Being “too kind” vs Being truly kind

​Yesterday I spent the afternoon playing board games with some friends. I’ve met many truly kind people as I’ve grown my social circle here in NYC.

[Is someone making fun of you or treating you like a doormat? Then read this guide about how to deal with that.]

However, there’s this dangerous misconception about what being kind really means.

being kindHere we’re playing “Castles of Mad King Ludwig”. A game in which I despite my best effort lost miserably.

The problem with the word “kind” is that it’s something we call someone who isn’t brave.

If someone’s afraid of conflict and doesn’t stand up for themselves when they should, we say that the person is “too kind”. What we really mean is that the person is a coward. But that sounds too harsh to say, so we say kind.

True kindness, however, is something else. True kindness is doing what you truly believe is the best for everyone.

True kindness is to confront people when we need to if we think it’s for everyone’s best. It’s not about trying to do what’s the least confrontational or awkward. And it’s often possible to be both brutally honest AND kind, like we talk about in this article about how to be diplomatic.

Here’s what we can do to go from “too kind” to truly kind:

  • Be honest to those you care for, even when it’s hard
  • Be generous with favors and gifts to friends who you know appreciate it
    • (This is not the same as trying to be generous to people who don’t appreciate it)
  • Whenever your friends have success in life, let them know that you are happy for them
    • To be happy for others, it’s also essential to take care of yourself, your needs, and your dreams. It’s hard being happy for others when we are not happy about ourselves. So we also need to be “selfish” to be kind
  • If you appreciate something someone does, let them know about it!

The psychologist John Dewey said this the best already two centuries ago:

“Be hearty in your approbation and be lavish in your praise.”

(This quote was a few decades later made popular by Dale Carnegie in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”)

What is an act of kindness you can do today? Let me know in the comments!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. It feels a lot better in life to not feel guilty about taking care of myself first and know that I do not have to say “yes” to everything asked of me.

  2. Having a really bad relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I was the giver and he was the taker. He is a spoiled and irresponsible person, along with addictions. He had a lot of trouble hearing “no” from me since he never was disciplined by his parents. He took advantage of my generosity in many ways, so I asked him to move out of my apartment. When I get another man in the future, I am faithful and confident that it will be a more respectful one, since I’ve developed more self-confidence.

  3. I feel that true kindness is taking the time to do something for someone else that may not be in a position to do it for themselves. Going the extra mile, helping those in need who may be vulnerable or less fortunate.

  4. My nephew asked me to go halves in buying a house, l considered it because he is working part time for me,unfortunatly he is not reliable enough for me to employ him full time.He also has a cannibas habit, painful as it was l had to decline the offer of buying real estate with him, l am his uncle not his social worker.


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