Truth may cause pain; it should not cause harm.

Are you speaking with gentleness and respect?

The aforementioned is how you decipher whether you are being nice or kind. And yes, there is a difference between the two words. To understand how they are not synonymous, let’s look at the definitions of the words:

  • Nice—pleasing, agreeable, polite, socially acceptable

  • Kind—gentle, affectionate, loving

There is nothing wrong with either word and the lane you may choose to go down, but each word takes you down a different path and that can hinder whether or not you allow your voice to be heard in the way you want it to be.

Being nice has been shown as someone who has a bright smile glued to their face. They are the helpful person. The one who rarely has a negative thing to say about anyone. You may have even heard people say “they are so nice” with that soft voice that is sometimes used when people speak to babies or are talking about how cute a baby is. I am quite sure whoever is saying how nice you are is because you may be taking on the brunt of the load, being nonconfrontational, and an all around ‘good’ person. The person who rarely says “no” and will probably say “yes” even if you don’t feel like it. Everyone likes the nice person.

Being kind is not the synonym to nice, but it is also not the antonym. Being kind is about understanding your boundaries and what you do and do not want. Being kind means you are willing and able to speak your mind. And as the sentences speak to boundaries and saying how you feel, a person who is kind is doing so in a respectful manner. They are advocating for themselves and addressing concerns, but doing so with gentleness and respect. That is the key—gentleness and respect.

There is no harshness in being kind. If the truth must be told, it is done in a way so the individual can walk away with insight to you and what you are concerned for and still want to assist you in your endeavors. Being nice would be that you are not advocating for yourself, in essence being a doormat for others to walk on and they will turn around and call you “nice”.

As I have worked with individuals, mostly when I have mediated potentially tense conversations, I speak with the person I am there to advocate for and tell them I need for them to speak their truth. Let it be known what they are feeling and state what they need. Each time the response I hear is “I don’t want confrontation” or “I don’t want to make them mad”. I understand wanting to keep a drama free environment, but speaking doesn’t have to be hurtful. My immediate reply is “be kind and speak with gentleness and respect”.

Don’t cause harm, but you may cause pain, but if done with gentleness and respect it is less of a blow. Being kind means you are speaking up. Being nice can lead to you being tightlipped wishing things would adjust but not being courageous enough to petition for the change because you may not be viewed as nice.

Look at yourself and determine if you are being nice or are you being kind. Are you speaking up or are you being quiet? Are you hurting people because you have grown tired of being ‘the nice one’ and have gone the complete opposite and no one wants to be around you. Find the balance with being kind. Speak your truth with gentleness and respect.

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Dr. Chemika Burkhalter, LCSW, MCLC

Dr. B is a licensed clinical therapist and a master certified life coach with a client-centered emphasis and a love for helping people navigate their way to the “aha” moment.