Nice vs. kind, plus the one vital ingredient

by | Dec 8, 2022

I had a 7:00 am dentist appointment this morning. I hadn’t been for a cleaning since February, and my mouth is of the sort that needs the 3-month maintenance plan. When my hygienist asked me where I’d been, I said, “My favorite dentist retired and I was protesting. We had to move unexpectedly. I’ve been traveling a lot. No one likes to go to the dentist. I couldn’t find my insurance to switch to a new dentist and realized I’d better get in before my teeth rot. Thank you for asking!” 

Now…I did NOT say those things, I just shrugged and said something along the lines of, “You know, life.” 

Truth be told I WAS protesting. Dr. Carpenter, my retired dentist (who is probably sitting on some beach somewhere funded by my crowns and fillings and grill alone) was unbelievably good. Meticulous. Trustworthy.  

The new guys? They’re kind of intense. They like to upsell. They have CLEARLY read all of the customer experience books, which I can get behind…and yet sometimes you want to go to the dentist, get your teeth cleaned, and move on with your life and not be inundated with surveys and requests to write Facebook reviews. 

On the drive to my appointment, I listened to a podcast with Liane Davey about team dynamics and candid conversations. She and the host chatted about the difference between “nice” and “kind.” Nice is sugar-coating, not addressing issues, not speaking up–because we want to be “nice.” You can imagine where “nice” gets you: nowhere fast and a bunch of headaches because nothing is ever addressed. 

Then there is kind. I love how Liane talks about kindness as it relates to candor. First, she defines candor as “my willingness to be uncomfortable for your benefit.” 🤯🤯🤯 Let that one sink in. 

As an example, I’m being candid when I say, “There was a part of your presentation that did not land for me. It made me feel uncertain, confused, and a little lost. Perhaps it was me, but I’d love to talk to you about it.” 

Not: “Your presentation sucked.”  Not: “You were confusing.” 

Candor is sharing how your actions impacted ME, and my story around it. Being kind is taking the risk to say something to share thoughts about an impact the other person may or may not know they made. 

Nice vs kind was on my mind as I assumed the position in the dentist’s lounger. I was Snoop-Dogg-laid-back, contemplating this concept when the dreaded gum measuring started.

The new dentist dude is SUPER into technology. They’ve got multiple headsets for multiple purposes. My hygienist donned her special headset, the one she uses to call out the gum pocket numbers. Well, there was a snafu and the headset was busted so she had to call in a human helper. 

She started rattling off the numbers, and for those uninformed, 4-5 is BAD. Next thing you know, I guess SOME part of the technology was working because I start hearing, from the speaker on the ceiling “DANGER!! WARNING!! BLEEDING!! WARNING!! WARNING!! DANGER!! DANGER!! BLEEDING!! SIDE BLEEDING!! DANGER!!” 

I’m lying there thinking, “For the love of all that is good in this world, are we under imminent attack, or ARE WE MEASURING MY GUMS?!?!” 

I finally started laughing so hard that they had to stop and take the suction out. I said, “Nothing like getting SHAMED VIA LOUDSPEAKER by your dental software!” 

“Don’t worry,” she said, “you can only hear it in this room.” Reassuring!

They went back to it and the WARNING BLEEDING WARNING DANGER threats continued…

My thoughts drifted back to the podcast to take my mind off of the warnings. I thought well, they certainly didn’t program that machine to be “nice.” But…is it kind? In reality, my gums WERE a disaster. In reality, the hygenist was doing this for my benefit. In reality…while the machine might have been technically kind and candid…a little something was missing. 

The human element of caring. The human tone in the delivery. The human awareness to be paying attention to see I got it the first time, and by the 35th WARNING WARNING DANGER DANGER, I had REALLY gotten it and was now defensive, feeling shame, and feeling shitty.

Candor is imperative in leadership. 

Kind trumps nice 100%. 

With all of it…don’t forget the human. The care. The tone. The delivery.

It all adds up…just like my gum numbers to approximately 98899. 


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