Changing negative behavior with “three nice things”

By Galen Emanuele

March 1, 2023

This is a quick, simple tool you can use in all sorts of different situations. This is something I picked up from a good friend of mine, Nichol. It’s called “Three nice things.”

My friend Nichol is one of the most positive and intentional human beings I know. I picked up this trick from her because she’s used it on me many times. It’s stuck with me and it works.

Here’s how it goes: just about any time that she catches me saying something unnecessarily negative either in jest to a friend, or teasing about something, or even making a less than positive  comment about myself, she responds with “Nope, say three nice things right now!”

I immediately “have” to name three nice things about that person/thing/myself.

It’s a silly thing in the moment whenever she says it to me, but I have found this to be a really useful tool to catch myself and snap out of it when I am either talking or feeling pretty negative about someone (or something) else or myself.

Changing habits is really hard.

Even if you really want to, it’s hard to change negative habits and mindsets. This simple trick can help you to make a different, better choice in the moment when you catch yourself hopping on the negative train to Bummersville.

Whenever I catch myself and use this, it always makes me feel a bit better in the moment and reminds me that regardless of my circumstances that I have power over my own behavior.

I talk a lot about growth mindset and just like a growth mindset, having a positive outlook and disposition in life is a skill that you have to develop and work at over time – it’s not automatic. The more little tips and tricks you can have in your tool belt, the better.

For the naysayers.

Because people love to push back by finding an example when something isn’t true or helpful, let me add a little clarity. I don’t believe this is a life hack to make all of your worldly troubles go away, or to diminish when something sucks or someone is being awful.

In certain situations, this can be a helpful way to pull yourself out of stewing and acting in negativity. Words are powerful, and I think that our behaviors affect our mindsets more than our mindsets affect our behaviors.

Having power and agency over your own behavior is an important element of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Being able to identify negative behavior as it’s happening and make a change in the moment – if you want to – is an extremely empowering practice.

Find other uses for the same concept.

You also don’t have to only use this in this way. When you catch yourself stewing in negativity or are in a funk, maybe you choose three people and send  off a quick text message of gratitude. Or you choose three co-workers to write a nice appreciation note for, or go do three nice things for strangers. It’s a great tool that can have unlimited applications.

Three nice things — a quick, easy way to replace a negative behavior with something more positive in the moment.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital  conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit