We regularly collapse the two words together. Have you ever wondered what those words actually mean? I did, so I looked them up in the dictionary:
Kindness is defined as: “The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.”
Niceness is defined as: “The quality of being pleasant, agreeable.”
These got me thinking. They do have different meanings and at first glance they both sound like good qualities to have. Yet, the more I thought about it the more I realized that one is actually a more powerful way of being. Can you tell which one?
In my experience, as a girl I was always taught being nice was important. It’s good to be a nice girl. What did that mean to me? It meant making sure that all my actions pleased others. I was pleasant and did what I was told so that I rarely upset anybody. Not upsetting people is not inherently a bad thing, but what I noticed for myself is that I wouldn’t share my opinion if it differed from someone else’s. Why? Because I thought it might upset someone and then I wouldn’t be thought of as a nice girl anymore. I started to just go along to get along, as the saying goes. Over time, I started to feel bad about myself because I was always regretting not saying something in the moment-either to defend myself, voice my opinion or say something that might help someone else. I started to realize that being pleasant and agreeable all the time didn’t make me feel good about myself. I also went along with what everyone else wanted so much that I started to not know what it was that I liked nor what I wanted. This led to lower self-confidence. Over the years, I developed anxiety and a lot of it had to do with being worried all the time, trying to figure out what my friends thought, what would they like, what do they think is cool? Why? Because I felt I had to be all those things for them to like me and not get upset. I had become a people-pleaser through and through!
You see, sometimes being “Nice” as in being “pleasant and agreeable” is not the best way to go. Sometimes it’s important to tell your friends or siblings something they may not like to hear. For example: If a friend is talking about someone behind their back, it might be easier to not tell them that gossiping is mean and wrong. It might be easier to be nice and not upset your friend. However, it’s unfair to the person who is being spoken about, and your friend won’t learn that what they are doing is actually not acceptable or tolerable. In this example being nice won’t make a difference for your friend or the person being gossiped about. It will simply allow the hurtful behaviour to continue.
Now imagine if everyone, especially little girls were taught from the beginning to be kind instead. Kindness is about being friendly, generous and considerate of others. Nowhere does it say to be likable. If you are friendly, generous and considerate of others the natural effect would be that people would like you. And, they would like you for you, not because you are trying to please them and not upset them in any way. In the example above, being kind would look like letting your friend know that you don’t like talking about people behind their backs and asking them to stop because it’s hurtful to the other person. How is this being kind? You are being considerate of everyone’s feelings and although your friend might not like what you said, you are letting them know that gossiping is hurtful and you don’t want to take part. This allows your friend to decide to act in a more friendly/loving way; and, it allows you to feel good about yourself because you expressed your thoughts and you weren’t part of something that you didn’t really agree with.
So the next time someone tells you to nice, I Dare U 2 Bee KIND instead!