Why “Nice Guys” Aren’t Really NicePosted: March 6, 2011
I despise being called a “nice guy”. I literally recoil in horror and have a visceral emotional reaction, similar to the reaction of women to a creepy guy…the infamous “ewww’! Even when it is truly intended as a compliment I still get the willys. Why would I have this reaction? Because, plainly and simply, being called a nice guy is not a compliment to a man.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have a problem with being kind, or a nice person. I believe that is an important part of being a mature man, but the term “nice guy” has a whole other separate meaning. This is especially true when it’s used by a woman to describe a man. For those who need the code, here’s what the term really means:
- “As a woman I don’t see you as a sexual being and I am not attracted to you whatsoever.”
- “I can get you to do whatever I want, which is not a challenge to me and shows me your lack of masculine strength and integrity.”
- “I see through your façade of sweetness and realize that you are only being this way to get me to like you.”
- “I like you as a person, BUT…(insert limited intimacy request here.)”
- “You are my bitch!”
The fact is there is a big difference between a nice man and a “nice guy”. A nice man is someone who is genuinely nice to everyone around him, whereas the nice guy is a persona, or social mask, that a guy wears when he is trying to get people to approve of him. This mask seems to come out most frequently when a guy is trying to get the approval of a woman. To wear this mask, especially when interacting with women, can only be a recipe for failure. The reality is that the nice guy is manipulative, inauthentic and insecure. He is an immature man.
In his fascinating book No More Mr. Nice Guy! Dr. Robert Glover describes the plight of the nice guy as an anxiety disorder. He describes the nice guy as someone who does not believe that he and the world around him are fine as they are. He feels a deep-rooted need to have everyone’s approval and do everything right in order to have things in his life go the way he wants. He is a yes man that fears conflict, rejection and strong emotions. By trying to win everyone’s approval he believes he is able to manage his anxiety, but the unfortunate result is that he comes off as an unreliable, needy kiss-ass.
In the mind of a nice guy, he makes what Glover describes as “covert contracts”: unconscious agreements where he says to himself “if I do this then I will get that in return.” These contracts are usually unconscious to him and of course unknown to those he is interacting with. Looking at his interactions with women, a nice guy may do a favor for a woman and thus expect her to return the favor with her affection or approval.
I’ve heard many a nice guy say things to the effect of “I took her out to dinner & a concert, showed her a great time, bought her flowers, fixed her car, loaned her money…all the things her last boyfriend never did, and now she won’t even return my calls.” That’s right boy-o! Nor should she. Why? Because she sees through all your nice guy gestures and realizes that you are trying to win her approval and buy her affection. Worse yet, you are exhibiting a sense of entitlement to her affection and resentful when you don’t get it. The covert contract here is “if I do these things she will like me and return my affection.”
Let’s face it guys, women are much more perceptive than men. (It’s okay…we have other advantages they don’t, but that’s another topic.) Parts of their brain have developed over the evolution of our species that allows them to recognize and interpret subtle social communication cues such as facial expressions, body language, voice tonality, and even smelling pheromones more acutely than their male counterparts. They call it intuition. The end result is that a woman very likely knows what your intention is despite your attempt to mask it. In fact, she often knows before you even open your mouth.
The nice guy often is trying to communicate that he is an attentive, loving potential provider. The problem is the way he is saying so simultaneously says to a woman that he is needy, has no backbone and lacks in masculine integrity: the will to follow his own desires despite what others think of him. Rather than owning his desire for her from a place of masculine strength and being unattached to the outcome, he is attempting to trade that strength for affection and is overly invested in her reciprocating. Basically, he’s placing her on a pedestal and communicating that he does not believe he is worthy of her. As you can imagine, this is never attractive.
The nice guy can also rear his wussy head after he’s secured a relationship. Far too many men, once they are in a relationship, stop doing the things that made them attractive to their partners in the first place and devolve into the nice guy. In the nice guy’s attempt to avoid emotional confrontations with his woman he suppresses his own desires and focuses on meeting her needs in the hope that she will meet his without him having to ask. When this doesn’t happen he becomes resentful, indirect, and starts to exhibit passive-aggressive behavior…being anything but nice. Eventually his partner can no longer trust him to be who he truly is and loses respect and attraction for him.
So does this mean that instead of being a nice guy, men should be jerks? Of course not. Nice guys often pride themselves on being different from other men, especially the jerks. In fact, the nice guy and the jerk are two sides of the same coin. Both are attempting to relieve their anxiety via manipulation. They just are choosing different manipulation strategies to do so.
So what’s a guy to do? Instead or being the nice guy or the jerk, realize that there is another option: to embrace your mature masculine character. To do so, you must:
- Learn to own your desires. Let go of any guilt you have over them or the fact that they may conflict with other people’s desires. It is your responsibility as a man to do so.
- Consciously choose whether or not to act upon your desires, and have the resolve to stick with your decision. Know that you made the right decision based on the information you had at the time.
- Accept that you will never please everyone all of the time and that you are okay if you are not able to do so. In fact, you are better than okay. You are being authentic and practicing solidity of character.
- Lastly, let go of your emotional attachment to specific outcomes. As the Buddhists say, attachment is the cause of all suffering, and thus all anxiety. In doing so not only you will relieve your anxiety, you will have the clarity to make solid decisions to the benefit of us all.
With all that said, guys, please shelve any nice guy tactics you’re using to manipulate the people in your lives. You’re only hurting yourself along with the rest of us who have to deal with your resentful ass. And ladies, please don’t go around calling anyone a nice guy unless they actually have earned it. I know I’d be less insulted if you called me any number of combinations of four letter words…at least those I can own as I may have truly earned them.
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