Recently, I watched a documentary on Taylor Swift called ‘Miss Americana’ where she documents her journey in finding her own voice and personal power. She talks about being socialized to be the good girl – the nice girl – in the music industry, and it had me thinking about the difference between being nice versus being kind – especially as a business owner.
Like Taylor, I had a belief system early on that it was essential to be nice, not ruffle feathers and accommodate people whenever they asked for something. I learned the hard way over the years that being reactive to clients’ needs versus acting with intention leads to burnout and perpetuates the underlying problem of poor boundaries. So here is my take on the difference between being kind and nice in business.
For me being nice is being reactive, accommodating, and often compromising my own needs and wants to please someone else. It means reacting in the moment to a client or customer request, and often honoring it out of fear that we will lose the customer if we say no. I have also seen business owners regularly check in with their customers to make sure they are doing things that are making them happy and overcompensating out of fear that they will lose them.
Being kind, on the other hand, means that there is more intention around overdelivering. The business owner plans on when to give gifts, time, or experiences to their clients in advance. Kindness sometimes involves saying no in a respectful way even when the customer isn’t respectful. Kindness creates a space for there to be healthy communication around requests and boundaries.
For example, there will be times when your customers will ask for special favors or deals. What I have found is that it is helpful to be kind in these situations rather than be nice.
Being kind involves being strong, powerful and respectful. It means that you check in with yourself first and make sure that the request is in full alignment with your business model, energy, and isn’t violating any sort of boundary or contract you have previously made.
I often find that business owners struggle to say ‘no’ to customers out of fear that they will not be liked, they will not be seen as being nice, or that they will go away. However, in a service-based business like coaching, setting loose rules does not help the client. In fact, I have found that when a service provider respectfully says no to something outside the service purchased, it is actually a good model for boundary setting to the client.
Everyone has different expectations. Your job is to do you and to be strong enough to hold your ground, even when someone says they are disappointed. We can do it with kindness and respect even if we don’t give others what they want.
If I compromise myself so that someone doesn’t leave, I lose myself. I want my clients to learn from my boundaries vs me worrying about people leaving me.
It’s healthier to move forward with love and boundaries vs. doing things just so people will like us. Strong individuals respect limits, even if they don’t benefit them in the moment.
Taylor Swift started doing it her way, and it looks to me that she is inspiring many more people than when she was playing small and accommodating. Not to mention, she seems to be having a lot more fun in the process!
If you struggle to maintain your boundaries in business or in your personal life, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. You may find that you will help more people this way! Learn more about joining me in the Life Lounge here.
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.