Nice vs. Kind: Exploring the Intent & Impact Within Therapy

By: Adeeba Issa, LCMHCS

In everyday conversation, the terms “nice” and “kind” are often used interchangeably, but they convey subtly different qualities, especially within the therapeutic setting. Understanding this distinction can help us cultivate deeper, more meaningful relationships and interactions, while holding space for both boundaries and empathy.  


Nice: Surface-Level Politeness

Being nice generally refers to a person’s outward behavior. It’s about being pleasant, agreeable, and polite. Nice people often follow social conventions and strive to avoid conflict. They smile, offer compliments, and say the right things to make others feel comfortable. However, being nice can sometimes be superficial, motivated by a desire for social acceptance or to avoid discomfort.

Examples of niceness include:

-Greeting clients with a friendly smile

-Using polite and encouraging language

-Ensuring the therapy space is comfortable and inviting

While these actions are positive, they don’t necessarily require a deep emotional investment. Niceness can be about maintaining harmony and presenting oneself favorably to others. Niceness can make the therapy setting less intimidating, encouraging clients to open up. However, if niceness is only about surface-level politeness, it might not address the deeper issues clients face.


Kind: Genuine Concern and Compassion

Kindness goes beyond surface-level politeness. It involves a genuine concern for the well-being of others, often accompanied by selfless actions. Kind people act out of empathy and compassion, even when it’s inconvenient or requires sacrifice. It involves genuine concern for the client’s well-being and a commitment to their long-term growth.

Examples of kindness include:

-Listening actively and empathetically, showing real understanding of one’s experiences

-Providing honest feedback in one’s best interest, even when it’s difficult to hear

-Going the extra mile to support someone, such as providing additional resources or accommodating special needs

Kindness is about making a positive impact and showing true care for others. It stems from a deep-seated desire to contribute to the happiness and well-being of those around us. It requires emotional investment and a willingness to be vulnerable and authentic.


Why Both Matter

While kindness and niceness are distinct, both have their place in our lives. Niceness helps smooth social interactions and fosters a pleasant atmosphere. Kindness, on the other hand, builds trust and deepens relationships. Striving to be both nice and kind can help us create a more harmonious and compassionate world. While niceness can help build initial rapport, kindness fosters deeper therapeutic work. A therapist who is both nice and kind:

-Creates a safe, welcoming environment (nice) while also offering deep empathy and support (kind)

-Encourages clients to share their feelings without fear of judgment (nice) and helps them navigate difficult emotions and experiences with compassion (kind)

-Uses polite language (nice) and provides honest, constructive feedback to promote growth (kind)

While niceness is about manners and politeness, kindness is about genuine care and selfless actions, both which are essential for fostering deep, transformative healing. By embracing both qualities, therapists can create a compassionate and effective therapeutic environment that supports their clients’ well-being and growth. Ultimately, it’s by possessing both niceness and kindness that we can enrich our interactions and contribute positively to the lives of those around us.