Often we use the terms nice and kind in the same sentence and describe people as nice and kind interchangeably.

It will be easier to understand the difference between “nice” and “kind” if we focus on the opposing motivations behind each way of being.

This distinction is important, however, because these two ways of being lead to very different outcomes in one’s personal and professional life.

The nice person is externally motivated. He’s driven by the need for other people’s approval and validation; he craves acceptance and is fearful of rejection.

Even if he does win some degree of approval, the nice person knows, deep down, that the other person doesn’t see or accept him for who he really is. He can never make a real connection.

The kind person is genuine and sincere. She doesn’t need to pretend to be anyone else. If someone dislikes her or disapproves of her, she doesn’t feel diminished in any way.

The kind person is internally motivated. She has good self-esteem and isn’t looking for approval. She’s less concerned about what others might think of her and more interested in doing the right thing. Her compassion comes from an overflowing of her positive self-regard and not from the need to please.

The kind person respects herself as much as she respects others. She’s naturally. The kind person welcomes constructive criticism. While niceness maintains a facade that our lives are together and assumes that same status quo for others, kindness gives permission for real success and failure. Kindness defaults to an understanding that life can be hard, but that emotional support helps. Kindness understands that today’s successes may not be here tomorrow and therefore should be celebrated. It accepts the reality of today.

It is easy to be nice. It is easy to plaster on a smile and treat people respectfully but being kind is a different matter. Being kind requires that we look at others and consider them properly. It requires that we let ourselves see ourselves in them and connect with them. It requires that we help them in some way to have a better life.