Kindness vs. Niceness
First brought to my attention on the Masters of Scale Podcast where Reid Hoffman (Founder @ LinkedIn) interviews Daniel Lubetzky (Founder @ Kind) — Link to the episode here.
A lot of people confuse kindness with weakness. And part of the reason is that they think that kindness and being nice are synonymous, but they’re very different because you can be nice and be passive. You can be nice and just not cause troubles, but to be kind, you need to solve those problems. You can be nice and be polite, but to be kind, you need to be honest. And to be honest, you need to have the strength and the courage to say what needs to be said at the right time.
– Daniel Lubetzky, Founder @ Kind
This has been a topic of reflection as of late, here are some of my rambling thoughts on it:
- It is more difficult and confrontational to be kind; hence, we often default to being nice.
- Don’t use kindness as an excuse to be uncouth, you still need to be tactful and mindful of how you present your feedback if you truly care to have the receiver accept it.
- It’s not just about giving “constructive” feedback — take it or leave it, it’s their problem.
- If you truly care about helping others improve, be mindful of how you present the feedback such that they won’t feel hurt, and in turn, become defensive or outright ignore your feedback.
A real-life example from my past:
I had a co-worker whom I started noticing strong body odour. The less mature me-of-the-past stayed silent to avoid making it an awkward conversation/relationship, I should have in fact brought it up with my co-worker in private.
Not so tactful:
“Hey, I notice you’ve recently been smelling a little bad”
A little more tactful:
“This is going to be a little awkward to hear, but I have something I want to confess to you. Not a love confession I swear
(diffuse the tension with some humour — optional)
I’m saying this because I believe I would want to know this if I were in your shoes, not because I’m trying to mock you.
(help the other party understand that you’re not doing this because you’re pulling a power play on them, but because you genuinely care about how it may be affecting others around them)
I’ve recently noticed your body odour. I’m not sure if it’s something that’s changed with me — I heard that people react differently to different pheromones at different times, if you’ve recently made any changes to your hygiene routine, or if it’s caused by any changes that are out of your control — I didn’t notice this around you before and only started noticing it recently.
(don’t make assumptions, perhaps that person now has to take a different means of transportation to work and is often around something certain odours, or perhaps that person is undergoing some biological changes e.g. pregnancy/breastfeeding/menopause, etc. which changes their pheromonal secretions)
Not sure if anyone else has been noticing it but I thought you should know.”