Last month, during one of the bi-weekly virtual coffee talks I host, we explored the difference between being kind and being nice. Louise, one of our regulars, had sent me a Huffington Post article that she felt provided good food for thought.

Before receiving Louise’s email, I hadn’t given the topic much thought. Being kind, being nice — aren’t they kinda the same? As it turns out, no.

Being kind is wanting to do good unto others.

Niceness, on the other hand, comes from a place of wanting to do good unto oneself. While these are my own words, they reflect what the article implied. At first, I wanted to fight them. I mean, I’m nice. At least, I try to be nice. Does that make me a bad person? Does it mean I’m selfish?

Says author, speaker, psychiatrist, and fellow coach Marcia Sirota: “At the root of extreme niceness…are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others. Overly-nice people try to please so that they can feel good about themselves.”

Ouch. I felt that.

When we’re nice to others, there’s usually something in it for us.

We might greet someone with an extra-warm smile in the hopes of striking a business deal. We might compliment a salesperson in the hopes of getting a discount. We might go out of our way for others in the hopes that they, one day, will do the same for us.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to strike a deal, save money, or be considered worthy of someone’s kindness, the fact remains that all of these wants are self-serving, and they can come back to bite us if we’re too attached to our desired outcomes.

Be nice but be prepared — it may cost you.

When our actions are driven by best outcomes for ourselves rather than best intentions towards others we can end up being taken for a ride. (Ever leant money to a friend who kept forgetting to pay you back?)

Favours extended to others with expected outcomes can lead to disappointment, which, whether you choose to express it out loud or not, can lead to unhappiness.

When we’re truly being kind, we have zero expectations.

Kindness comes from doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do. I’d venture to say you can never go wrong when you’re following your heart. But how do you know if you’re truly following it?

Says Marcia, “kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves.” 

Think about the last time you gave of yourself and felt let down by someone’s response or felt taken for granted. Be honest. Ask yourself, were you giving unconditionally or were you giving with the hope of receiving something — perhaps love — in return?

I’ve certainly been guilty of that, which begs the question: did I not consider myself worthy enough to deserve love simply for being me? Had I been more confident, would I have still given all I gave? If so, my giving would have come straight from my heart.

being kind

What happens when our generosity isn’t rewarded as hoped for?

Resentment seeps in.

Consider the adult child who insists on being there to help out an ailing parent. Perhaps you’re that person; the one who keeps telling your siblings not to worry; that you’ll take care of it. Until …you ask your sister for a favour and she says she’s too busy. What? Seriously? After all you’ve done for your mother, she’s saying NO? 

If you can relate to this scenario, consider the fact that you may be a people-pleaser. If you are, know that you’re not alone. But also know this: only when you can let go of the urge to please others will you be able to fully care for yourself. And only when you love yourself fully will you be able to give without expectation, and that is the meaning of kindness.

Have some thoughts you’d like to share about this post? Drop a comment below. Want to share your thoughts on similar topics? Join me for Authentically Connecting Over Coffee. It’s free to attend, and I’d love to meet you.

Viv for Today xo

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