Be Kind, Not Nice

I recently received a bit of wisdom from a colleague of mine, and it was very important in a conversation I had today with a client, so I”m passing on to you.

First, an important distinction between being NICE and being KIND

Nice is about what the other person is thinking and feeling–it’s their perception of the situation.
Kind is about what you choose to do and why.
When you want to be nice it’s because you want to please the other person; you want everyone to be happy. When you want to be kind it’s because you want to do what is right regardless of how other people feel about it. Nice is permissive. Kind is grace-based discipline

If I want to be nice to my children I will give them what they want, not do what is needed, seek to please them and hope they like me. If I want to be kind to my children I will give them blessings, do what they need, seek to teach them and hope they learn. Nice manipulates. Kindness trains.

What is the lesson for leadership and life?

When you fail to provide critical steering feedback to a team member who is heading down the wrong path, you are being nice.  They will go home and feel good about you and the workplace.  When you intentionally create an UNCOMFORTABLE conversation in which you share your observations and engage that person around improving, you are being Kind.  For if no one tells them, how will they know of the issue?
If you have a friend who’s lost their job, it’s probably important to be Nice to them for a short time. Let them cry on your couch.  Invite them over for drinks and a chance to vent about the mean old company.  But don’t be nice forever.  As a friend, you must be Kind, and look your friend in the eyes and say, “You need to find a job, and you can’t do that from your couch.  I’m happy to help you create a more positive story about your last boss, but I’m not going to listen to the old story anymore.  It’s time, my friend, to get over it.”
If you really, truly want what’s best for yourself and for others, think beyond what will allow everyone to feel good about THIS conversation. Instead, think ahead and, if necessary, step into a NEW conversation that may feel uncomfortable, yet will provide the push or shove or difficult feedback — and support — for what is needed in the future.
Be Kind, not Nice.

2 thoughts on “Be Kind, Not Nice”

  1. Fabulous post, Jim.
    Another sign of nice vs. kind is when someone truly listens to you, and responds in a way that doesn’t increase your sorrow or gives you a little pat of “Oh I am sorry to hear that.” Instead their recognition and response allows you to move forward as needed.


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