The difference between being ‘nice’ and being ‘kind’ is vast. This isn’t just a semantic variation on a theme. On the surface, the difference may not seem that substantial. However, being nice and being kind, in essence are not related at all.
While watching TV one day, I saw an advertisement for Kind snack bars that made a distinction between nice and kind. It’s true that they are taking their brand name to heart, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with good marketing that’s also an eye-opener for human behavior. As someone who ran an advertising agency for years as well as currently teaching the state of the industry at The New School, they got my attention!
The ads for Kind bars make a point that nice is well just nice – a surface behavior that is often driven by manners, social propriety and fear. Yes. People are often afraid not to be nice. This fear stems from ancient times when being nice meant you had a better chance of not losing your head on the chopping block. Perhaps it’s not that different today in the challenges we face in societal and workplace culture. But nice as a behavior sometimes gets more credit than it deserves.
Nice, for example, is not always sincere. Sales people are nice to even the rudest of customers because, well honestly, that’s part of the job. When someone pushes past you on a train or bus and mumbles, “excuse me,” as you fall onto the next person causing a domino effect of bumping and banging, this is nice in action. Nice says, “Sorry, my bad,” in order to keep the peace and not make things even harder than they already are. Kind would not have pushed past you in the first place. Kind would have stopped, asked if you could make some room and gone on its way with gratefulness, caring and concern.
It’s true that nice helps keep things at a polite and cordial level most of the time, which is definitely needed, but being kind is much deeper. It’s something you do more than something you say. And, it’s motivated by empathy, not just politeness. One of the things I like to tell people, and truly believe, is that kindness is an action sport. It’s a stand-your-ground and get-it-done solutions oriented activity.
Here’s an example that many people can relate to. I’ve done it too – most of us have: When you walk past a person asking for money and you say in an upbeat apologetic voice, “Sorry, I don’t have any money today,” you are trying to be nice, but you definitely are not kind. Kind would have helped in some way, even if just to stop and talk and listen and care. Or, kind would have come back. In fact, Kind wouldn’t have left the house without some spare change or dollar bills in a pocket.
Kindness requires mental and emotional preparation. You need to prepare yourself for kindness, especially when you know that the help you want to give may not be received, well, very nicely. We all face difficult situations where the kind thing to do is not the easy thing or something what’s even wanted at all. You need to be prepared to say I understand you, I hear you, I’m with you and I care about you no matter how notnice a person is to you.
It’s important to try, always, to be kind over nice, and understand the difference.
I’m glad I saw the Kind ad on TV that day. It got me thinking, as good advertising should. It brought an important topic to light that is societally beneficial to understand, which is kind. As far as their ads go, I think they’re quite nice!