Whenever I think about what it means to be nice or kind, a story comes to mind.
Many moons ago, in a seemingly friendly conversation, someone in my inner circle told me: "Why don't you just be a nice girl, say thank you and stop talking"?
That person was offering to help with a housing matter, and while I was grateful for the offer, I had alarm bells going off about the strings attached to that help.
So I asked questions... They weren't welcome.
It happened a long time ago, but it made me rethink the definition of "Nice" and came with a whole bunch of questions. Questions like:
- What do I think when I refer to someone as nice at work? In my social circles? Romantically?
- Would I rather be NICE or KIND? Is there a difference?
The answers weren't as straightforward as I was expecting, but I came to some interesting realisations.
What "nice" looks like
When I think of past situations where I would describe myself as nice, in many of them, my motivations could be summed up as:
- I didn't want to offend someone (= afraid of disagreement)
- I was trying to be liked (= validation seeking)
- I did too much for people who didn't necessarily deserve it (= felt used)
What "kind" felt like
When I think of examples where I would describe myself as kind, my experience looked different:
- I gave my time/attention/resources because I wanted to (not because I felt pressured)
- My kindness had boundaries (I knew where it started and ended)
- I felt no resentment afterwards (I felt good about it)
Where do we go from here?
There is definitely a place for being nice, in the sense of politeness, smiling in sympathy, being diplomatic or perhaps avoiding unnecessary conflict.
Because niceness is more on the surface, it can be easy for some of us to use it as a way of getting approval.
Kind requires more vulnerability, empathy (which comes with boundaries) and genuine care for other people's needs AS MUCH as our own needs.
This being said, I also believe that nothing is black or white.
So to bridge that gap, I like to think of nice as something I can DO and kind as something I can BE.
If any of this resonates with you, don't judge yourself! I spent over a decade being nice in an attempt to be liked and feel good enough.
But things can change, one tiny shift at a time.