Illustration for article titled Why You Should Be Kind instead of KindPhoto: Matthew Horwood (Getty Images)

Last year in particular, it felt like people weren’t very nice to each other. Those times have tried, and it’s hard to muster enough social grace to wave hello to the neighbor who has studded his lawn with political signs of a figure you despise. But it might be time to reassess the value of kindness anyway – because kindness is far more important and they are not the same.

I came over this tweet last week, and as someone who has lived on both sides of the country, it amused me:

But when I finished being amused (after mentally imagining a stereotypical, gruff guy from Philly who would scold you when you were out in the cold without a coat like an idiot, even if he gave you the coat of his own back), Jordan’s point stayed with me. You can be nice without being nice and you can be nice without being nice. Friendliness, as they point out, addresses the need, regardless of the tone.

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Obviously, using both kindness and kindness in tandem is ideal. After all, you could hand in your coat without being rude. But when the current state of affairs has worn us down and requires us to rebuild a skill at a time, start with kindness.

Think of kindness as the act that accompanies (or replaces) your words. It silently helps a struggling mother of three to load her groceries into her trunk instead of smiling and saying, “You’re doing a great job, mom” as you pass by. It brings a pot of soup to your sick friend instead of sighing compassionately and saying that you hope they’ll get better soon. They’re nice when you shovel your neighbor’s car out from under a pile of snow, stop to help a stranger change a tire, or take a break to give directions to an obviously lost person – even if you’re not the type to care cares saying “bless you” when someone else sneezes.

You may not want to exchange courtesies with the neighbor who eventually took down the ridiculous political banner. but if the wind is blowing their trash cans down the street it would be nice to pull them back.