Nice versus kind – which one is better? (video transcript)
You know what kind of people I don’t really like? Nice people.
That might sound like a weird thing to say: while I don’t dislike nice people generally, I find nice is really hurtful on teams.
Nice people will smile and compliment you after you bomb in a presentation. They think that telling you the truth would crush you. Similarly, when someone gossips to a nice person, they just smile and nod in agreement.
I think ‘nice’ on teams is an excuse for lazy passive behavior. And I don’t think it’s good enough.
What I like to do is replace the standard of being nice with being kind.
Kind requires something a bit more active.
Imagine a colleague mentions to you some negative feedback they received from the boss that they don’t agree with. Rather than being ‘nice’ by consoling them with platitudes, the kind thing to do would be to ask if the boss gave any examples, and perhaps share some ideas on how they might have handled that situation differently.
That’s kind: it means you care about the person and you want to help them be successful, rather than being polite and courteous and not actually helping them to be better.
In the situation where your colleague comes gossiping to you, a nice person will simply stay quiet and nod along. In contrast, a kind person would point out that things don’t seem to be going well in that relationship. They might say “What do you think’s going on? Why don’t you share with me how you might broach that issue with the person, and I’ll give you some thoughts.”
Kindness is a much higher bar and we need more kindness in our relationships. Instead of feeling like we can’t say anything to a colleague for fear of throwing them under the bus, we need a level of trust based on being honest with what someone needs to hear.
This is less about sugarcoating something, but rather helping them turn uncomfortable situations into learning opportunities. That is a kind colleague, and I would trade a kind colleague for a nice colleague any day of the week.