Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I read your recent blog on the difference between “nice” and “kind.” I wonder if you could explain this further. It seems like there’s an important point here
and I would like to make sure I understand. I think I might have a problem telling the two apart myself.- I could use some “splainin”.
Granny says: Here’s the difference between “nice” and “kind” on a purely word & language level- “nice” is behavior that you learn and it involves a display of social consideration: “Be nice to your little brother” As a nice person, you are seen as a person who likes others. Niceness can be viewed from outside, it is behavior that is easily seen.
On the other hand, “kindness” is an innate instinct that we either have, or don’t. It is not learned behavior- some people are born kind while there are also people who get joy and satisfaction in creating troubles for others. Kindness is not always seen from the outside, and sometimes it means looking like the bad guy- a “nice” mother might let the teens party in her house, but a “kind” mother knows how wrong it is and boots them out.
It’s easy to be “nice” on the outside while being a self-serving bastard and having no compassion at all for others. But it takes genuine kindness to feel a reflexive caring for one’s fellow humans.
Dr. Brilliant comments:
This is a topic I usually spend an hour lecturing on and years thereafter reinforcing but I will try to hit the highlights.
In the self help world and codependent literature nice and kind are split the opposite way. I believe kindness is a set of learned skills and nice is culturally trained behavior which becomes reflexive. I’ve included a chart of differences: nice vs. kind.
The way I see it, nice derives from what we are taught living in a codependent culture. Nice is one sided and revolves around self sacrifice. I don’t believe this is sustainable because it leaves personal needs out of the picture. Nice people are hyper aware of other’s needs and are compelled to get involved and help.
Unfortunately, most people often aren’t aware of their own needs or suffering so when a “nice” person comes in and takes care of everything, it only helps short term; the problem itself remains unchanged so things get worse over time not better. Nice people live in immediate time not long term. The general rule I teach is if you do too much, everyone else does too little.
In the 50’s sitcom, Leave it to Beaver, Mom does everything for everyone, as the perfect mom. But in reality these sacrificial moms were probably on Valium; Anger, resentment and disappointment can build underneath a nice person’s constant sacrifices. No family is sustainable if everyone doesn’t pitch in.
In my practice I see sacrificial moms often ending up cheated on or taken advantage of by their husbands because they exist merely as a reflection of others, which is boring and tiresome. Based on Game theory, the more one sacrifices, the more of a victim they become and the angrier everyone else gets at them for doing it.
Being “nice” and sacrificing maintains status quo but it can’t change anything because it doesn’t add anything new. If you are only a reflection of what you think everyone else needs, you aren’t even you.
“Nice” can’t ever be neutral. Nice has to get involved. Nice doesn’t let others sort things out on their own so no one learns how.
“Nice” doesn’t Consider intent or goal based planning. It isn’t a discussion with others…it is a doing for others. “Nice” people show love by performing tasks. “Nice” people often are not present in the moment. If you are always doing, you are never present. Nice people will run themselves to depletion.
“Kind,” on the other hand is often counter intuitive. It is skill based and requires asking good questions: what is the consequence of my intervention long term? Did they ask me to help? What is my goal and intent and what is their goal and intent? “Kind” is having a presence in the moment and having an ongoing conversation with all involved. Most importantly “kind” is living by example- role modeling.
Rather than doing everything for everyone, kind people are good teachers and role models. They help others to help themselves. Kind people understand that suffering can motivate creativity, personal growth and change as long as the right tools are available. Kind people do not infantilize everyone in their life by doing everything for them.
Kind people understand happiness is self generated. You do not make others happy. A kind goal is not happiness but contentment.
Kind people allow themselves to be replenished by others.
Good reference books on the topic is: The Inner Bitch Guide to Men, Relationships, Dating, Etc. by Elizabeth Hilts and The Original Warm Fuzzy Tale by Claude Steiner
Here is a summery chart that compares the associations of nice vs. Kind.
Allergic to suffering————————Can say no , can be neutral
Compelled to do something——————–Bigger picture mindful. The doing of non-doing
Love as tasks——————————–Love as presence
Doesn’t add self, acts as if was
the other person—————————–Role models. Self is a role model following INTENT
Western compassion /getting in the way——-Eastern compassion,getting out of the way
Self is others thus nothing new is added—–Role model and teacher
Status quo is maintained———————NEW
Can build: Resentment, anger,—————Can be neutral
disappointed, guilt, shame
Tied to outcome——————————Witness
Feeling based——————————–Balance oriented
Happiness is the goal————————Contentment is the goal