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Is kindness a strength or weakness?

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Being kind often requires putting others’ needs above one’s own and showing understanding and compassion. There has been much debate over whether being overly kind is ultimately a strength or a weakness when it comes to succeeding in life.

Opening Arguments For and Against Kindness as a Strength

Those who argue that kindness is a strength point to several benefits that it provides:

  • Kindness builds strong relationships – Showing kindness strengthens bonds between people and can help in forming meaningful, lasting relationships. Strong relationships provide support and opportunities.
  • Kindness inspires kindness – Leading with kindness tends to bring out more kindness in others. It establishes a positive, compassionate environment.
  • Kindness improves wellbeing – Helping others and being kind has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health and life satisfaction. This greater wellbeing can translate into more energy and focus.
  • Kindness gains trust – Kindness demonstrates goodwill and a lack of selfishness. This causes people to lower their guard and form a trust with those who are kind.

On the other side, the main argument that kindness can be a weakness is that it allows others to take advantage. Some see excessive kindness as:

  • Allowing exploitation – Habitual people-pleasers and pushovers often harbor resentment over how others take advantage of their kindness.
  • Showing naivete – Kindness requires vulnerability. This openness can expose one to being manipulated if they are overly trusting.
  • Demonstrating “softness” – Some interpret great kindness as a lack of the sharpness and selfishness sometimes needed to climb the corporate ladder or achieve great success.

Data and Research on the Impacts of Kindness

A growing body of research provides insights into the tangible impacts of kindness on individuals and groups. The data largely supports kindness as a strength but also highlights some potential risks.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits

  • A 2010 Harvard study found that providing social support to others predicts decreased health risk and increased longevity.
  • Volunteering to help others has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
  • Neuroscience studies reveal that the act of aiding others triggers reward centers in the brain associated with pleasure.

Career Advancement Benefits

  • A Stanford study found that while arrogant people are perceived as competent, it is the humble and kind leaders who generate loyal workforces.
  • Research shows that compassion training makes people 42% more likely to advance in a new job.
  • Workers who rate themselves as givers (people who share and help others without expecting anything) build broader networks that provide support for innovation and career growth.

Risks and Downsides

  • Studies have found that excessive generosity from “givers” can correlate to exploited relationships and diminished savings and income.
  • Working women who are perceived as “too nice” are half as likely to be promoted than women seen as more assertive.
  • Being kind to the wrong person can establish an unhealthy dynamic where one acquiesces to poor treatment.

Key Situations Where Kindness Pays Off

While there are some risks with being overly kind, research suggests that in most circumstances, erring on the side of more kindness pays off. Situations where leading with kindness tends to prove valuable include:

Within Close Relationships

  • Romantic partnerships – Kindness supports building intimacy and enjoying more satisfying relationships.
  • Friendships – Kindness helps form deeper bonds of trust and mutual support with friends.
  • Family relationships – Kindness enables managing interpersonal conflicts among family with diplomacy.
  • Parenting – Kind, patient parenting promotes self-esteem and positive behavior in children.

At Work

  • Leadership – Kind leaders who show compassion tend to have loyal employees and productive teams.
  • Building relationships – Kindness helps establish rapport with colleagues and customers.
  • Job performance – Workers seen as warm and helpful tend to get better evaluations and recognition.
  • Diffusing conflict – Responding kindly often deflates arguments and complaints from turning nasty.

In the Community

  • Supporting nonprofits – Donating time, money and skills supports vital community programs.
  • Standing up for others – Small acts of kindness like sticking up for someone being bullied makes a difference.
  • Volunteering skills – Mentoring youth, building houses, cleaning up trash – volunteering skills to help a community gives purpose.
  • Being a role model – Having a reputation for selflessness and compassion inspires others to be kinder.

How to Balance Being Kind with Self-Care

The main risk with excessive kindness is depleting oneself by giving too freely. To leverage kindness as a strength, it helps to set healthy boundaries.

Ways to balance kindness with self-care include:

  • Give when you’re able, say no when depleted – Don’t say yes to every request for help if it leaves you resentful.
  • Let some acts be anonymous – Doing secret acts of kindness ensures you aren’t doing it for accolades.
  • Don’t expect reciprocation – Give for selfless reasons rather than hoping for something in return.
  • Limit help for toxic people – Avoid being exploited by those who take advantage of kind acts.
  • Take time to rejuvenate – Set aside time for self-care so you replenish your ability to give.

Ways to Develop Greater Kindness

Most agree the world could use more kindness. Here are impactful habits for building your daily kind acts:

At Home

  • Be patient and offer encouragement to family
  • Give hugs and show interest in loved ones’ days
  • Write thank you notes to family members
  • Do small favors for housemates like making coffee

At Work

  • Greet coworkers warmly and listen if they’re having a bad day
  • Send praise to colleagues who did great work
  • Offer to help a coworker who seems overwhelmed
  • Share credit for accomplishments

In Public

  • Let someone go ahead of you in line if they have few items
  • Stop to help if you see someone stopped with car trouble
  • Break up arguments you witness by distracting people
  • Give food or money to someone in need

On Social Media

  • Post encouraging comments on friends’ updates
  • Share helpful information to followers
  • Give compliments to others on their successes
  • Donate to someone’s cause or fundraiser


The common wisdom that kindness is a virtue that improves the human experience seems well-supported by research. Leading with kindness not only feels good but has tangible benefits for relationships, health, and success. While setting boundaries to avoid being exploited is wise, most would benefit from erring on the side of greater kindness. Small acts of compassion toward friends, family, coworkers and strangers make the world a little bit better place. With more visible kindness, it will inspire others to follow.