For the last several years traveling on the road with my manager, this is a question that comes up a lot. While traveling in Europe in October, however, we found an incredible way to answer this.
First of all, what do these two words mean? We looked it up in Merriam Webster dictionary and found the following:
· nice – polite, agreeable, appropriate and fitting.
· kind – gentle nature, help others and bring happiness.
My manager, Bobbie, often gets asked if she, too, is in the Kindness business. She usually bursts into laughter and points at me and says, “She is the one that is kind. I am only nice.” The interlocutor is usually in stitches and wholeheartedly understands the distinction she is trying to make. An entire conversation on nice versus kind generally follows.
I have noticed that people really appreciate the explanation and the distinction. The reason I personally distinguish words like this is because English is not my mother tongue and thus I am very interested in not only the definition but also how we commonly use words for other meanings…
“Nice” for Bobbie has to do with etiquette. For example, what your parents taught you and especially what is considered impolite. So, for her, “polite” and “fitting” are very apt words to describe “nice.” Bobbie’s example of this would be, being nice is when you meet someone for the first time and you put your best foot forward and are courteous and polite to them. Another example could be reaching out to someone on their birthday or giving the benefit of the doubt to someone.
Now for me, “nice” is truly everything that embodies etiquette. From holding open a door, to shaking someone’s hand and being polite. Basically, everything you learn from your parents and in school. Almost like a random act, as you do it automatically… you hold open a door when you see someone with heavy bags. These are actions we do instinctively. Helping someone up when they fall on the street. There are many such random acts that we all do as human beings on a daily basis without being specifically aware of it or having to think of it.
Here is the difference for me with Kindness. I always give Kindness a capital K as it takes thought and deliberate action on your part to think about how you can be Kind to others and yourself. Kindness is when, on a continuous basis, you bring this into your life like a habit, and you don’t even realize that you are kind, as you have grown accustomed to helping others, being gentle, spreading happiness, and finally always considering other people’s feelings. By the way, both are great! Don’t think we, Bobbie or I, don’t like nice people. We do! But the agenda is often different. Kind people go out of their way. Nice people do it along their way.
When you read this, you see that kindness is a purposeful act that you first of all have to see to be able to respond with kindness. For example, if you only look at your mobile devices while walking down the street you will not see the world around you and you can neither be nice or kind in this case.
Kindness goes from making the choice to be kind to truly embracing the moment both for yourself and others.