Nice vs. kind

In Clear Thinking, Shane Parrish writes: 

Too often, the people we ask for feedback are kind but not nice. Kind people will tell you things a nice person will not. A kind person will tell you that you have spinach on your teeth. A nice person won’t because it’s uncomfortable. A kind person will tell us what holds us back even when it’s uncomfortable. A nice person avoids giving us critical feedback because they’re worried about hurting out feelings.

Similarly, in Hidden Potential, Adam Grant writes:

When they have helpful input, people are often reluctant to share it. We even hesitate to tell friends they have food in their teeth. We’re confusing politeness with kindness. Being polite is withholding feedback to make someone feel good today. Being kind is being candid about how they can get better tomorrow. It’s possible to be direct in what you say while being thoughtful about how you deliver it. I don’t want to embarrass you, but I realized it would be a lot more embarrassing if no one told you about the broccoli sprouting from your gums.

Both of these points overlook the fact that being kind is really difficult and can often cause the other person emotional pain. Depending on the magnitude and importance of the situation, it could potentially lead to conflict—or at the very least, a difficult conversation. It takes an incredible sense of empathy and understanding to be kind when it matters most.

The kind person must be generous enough to take a risk in return for something that they themselves probably don’t stand to benefit from much. That’s true kindness.

Being nice is easy. Being kind can be extremely difficult.

When somebody is being kind to you, it might not sound nice or polite, but it’s worth taking a breath and trying to understand what they’re actually saying. 

Kindness is an incredible gift. Don’t complain because it wasn’t tied with a bow.

P.S., There’s a completely unconnected meta-lesson, which is to say it your way. To me, this particularly piece of advice feels even more important, because I saw it twice in the span of a few days. Don’t worry too much about being repetitive, and do try to bring something new to the conversation.

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