How many of us are raised to be nice? Do you find yourself using words like “nice” to describe someone in a positive way? “She is so nice, she is always helping others”, “She is amazing, I don’t know how she finds the time, she never says no”.
I’m so fortunate to have a supportive husband who, through example, has taught me the subtle but profound difference between being “nice” and being “kind”. Let me explain.
Whenever I thank my husband for doing something kind he smiles and says “I never do anything I don’t want to do”. Now, to some this might sound selfish. And frankly, it is. But this is where we get real. How can you ever expect to show up in the world and take care of others in a joyful way if you aren’t taking care of yourself?
I discovered a number of years ago that being nice was at the root of my overwhelm. It was the very thing that was causing me to show up in the world in a way that didn’t serve me, my kids and others I loved, not even the people I worked with. This is when I began a practice of being “kind” vs being “nice”.
The best way for me to explain the subtle difference between being nice vs being kind is to look at the motivation behind them. The nice person is externally motivated. In being nice I would find myself doing things to make others happy even at the sacrifice of my own well being. I was always worried what others would think of me and so, was constantly seeking their approval. Exhausting.
Kind, on the other hand, is internally motivated. When I am being kind I recognize the importance of respecting myself as much as others. I can do for others as much as I like but not at the expense of my own well being.
- Externally motivated
- Craves acceptance, fears rejection so becomes focused on the emotional pay-off that comes from pleasing others
- How does this feel? Exhausting, overwhelming, and at risk to become aggravated by others, reactive
- Internally motivated
- Natural compassion to do for others comes from a positive regard for self vs the need to please others (i.e self-compassion)
- How does this feel? Energizing, balanced and in the flow with those around you
Putting It to Practice
My Top 2 Teachings on learning to be “Kind” vs “Nice”:
- The Full Body Yes; Engage your inner guru to make decisions that energize your life
“Our bodies communicate information to our minds through physical sensations—pleasure, pain, butterflies in the stomach, contraction, expansion, goose bumps, etc. All sensations in our body act as a feedback mechanism to inform us when something is in alignment and when we need to pay attention to something that is out of alignment. As we become more in touch with our innate wisdom, we begin to see the correlation of how our mind affects our body and vice versa. This is the basis for the full-body yes!” says Sophia Thom [more]
- Learning to say “no” without feeling guilty
(I recently googled this and was presented with 18,800,000 search results….wow!). In Cheryl Richardson’s book “Let me Disappoint you: The Art of Extreme Self Care” (which is one of my favourite books by the way) she focuses in on a couple of key ways to say “no” that I use religiously. The first is to create space between the request to do something and the answer. This space is a critical “pattern interrupt” as many of us say yes out of habit. Try out responding to a request with something like “Thanks for inviting me to conference. I’ll check that weekend on our family calendar and get back to you”. Creating this space allows you to check in with yourself both logistically but equally as important, emotionally to see if you really want to do this (see “full body yes” above). The second tool is more of an affirmation to the “I can do it all” gremlins that live in our psyche. Stop and say to yourself, “I can’t do everything and still be the person I want to be”. Period. I like to remind myself how things go when I say yes to be “Nice” vs ‘Kind”. For me this is a quick visit to “reactive Amanda”. Reactive Amanda gets aggravated and feels depleted….no fun!
The journey from being “nice” to being “kind” can have its bumps but I know first-hand the profound impact it can have your health, your happiness and your feelings of success both at home and work. So please be kind. You and those you love will be glad you did.