The words kind and nice are often used interchangeably and yet they have very different meanings. As young children we're taught to "be nice" by exhibiting good manners, civility, and concern for others. "Nice" children certainly reap benefits from teachers, adults, and others they come in contact with. Everybody appreciates a well mannered child (and adult). Hopefully, as we get older, that outward display of simple niceness develops and arises from a deeper source of genuine kindness.
So what's the difference between nice and kind?
While being nice is mostly good, it may have a down side we should be aware of. When people are too nice they sometimes acquiesce their own needs, avoid conflict (which could actually make things worse), or not be entirely truthful. Difficult conversations are tough on perpetually nice people. It goes against their grain to dig in the dirt of opposition and they don't readily see the long term benefits of constructive dissention. "Nice" people have a tendency to be risk averse when it comes to candor and frankness which they fear may show them in a less than favorable light. Niceness seems to have a quality that is focused on: making others happy, winning approval, or avoiding unpleasant interactions or exchanges. Some of those are the building blocks of good relationships, but taken too far they can be self destructive. If you're perpetually "nice" without consideration or expression of your own needs , thoughts, and values you're not being good to yourself. It's easy to be around someone who is agreeable, pleasant and isn't going to challenge or judge you. In the short run "nice" pays off, but in the long run niceness may fall short due to the risk of creating a sweet layer of inauthenticity. Sort of like those beautifully decorated, picture perfect, special occasion cakes that don't taste very good and leave you with an aftertaste of disappointment.
Kindness, on the other hand, rises from a wellspring of genuine care and concern for others and a willingness to take action with a conviction that runs deep. Kind people are compelled to act in a manner that reveals their compassion, integrity, and values in a courageous way. They are risk takers and willing to give of themselves and weather the storm of others' opinions in order to work toward a greater good. Kindness can look very much like niceness, but not always. Consider the concept of "tough love". It's hard to do and may not look very "nice", but is often the best course of action in the bigger scheme of things. Think of the "nice" parents (or bosses or coworkers) who indulge their children (employees, coworkers) and don't hold them accountable or address problems early on to avoid tension or be liked. It's just not a good plan. That's when nice doesn't pay off and the "kind" thing to do may be to take strong, thoughtful, decisive action with the clear intention of making things better. Kindness is a powerful force!
Whenever possible, it's optimal to have kindness wrapped in a lovely package of nice. But if that's not going to work in a particular situation, why not throw off the fancy wrapping and savor the real gift of true kindness.
Some things to think about?
Who is the kindest person you know? What about him/her radiates kindness?
Can you think of a time something positive came out of a difficult conversation you had with someone ?