Niceness and kindness. Often confused, but worth knowing the difference.
Smiling at a toddler on the bus. Holding a door open for a stranger. Remembering to send your grandparents a Christmas card. All elements of niceness.
Being nice sometimes gets a bad rep for being tied to people-pleasing or helping others only when it benefits the person in question.
Kindness, however, is more nuanced. It’s defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people’.
Genuine kindness extends beyond being polite and genial to a more selfless form of caring about others without expecting anything in return.
Kindness is also contagious. Studies on moral elevation show that when we witness an act of virtue or kindness, we are then inspired and compelled to do the same.
Let’s explore 9 things that set you apart as a genuinely kind person, and learn how we can continue to spread kindness:
1) You’re kind to everyone
You know when someone’s seemingly nice, but only to some people.
The statement “well, they’re nice to people who they like” is apt for these selectively-nice individuals.
It’s a weighted statement. People who are nice only to those who they consider worthy of their niceness tend to do so because they consider those individuals in some way beneficial to them.
After all, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Genuinely kind people extend their kindness to everyone.
If you don’t go into social situations with the mindset of, ‘what does this person have to offer me?’ Or ‘why should I be kind to them, I don’t even know them’, you can be sure that your kindness comes without terms and conditions.
2) Helping out is your second nature
Imagine: your friend confides in you that they’ve unexpectedly lost someone close to them.
Is your response to a) send them a message offering your condolences, or b) you’re over at their house like a shot (granted they want company), offering to help with chores and keep them company whilst they need you.
If you answered b), chances are you’re genuinely kind and compassionate.
Lending a helping hand or lifting someone up comes so naturally to you, you almost don’t have to think about it.
You’re the first person to offer to help people carry prams up stairs or assist the elderly over crossroads.
You’re also distinguished from those who help out to further themselves.
i.e. Buying your Taylor Swift enthusiast manager concert tickets because you have your eye on a promotion doesn’t qualify.
You will willingly go out of their way to help others, not because you want to win them over or because you expect an eye for an eye, but because you possess a true desire to help others.
3) You’re selfless
Sometimes helping out is really inconvenient for you.
But that doesn’t stop you.
A big part of being genuinely kind is being selfless.
This means that often, you’re more concerned with the needs of others than with your own.
You find time to help out even when you’re really busy and overstretched, and you go the extra mile wherever possible.
Of course, you still have your own boundaries. You know that part of keeping healthy boundaries means being kind to yourself.
Being genuinely kind differs from people-pleasing. Whilst you go out of your way to help others, you’re not doing so to be recognized for your actions but to instead benefit the greater good.
4) You’re not just doing it for the badge
Kindness comes falsely packaged in all sorts of shapes and forms nowadays.
(To name a few.)
In the same way that genuinely kind people don’t act kind just to please people or win favors, they don’t do it for the social status it gives them.
If you’re in it because you actually care – not because you’ll get a nice section to add to your CV showcasing your charitable work, or a picture of a donkey you adopted to hang on your mantelpiece exhibiting your generosity – you can be certain you’re kind for the right reasons.
5) You’re quick to forgive
And in that, not just saying sorry, but actually meaning it.
Being kind doesn’t give you a free pass from making mistakes, getting into conflict, and getting hurt.
You’re just quick to forgive when these things do happen.
This isn’t to say that when someone royally screws you over, you instantly envelop them in a bear-hug and say all is forgiven.
Your big heart and kind soul means that you just can’t hold on to grudges.
Even if you decide not to continue that relationship for whatever reason, you know that nobody’s perfect, mistakes are made, and those can be forgiven.
6) You’re empathetic
The reason you’re so quick to forgive is because you know that everybody walks their own life.
They feel things differently.
They’ve suffered things you don’t know about.
Nonetheless, you try your utmost to take all of that into consideration and have immense respect for everyone’s individuality.
Even if you haven’t lived through the same experiences or felt the same feelings, you really try to put yourself in other people’s shoes to better understand and help them.
There’s also a small and interesting subcategory in which people with lower empathy, sometimes owing to personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, are aware of the societal value of acting kind and act with kindness.
Whether this falls into the nice or kind category, I’ll let you decide!
7) You dole out praise like it’s candy
Not in a creepy way, but you know how much one small compliment can brighten someone’s day.
The advice I’ve been told on this is to compliment people not on what they cannot change about themselves, but what they’ve chosen, or what they’ve accomplished.
So no, complimenting someone on their weight loss or their teeth isn’t the way forward.
However, you’re quick to tell a stranger on the subway that their blue hair looks cool.
Or sing the praises of a colleague who has just got a promotion (even if you kind of wanted it).
You know that a random compliment can leave someone smiling all day long, and that a little encouragement goes a long way in inspiring confidence in others.
8) And you’re generous with offering up opportunities
In the case of the promotion, you might not have been the decision maker.
But when it does come down to your ability to give people a chance, you enjoy helping people access new opportunities.
Say you’re hiring a singer for your wedding. You have a well-known and established band in mind, but then your cousin asks if they can sing for you.
(They’re established enough for you to know that this won’t be a potential cat-screeching disaster).
Owing to your kindness and desire to open doors for others, you let them sing and give them a chance to shine.
Where you can, you act as a matchmaker and a middleman.
You want your friends and loved ones to meet the best partners and find the most successful opportunities, so you’re often scheming in the backrooms, thinking of ways you can help them to become the best version of themselves.
9) You’re sometimes cruel to be kind
To finish off, when someone is out of line or acting inappropriately, you don’t coddle them.
You know that sometimes the best kind of love is tough love.
If that cousin who asked to sing at your wedding isn’t quite up to standard yet, you’ll let them down gently. You tell them that whilst they’re showing great potential, they need a few more lessons.
Genuinely kind people know that none of us are perfect, and in their desire to help us to improve, they know that constructive feedback is often far more useful than blissful ignorance.
So if a friend or colleague shows you a piece of work or their CV and asks for feedback, and you can tell that they’ve done it half-heartedly (or used ChatGPT), you don’t just pat them on the back and tell them they’ve done a great job.
In fact, you’re probably a fan of the sandwich method, whereby you wrap negative feedback in praise.
“I can see how hard you’ve worked on this, but it might be worth sitting down and revising…well, the whole thing. But the colors you chose are really pretty!”
How you tell them is often in the kindest and most conscientious manner; you don’t want to hurt feelings or dampen spirits but you still want the best for everyone and know when someone is capable of more.
Ready to spread some kindness?
Through acting with genuine intentions and seeking to lift up those around you, you’ll not only be improving the world around you.
You’ll also be inspiring others to do the same.
Give without expecting anything in return, grant everyone equal opportunities, and treat everyone as you would like to be treated.
Remember, spreading kindness starts with you.
We’ve also got you covered if you’re looking for some more tips on how to incorporate kindness into your everyday life.