Are You “Nice,” Or Kind? 5 Major Differences


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Only one has pure intentions.

e’ve all heard the old adage that “nice guys (and gals) finish last.” I’ve been very open about my past as a “nice guy” and all of the challenges that it brought to my life.

To overcome these challenges, I didn’t need to stop being good to people, I simply needed to learn where my personal boundaries were, and begin to enforce them.

I think this is a key realization for anyone who feels like they get taken advantage of because they’re “too nice.”

In fact, I just had this conversation with a private student of mine who asked the same question:

“Maybe I was raised to be too nice.” He pondered, as he reflected on all of the ways he’d prioritized others over his own wellbeing through the decades.

If you can relate, let’s explore some major differences between “nice” people and “kind” people. Let me know which side of the aisle you fall on:

1: “Nice” people sacrifice themselves to keep the peace. Kind people find a compromise.

One of the things I always used to do as a “nice guy” is just “yes” everyone. Regardless of what I wanted (or deserved), I’d make sure that everyone (else) had what they wanted.

I believe that the underlying root of this action is fear — fear of being abandoned, fear of someone not liking you, fear of not being accepted.

You figure that, if you can be the one who gives people what they want, they’ll automatically like you.

The truth, though, is that if people see you sacrificing yourself for others all the time, they won’t respect you.

That’s where being kind comes in. You can still be good to people while maintaining your boundaries.

Kind people care for the wellbeing of others, but also for themselves. They know that they cannot pour water out of an empty cup, and becoming a martyr for a cause simply will not serve anyone in the process.

2: “Nice” people are unclear on their identity. Kind people know what they stand for.

One of the most telltale signs of a “nice person” is that you don’t actually know all that much about them.

Think about a “nice” person that you know — are they usually just agreeing with everyone around them? Or do they speak up about their own opinions, values, and beliefs?

Most nice people will just go with the flow of a conversation and not really insert their own viewpoints — partly because of point #1 above, and partly because…well…they probably haven’t even developed them.

Someone who’s spent their entire life trying to mold themselves to the will of others, likely hasn’t done the work to figure out who they really are or what they really want.

This is one of the most important factors of living a fulfilling life — point coming on this soon.

Kind people, however, are able to set and maintain boundaries because they know who they are and what’s important to them.

This is how they are empowered to navigate their relationships and know how much they’re willing to give.

Nice people have no limits on their giving, which is why they so often get taken advantage of.

3: “Nice” people aren’t ACTUALLY happy. Kind people know what fulfills them.

This is a controversial point, but so is this entire article.

I don’t personally believe that someone classified as a “nice guy” or “nice gal” is entirely happy in their lives.


Simply because they spend so much of their time trying to make everyone else happy that they’re constantly in a reactive or responsive state.

They’re always running around trying to do everything for everyone else.

At first, this sounds noble. They care so much about the people in their lives that they want to make them happy.

Great! Except…you can’t.

You cannot possibly make everyone happy. We all have different wants, needs, desires, fears…and trying to juggle all of those pieces simply does not work.

Not to mention — it’s not your job.

So, now a “nice person” has taken on an impossible task that isn’t their responsibility in the first place.

How, then, does such a person find their own sense of happiness and peace among the chaos? They don’t.

Yet — they’ve been put into this situation where they find a sense of (what they think is) purpose and meaning. So, they continue.

They fear giving up this “job” because they think it’s why people like them — but as we discussed before, respect cannot be present if the people around you don’t know who you really are.

Kind people, on the other hand, give because they find true fulfillment and joy in it. It’s not an obligation or a “tactic” to be liked — it’s something they willingly do because it’s part of who they are.

The intention here is the key.

Are you giving out of fear (of losing peoples’ approval), or are you giving out of enjoyment?

4: “Nice” people expect a return on their actions. Kind people give without expectation.

“James, are you suggesting that nice people are actually…manipulative?”

In some ways, if you really think about it…yes.

Nice people are trying to manipulate you into liking them.

It may not be malicious, but it does come with the subtext of:

“If I am nice enough to this person, if I give enough to this person, they will like me in return.”

And, if/when you don’t, they get upset and distant, because they’ve played the only card they had, and it didn’t work.

There is almost a sense of entitlement that comes along with the manipulation. The internal response to it not working is:

“Wait, what do you mean you don’t like me?!”

And, that brings us to our final point:

5: “Nice” people can get mean. Kind people, stay kind.

Here’s the dark truth about being a “nice person” — it takes a toll on you.

Everything listed in this article is detrimental to the mental health of a person.

A lack of identity.

Fear of losing someone’s approval at anytime.

Not really knowing what you stand for.

Thinking people only like you because of what you do for them.

Not having a real purpose.

And, sometimes, giving all of yourself to a person or situation and still not getting the result you expected.

There’s a resentment and a confusion that I believe builds up over time. How can it not? You are constantly living your life in ways that other people decide for you. Always responding to their whims and wants. Always filling their own needs while ignoring your own.

Eventually, being “nice” becomes tiring and unsustainable.

Being kind however, when it’s part of your nature, fills your cup rather than depletes it. Giving to others is a way to refuel yourself, because you separate yourself from the outcome.

The giving itself is the outcome. That’s the goal.

Not getting something in return for it.

Not being praised or garnering approval.

Not expecting to be liked or loved or embraced.

Simply — giving. Contributing. Adding value.

That — I think — is the real question to ask yourself:

Does giving to others make me feel full, or depleted?

Only you will know the real answer.

Subscribe to my newsletter “The Next Level” for honest and uncensored advice normally reserved for private clients.

James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.

Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 39 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.

James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.

1 Comment

  1. St.Jon on January 16, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    You’ve got this figured out!

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