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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

Nice is not always kind

Nice: pleasing; agreeable; delightful

Kind: of a good or benevolent nature or disposition

This week I’ve been thinking about the difference between being nice and being kind. I was wondering if they are the same thing or whether sometimes in an effort to be nice you actually end up being unkind. Let me explain...

Deep down we all crave to be included, accepted and loved; or if not loved, then at least liked! The quickest way to be liked is to be nice, to be a pleasing, agreeable and delightful person. But what about those times when you have to decide if you are going to be nice or to be honest especially if you know that the honest answer is not pleasing, agreeable nor delightful? Do you go for nice or do you go for honest?

The problem with choosing honest is that society rewards and delights in people being nice. You only need to think of people who are known for their tact or diplomacy to see popularity following nice. At times tact and diplomacy are important, especially in tricky situations where you are trying to deescalate an issue or put a spin on something to protect the innocent.

"Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people."

- Spencer Johnson

In situations where you have an established relationship with a mutual interest in everyone being successful, then choosing nice over honest is actually unkind, unless of course there are extenuating circumstances where you would go with nice simply because you know the person is not currently in the space to hear honest.

Kind comes into play when you choose to be honest. Being honest does not have to be cruel or heartless. You can be honest and kind all at the same time. Some of the ways to achieve this are:

  • choosing carefully the timing of the conversation. If it is something that would be better discussed outside the heat of a moment then ask for time to think about the situation or suggest you catch up with the person at a later time over coffee.

  • When being honest try to keep the focus on the behaviour and not the person.

  • Don't ever use ‘hamburger feedback’ - that strategy of sandwiching negative feedback between layers of positive. Nobody ever hears or remembers the positive, they only remember and focus on the negative. Hamburger feedback’s only purpose is to make the giver of the feedback feel better. Don’t go there!!!

  • Try using an inquiry frame e.g. “I’ve noticed… and I am interested in your thinking about this…” or “Help me understand…” It is so much nicer for the receiver to be able to come up with the honest appraisal of a situation than to have to hear it from you

  • And then there are those times when we have to pull up our big girl/boy leadership panties and say it straight - but only use this approach in extremely serious situations or when you have exhausted all other ways of getting someone’s attention.

The funny thing about being human is that we learn more from the valleys in our lives than the mountain tops. If we surround ourselves only with ‘nice’ people then we limit the growth we do in the valley and will never reach our potential. Leaders who surround themselves with people who value honesty over niceness are the ones who grow.

One final thought:

Sometimes we need to stop being so nice in order to be kinder to ourselves. I often catch myself agreeing to something I don’t really want to do so that I can be thought of as nice. Sometimes that is the selfless thing to do. At other times though we need to be kind to ourselves and be honest about our willingness or not to be involved in something.

The next time you are a having some time off, take a real break and put aside nice in order to be kind to yourself and those who matter the most to you in your life.

Til next time


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