Nice v. Kind: The Benefits of Being Kind

“Nice” versus “kind” – what’s the difference?

Nice:

  • pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory
  • in a pleasing way
  • wanton, dissolute
  • coy, reticent

Kind:

  • having or showing a friendly, generous or considerate nature
  • a group united by common traits or interests
  • fundamental nature or quality; ESSENCE

I don’t remember when I first heard or realized the distinction, but there is one. Nice suggests sweetness and being amiable – but does this come at the expense of personal preference or relinquishing one’s point-of-view? Or self-care, truth and personal integrity?  Being kind suggests being direct and honest, sharing one’s essence – one’s core, irrefutable, unabashed being – in a gentle, knowing, and considerate way, not hindered by fear, but supported by one’s truth.

If I’m being nice, I might agree to do something I don’t have time for or don’t really want to do. But I’m afraid to say “no” for fear of disappointing someone, including myself (a/k/a people-pleasing);  I don’t want to feel guilty; I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or be misunderstood and therefore don’t say what I really think or feel (a/k/a fear judgment or rejection); or don’t want to feel or be seen as incompetent, a failure for not being able to “do it all” (a/k/a not good enough). I may have been or felt taken advantage of, being the “yes-person,” biting off more than I can chew, and committing to something I truly do not have time, energy, or desire to do. This leads to resentment and unfinished tasks or half-hearted efforts, feeding in to the “not good enough” and “guilty” stories being recyled and reinforced.  I can hear Dr. P’s words ringing: How’s that working for you?

Whereas,

If I’m being kind, I am being honest about what I think and feel, even if it’s not what the other person wants to hear (or what I think they want to hear or “can handle” – who am I to judge?).  My intention is not to hurt feelings, but to be real and authentic about what I believe and what something means to me. I risk being vulnerable, even judged, for the sake of saying or doing what I mean – in a direct, easy, neutral way that suggests I care and allows me to own what I really want, what I really think, how I really feel.

Why would I do this? Isn’t it easier to simply say “yes” and be cooperative and, well, nice? The benefits to being direct, honest, gentle and considerate are many.  I’m not bottling up or pushing down what’s coming up for me – it will come up (via explosion) or fester and manifest (via discomfort or dis-ease) and rear its ugly head at some point. Plus, I have an opportunity to share real feedback, wisdom and truth with someone. And, I get to model courageous wisdom and truth-sharing for others, when such sharing can be hard to do.

We know by now that while we have similarities (we are all human! among many things), we are each unique and, in so many ways, different – we may have different reactions and thus have different things to say (cue picture below).  So, even if it would be easier to say nothing (which is always an option) or sugar-coat what we think with a half-truth – how important is it to fully own what we think or admit how something impacts us?  How can we stay true to our differences, where we’re coming from, how something hits us, how we really feel…?  By being honest, direct, considerate and, well, kind.

two men and two women standing on green grass
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

As I go through my day, which would I rather be: nice? or kind?

Which is more authentic? Honest? Fair to oneself? True?

Knowing

Intelligence

Nudging

Directness
…………………with a firm, gentle delivery; sharing experience, wisdom and truth.

(Definitions provided by Yahoo! and Merrium-Webster’s Dictionary.)

Suicide + Lawyers: Sad Stats – But Have Hope

Published July 29, 2018 on Balancing Lawyers’ Lives FB Group

SUICIDE is personal — it touches everyone at some point:

3 days ago, I read a lawyer friend’s post that her nephew took his life. Last night I heard of another’s suicide attempt. I’ve personally known and heard of so many others, as, likely, have you.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the general population – 94 per day, or
1 every 15 minutes. (ABA website).

LAWYERS + suicide:

-Finis Price III, 37, successful Kentucky lawyer, popular professor, sought after technology consultant, who died by suicide in 2012.
-Ken Jameson, 58, generating $600,000 billing hours per year for his law firm, 3 children and wife who said their relationship was exceptional, after 6 months’ battle with depression, died by suicide in May 2011.
-Family and colleagues were stunned when newly hired Miami prosecutor Beranton J. Whisenant Jr., washed up on Hollywood Beach with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in May 2017. He is remembered for his passion and dedication to public service.
-Ervin Gonzalez, a Coral Gables-based civil trial lawyer who led some of Florida’s most-significant, class-action and personal-injury cases, struggled with depression for years before he was found dead in his home in June 2017. In a statement, his firm remembered him as a “caring, warm, brilliant and masterful trial attorney.”
 
What do they all have in common? Lawyers who seemed, to their loved ones and colleagues, unlikely to take their lives, but did.
 
STAGGERING STATS:
-Suicide: 3rd leading cause of death among lawyers, after cancer and heart disease.
-Lawyers: 4th in highest suicides compared to other professions (Center for Disease Control, 2014).
-11.5% of Lawyers have suicidal thoughts (ABA Journal, 2015).
 
WHY LAWYERS?
Stress/ Depression/ Substance Abuse
 
The job of an attorney has been described as “multidimensional stress.” The stressors attorneys often face include:
• Long hours at work
• Isolation
• Self-generated pressure—a tendency toward perfectionism and a low tolerance for failure
• High-stakes cases
• Exposure to dire life situations
• Dealing with difficult clients
• Pressure to make large sums of money and “keep up with the Joneses”
• A “dog eat dog” work environment
Because of this, attorneys’ jobs leave them in a constant state of crisis. This near-constant level of stress can lead to another serious problem among lawyers: substance abuse.
(Top Three Factors for Lawyer Suicide and What We Can Do To Help, FosterWebMarketing.com)
 
DEPRESSION + SUBSTANCE ABUSE = the top 2 risk factors for suicide
Lawyers are more than 3x more likely to be depressed than others (American Psychological Association), the highest rate of ANY profession (Johns Hopkins study).
Lawyers’ addiction to alcohol and drugs is roughly 2x the general population, and people who struggle with substance abuse are about 6x more likely to die by suicide.
 
“The rampant, multidimensional stress of the profession is certainly a factor. And not surprisingly, there are also some personality traits common among lawyers — self-reliance, ambition, perfectionism and competitiveness — that aren’t always consistent with healthy coping skills and the type of emotional elasticity necessary to endure the unrelenting pressures and unexpected disappointments that a career in the law can bring.” (Why Lawyers Are Prone to Suicide, by Patrick Krill (see all of his works), Jan 21, 2014, CNN.com.)
 
While suicide is not a desirable topic to hear or talk about, it’s REAL; far worse, imagine the pain of those who’ve had thoughts and taken irreversible action on it, and the devastation of the ones they leave behind.
 

HOPE + SUPPORTIVE RESOURCES

 
The National Institute of Mental Health (2011) reports that over 90% of Americans who die by suicide suffer from a TREATABLE mental illness and/or substance disorder.
 
The grave information and reports are staggering and endless. And – the AWARENESS, SKILLS and SUPPORT for WELL-BEING and self-care is becoming more and more available, in leaps and bounds.
 
The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being Report (Appendix B, p. 50) provides Example Educational Topics for Lawyer Well-Being, speaking to inherent problems and specific recommendations around getting support:
8.1 Work Engagement vs. Burnout.
8.2 Stress.
8.3 Resilience & Optimism.
8.4 Mindfulness Meditation.
8.5 Rejuvenation Periods to Recover from Stress.
8.6 Physical Activity.
8.7 Leader Development & Training.
8.8 Control & Autonomy.
8.9 Conflict Management.
8.10 Work-Life Conflict.
8.11 Meaning & Purpose.
8.12 Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders
8.13 Additional Topics.
 
BOTTOM LINE: Suicide affects lawyers (plus their families, clients, the profession as a whole) and so many more, for so many reasons, and – with all HOPE and according to statistics – can be prevented.
 
PROBATIVE QUESTIONS:
Q: Have you been touched by suicide? What impact did that have on your family, friends and you?
Q: Do you struggle with stress? depression? substance use, abuse, dependence? What is keeping you from admitting it or getting help?
Q: What are you doing to de-stress and support balance in your work + life?
Q: How important is your health and well-being, and that of the ones you love or know, to you?
Q: How can I mentor well-being and lead by example, for my kids, family, colleagues?
Q: Who bloom-blossom-flora-60006bloom-blossom-flora-60006can I reach out to for support?
 

You, we, are not alone. There is always help + hope.

 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
*Or TEXT: 741741

Meditation: A Brain-Changer

A mass of scientific studies over the last several decades have shown that the practice of meditation can actually change the gray matter of the brain. Sara Lazar’s team at Harvard U found that 8 weeks of meditation was found to shrink the amagdala (fight or flight region – responsible for fear, stress and anxiety) and thicken the hippocampus (which governs learning and memory) and areas of the brain which regulate emotion and self-referential (“me” center) processing — reducing the activity in the “me” center and enhancing connectivity between brain regions.

Jon Kabat-Zinn at U Mass founded its Center for Mindfulness and in 1979 developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program (now available all over the country), which has rendered heaps of evidence that meditation equips its practitioners with the ability to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain and illness for conditions, including:

  • coronary artery disease
  • hypertension
  • cancer
  • chronic pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • di- abetes type 1
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • anxiety
  • asthma/respiratory disorders
  • psoriasis
  • depression
  • headache
  • multiple sclerosis
  • health-related quality of life

Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team at Johns Hopkins studied the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. They found that the effect size of meditation was the same as for antidepressants.

Meditation is found to improve attention and concentration.  A couple weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE.  A UCLA study found that long-term meditators (an average of 20 years) had better-preserved the aging brain.  Yale U found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – aka “monkey mind.”  Mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future. Meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, slows the monkey mind. Even when it starts to wander, the new connections that form mean meditators can more quickly snap out of it.

Given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in aiding recovery from addiction.  People who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking during the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, since meditation helps them “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking – allowing them to ride out the wave of craving until it passes.

Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, showing a decrease in suspensions and increase in GPA and attendance.  Some schools are bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors at school, in addition to oft-time additional stress and trauma outside of school, where meditation has been shown to reduce student aggression and increase their ability to pay attention. Teachers who meditate show lower blood pressure, depression, and negative emotion, and greater compassion and empathy.  Likewise, meditation is being brought into the health care arena, helping practitioners cope with stress, reduce stress and anxiety, connect with patients and increase compassion. Inmates in prisons who meditate showed reduction in anger, hostility and mood disturbances, helping with rehabilitation and reintegration.  Veterans who meditated experienced reduced symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and meditation helped patients in obesity clinics sustain healthier eating habits, savor food, and lose weight.

Who said meditation is only for monks? It could change your brain, your experience of life + you.

(Contact me for full citations and resources.)