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Kindness 101: What Is Kindness and How Do You Teach It?

We can easily look up the definition of kindness, but the meaning of kindness goes far beyond just that.

Author: Inspire Kindness Team

kindness 101 meaning

What is the meaning of kindness?


According to the dictionary ...

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

But kindness means so much more ...

Kindness can mean different things to different people. The meaning is in how YOU choose to show it. Be it through empathy, acceptance, kind gestures, thoughtfulness, the possibilities are entirely up to you. Kindness might look like being helpful or showing empathy. It may mean doing nice things without expecting nice things in return

Kindness is more than being nice.

Kindness goes beyond merely being nice. Think about it - would you prefer people to describe you to be "kind" or "nice?" There can be a lack of sincerity in just being nice; there is often a perception of doing the minimum. Whereas, being kind is doing intentional, voluntary acts of kindness. Not only when it’s easy to be kind, but when it’s hard to be.

Kindness is a movement.

Has someone ever done something kind to you and all you wanted to do after was pay it forward? That’s because kindness is a chain reaction. It’s a wave that keeps rolling, and all it needs is one person to start it. One small kind act can cause a ripple effect that impacts an entire community. If we are all focused on being kind, we are creating a movement of change. You know that famous "be the change you wish the see in the world" quote? That quote isn't just about change, and it isn't only about one person being able to change their world. It's bigger; it about a movement that can be started from one person acting with intention.

Kind is love; love is kind.

Think about what love entails and what it means to love someone. Got it? Well, that’s kindness. It’s being selfless, caring, compassionate, and unconditionally kind. Like love, it takes practice to understand and feel it. We share love with others through kind acts such as a smile, a nice word, an unexpected deed, or a planned surprise. When we offer these acts to others, we make people feel good; we pass along hope; we promote peace; we show the power of kindness.

Kindness is grace.

We are humans, and therefore, we make mistakes. We can be kind in our response to ourselves and others when those mistakes occur. This means thinking before speaking, forgiving before seeking revenge, and thinking about long-term relationships instead of short-term pride. If we could all remember that none of us are perfect, we would be a lot kinder to each other. Offer grace, be kind.



Tips for Teaching Kindness

Now that we know what kindness is, how can we encourage more of it? Here are a few ideas to remember kindness in your life and inspire others as well.

Be kind to yourself.

It’s in our nature to learn by watching others, which is why it is so important to be kind to yourself and show kindness to those around you. People, and kids especially, can learn kindness just by seeing what you do!

Practice, practice, practice.

One of the best ways to teach kindness to others is by being intentional about it! Volunteer, give compliments, donate to charity, hold the door for someone; there are so many ways to be an example of kindness. What better way to teach kindness than to show it?

Say thank you.

People are continually learning right and wrong through associative learning. When you see someone being kind or notice it from a family member or friend, make sure to tell them you appreciate what they did. Positive reinforcement helps people want to do more good deeds and reminds people to act with intention.


What are some kindness synonyms?

What are some other words for kindness? For reference, when you hear or see the following words, think of kindness. They are just synonyms for this powerful word:

  • Benevolence
  • Care
  • Compassion
  • Concern
  • Courtesy
  • Friendliness
  • Gentleness
  • Goodness
  • Goodwill
  • Grace
  • Gracious
  • Heart
  • Helpfulness
  • Hospitality
  • Loving
  • Neighborly
  • Patience
  • Philanthropic
  • Sweetness
  • Sympathy
  • Tenderness
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Tolerance
  • Understanding
  • Unselfishness


Questions to Reflect on Kindness

  • When you think of what kindness means to you, what words or actions come to mind?
  • What was the last act of kindness that you saw? How did it make you feel?
  • What was the last act of kindness that you received? How did it make you feel?
  • Now, can you think of the last act of kindness you completed? How were you kind to someone else? How did it make you feel? 
  • What would happen if you committed to performing at least one act of kindness every day? 


Now, be kind and change the world!


You may also be interested in:

How to say “Be Kind” in Multiple Languages

Martin Lurther King Jr. Kindness Quotes

Kindness Quotes from Mr. Rogers


The ROI of Kindness


Ever wonder if there’s an ROI of Kindness? We say…yes! Learn helpful nuggets like the one below, plus how to create a Kindness Value Proposition (KVP) at your organization in this simple book by Inspire Kindness founder Mac Anderson and Brian Biro, The ROI of Kindness.

Fact: Turnover reduction/employee retention…The average annual turnover in the Quick Service Food Industry is 170%. The two companies that constantly focus on kindness as the “magic” ingredient more than any other in their cultures average 14% and 24% annual turnover. In other words, these two companies retain their employees 8 to 10 times more than their competitors.