I was that [pre-internet] high school senior with the misattributed Plato yearbook quote “Be Kind For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle”.🙋🏻♀️
Kindness has always driven a lot of my decisions. When everything went sideways in 2020’s COVID pandemic, I lost the ability to accommodate many of the ways I used to show up for people.
Many great unravellings took place in the last year+, As I slowly reintroduce certain practices, I’m excited to leave a big one in the Before Times— being nice.
There! I said it.
Kind v Nice
If you feel attacked, recognize the difference between kind and nice. Think of it this way: KIND addresses the needs of others; NICE addresses optics by catering to your perception of the wants of others. Frequently, NICE is a selfish desire to be liked in disguise. Too often, NICE is a needlessly complicated attempt at telepathy. KIND doesn’t make space for selfishness or telepathy. These days, who has the time? It’s all so much. I’m tired. I need to prioritize things, and sometimes that means recognizing that what was once a big priority no longer has a place in your life.
Do you know what would be nice? If you stopped being nice and started being kind.
Ever Found Yourself Depleted?
Have you ever spent time with some of the nicest people you know and found yourself so depleted when you leave? That’s likely because you, like me, value kindness over niceness.
Growing up, books teaching that “It’s Nice to be Nice” adorned my bookshelf, and I was conditioned to believe that it was my responsibility to modify my behavior for the comfort of others. When you start to see that so many manners are rooted in divisive elitist tactics, it becomes harder to defend them.
As I watch society diminish the power of sentences like “No” while perpetuating the magical status of an adjective such as “please”, it seems misguided at best and malicious at worst.
Kindness and Niceness Often Conflict
When I worked in a corporate environment, I subscribed to ideas like Kim Scott’s Radical Candor and created an enclave within the large organization to foster individual development. I could never quite crack why I would encounter pushback from those around me until I understood that kindness and niceness often conflict with each other.
I have struggled with how to articulate this distinction for years. Earlier this year when the internet went bonkers about this tweet:
I began to understand that I am passionate about being kind and I’m growing less tolerant of niceties with each passing day.
Nice is inherently performative.
Being ‘nice’ is often used to keep from upsetting the status quo.
Nice glorifies a deferential power dynamic and comfort that naturally stops change.
Especially in the workplace,’nice’ is a zero-sum game.
I rarely got productive feedback in my formative professional years. Champions of chipper surrounded me and often told me to hide my true feelings in the name of niceness (aka toxic positivity).
The ‘Instrumental’ to ‘Expendable’ Pendulum
I swung from “instrumental” to “expendable” and confused those labels with my actual self-worth. Wasting so many years giving others my time, I only considered their wants, and modeled behavior to avoid conflict. I say wasted because none of it amounted to transferrable skills—only burnout.
Removed from that world and on the other side of an extremely long time in isolation with my partner, our toddler, and our pup, I seek a community of other kind people. My ability to do so is indicative of my privilege.
Support is Crucial
I can consider these things because I have support to make space for considering such things. I’ll start with gentleness when possible, but I will always take action. I will be kind. I’ll do the work. I will repeat that cycle. And then I’ll share with you here in case it helps unlock something for you.