What is the difference between “being kind” and “being nice?”
This essay is sparked by a thread I was reading on Twitter yesterday:
I’ve struggled, honestly, for years with “striking a balance” between being direct and being nice. I think there are many situations where being nice and being kind are indeed mutually exclusive options. You can either be direct and help someone understand the long term or you can be nice and pad someone’s short term.
Though, I think in most situations it is also a lot about how you say it (not just what you say). Context is everything. And I think it takes a lot of nuance and understanding to really become a master of that.
I enjoyed this article, further linked in the thread, which details what “being kind” is all about:
I headed home early that day to think about what I had heard. My future wife April was gentle but she offered me little reprieve from the feedback: “If you want people to work with you, you need to be kind.” It turns out this wasn’t just a problem I had at work. Looking back, I’m amazed (and grateful) that my friends put up with me.
Being kind isn’t the same as being nice. It isn’t about superficial praise. It doesn’t mean dulling your opinions. And it shouldn’t diminish the passion with which you present them.
Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.
Being kind hasn’t hurt my effectiveness at all. Being thoughtful about the emotions of my colleagues hasn’t made me any less right or wrong, it has simply made me more likely to be asked to help in the first place. Being invited to more conversations has allowed me to scale my impact in a way that would have been unfathomable on my own.
I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at any of this. When I’m under stress I can sometimes fall back into my old habits. But believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others feel has been life changing for me. Being kind turns out to be a long term strategy for maximizing impact.
Being kind is perhaps the difference between good and evil. It is the difference between respect and disrespect, thoughtfulness and carelessness.
Being kind does not have to take away from the truth. Rather, it can be a stepladder to that.
Also published on Medium.