Business Relationships: Why You Should Be Kind, Not Nice

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be kind not nice business relationships

I’m not sure if I’ve admitted this here: I’m a total Shark Tank junkie.

My husband and I record every episode and have even been known to binge watch old seasons for an entire Sunday.

On a recent episode, Mr. Wonderful said something that made me think of writing this blog post …

“In business, you should be kind not nice.”

At first I thought, what’s the difference, but as the real world came knocking, I found that his words are totally true.

And in these three areas — one being the dreaded scope creep — you’ll have to forgo being nice to stay in business.


Nice Versus Kind In Business Relationships

Marcia Sirota, who is a psychiatrist and wrote an entire post on nice vs. kind for the Huffington post, makes some points about the psychological differences with “nice” and “kind.”

NICE People:

  • Try to please so that they can feel good about themselves
  • Have feelings of inadequacy
  • Need to get approval and validation from others
  • Tend to do too much for those who don’t deserve it
  • Enter into co-dependent relationships
  • Are careful not to offend anyone
  • Can be overly-invested in the emotional payoff they’re hoping to achieve
  • May be unwilling to face how much hurt or anger they’re carrying

In other words, the urge to please really isn’t altruistic, but a way to getting their own needs met.

This leads to resentment when they aren’t recognized or stroked for their helpful nature, which in turn may lead to emotional outbursts and other destructive behavior.

KIND People:

  • Are confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves
  • Gives out of the goodness of their heart
  • Aren’t concerned with whether or not other people like them
  • Are assertive; set good limits
  • Expect to be treated with respect
  • Take responsibility for their own self-care
  • Add to their happiness through acts of generosity and altruism
  • Are happy people to begin with

Starting to see a pattern?

As I researched nice versus kind, I realized that I have played both roles in my business relationships.

I also realized that my best, most happy, most successful and long-term relationships are ones where I was kind but not necessarily nice.

For better business relationships, be kind, not nice.Click To Tweet


Three Business Relationships That Demand Kindness

1) Starting A Business Relationship (AKA: Agreements & Contracts)

I hope you don’t enter into any sort of business relationship without a contract or agreement.

Based on the lackadaisical ways (and terrible consequences) of my last boss, I knew when I started my own company that I would not make the same mistakes.

I find it’s best to set boundaries, expectations, the scope of work, and pricing right from the beginning.

I lay out my agreements like this:

  1. Recommendations (for the client’s project)
  2. Delivering results (how we will meet the needs of the client’s project)
  3. Scope of work (this is extremely detailed)
  4. Fee summary
  5. Why choose B Squared Media (benefit statements)
  6. Next steps (instructions on moving forward or requesting changes to the agreement)
  7. Terms and conditions (more room for me to ensure the client understands and agrees to the scope of work)

Sure, you could be nice and get started with no signed agreement or deposit … but based on experience I can tell you how that works out.

Professional-minded clients are impressed when you have everything organized in such detail. Seriously, I’ve actually had clients compliment our proposals!

Start all business relationships with kindness to set the tone and boundaries!Click To Tweet

2) Scope Creep

Once your client has signed on the dotted line and you’ve started down the path to building a great business relationship, there’s one thing you’re probably bound to run into.

Scope creep.

Friend and business cohort Mallie Hart wrote a post for designers and scope creep, but really, her post is relevant to any business relationship, industry or situation.

If you aren’t sure what “scope creep” means, it’s defined as:

  • When a project’s scope of work goes beyond what was intended
  • You underestimated the amount of work needed or client expectations (poor documentation/parameters)
  • You have lost control of managing the project

Recently a client shot me an email asking me to contact influencers in his industry for a small and targeted influencer campaign.

Yes, I can do this but our agreement and price structure is only based on the management of his social media channels and does not include influencer campaigns.

Had I gone ahead with the project (being nice), I would have spent time on something I am not getting paid for — my company would have lost time and money.

Instead, I whipped up a 4 to 5 sentence script for him and suggested he reach out to his influencers.

And if he wanted B Squared Media to handle it instead? No problem! Our cost for this scope of work is $X and we’ll just need you to sign an added addendum to your original agreement.

I feel I played a dual role of KIND (setting boundaries and a price) with a hint of NICE (writing an example email for him to use).

Want to help combat scope creep with your clients? Be kind, NOT nice.Click To Tweet

Nearly every client we’ve worked with has in some way, big or small, asked for more than what was outlined in our agreement.

I don’t think this will ever change, so as business owners our mindset and ability to set boundaries MUST.

3) Leadership

Being nice versus being kind is not just an external thing.

When you’re a business owner who works with freelancers, consultants or employees, you have to think about how being nice can easily mess up the solid foundation that supports your business.

I really want all of the people I work with to like me and vice versa.

But if I’m being honest with you, that has led to some not-so-great outcomes — whether missing client deadlines, getting fired by a client (true story; my first year in business!), or just adding to the above-mentioned resentment you can start to feel when you’re overly invested in someone who doesn’t quite feel the same about you/your business.

While the past three and a half years have seen me grow much more assertive with setting boundaries and addressing issues, I still find it hard not to be concerned with being liked.

As we grow (we’ve grown so fast this year!) I will have to find ways to be kind and not nice. I know this is a fundamental step to becoming a leader and not just a manager.

What Does Being Kind Versus Nice Mean To You?

Have you thought about being kind versus nice in your business relationships?

Can you be both?

What’s your take? I’d love to hear it in the comments section below!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Best Practices, Business, Business 101
Tags: business relationships, leadership, scope creep, small business owners
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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Brooke,

    You had me at “Shark Tank Junkie”.


    If I didn’t already have a blogger crush I would now. And on your husband too!

    So. “Cruel to be kind, in the right measure.” I know you’re waaaay too young to remember those song lyrics, but they ring true even today.

    Sometimes ya gotta call a spade a spade. You have to say that a PRODUCT is a loser, though you don’t think of the product DEVELOPER as one.

    In the end, it garners more respect and love to speak truth, even when it isn’t popular. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” ~Proverbs 27:6

    Well now thank ya, thank ya little lady (John Wayne voice). Thanks for spelling out the difference between TRUE kindness and people-pleasing.

    Keep Stepping,


    • Haha! Thanks for the belly laugh, Kurt!

      You’re right, I don’t know the song lyrics, but it sounds to me like we’re on the same page. As usual. 🙂 I do think it’s more respectful, honest, professional — and in the end maybe it’s not the advice or outcome you wanted but really NEEDED (as you’ll probably realize that at some point, even if it’s a little further down the road).

      I DO know John Wayne and that voice. Woot! Don’t forget to be kind out there … 😉

  • […] Being nice versus being kind in business is essential — I even wrote a post about it. […]


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