Updated: Oct 11
"Nice Guys may appear to finish last, but they are running a different race." -Ken Blanchard
“She has no idea who she just rejected,” he said after getting friend-zoned.
“How could she do that, after all I have done for her? I guess she just needs some arrogant idiot who will screw her and then throw her away. Then she will realize what she could have had with me. Well, guess what, then it will be too late for her!”
This was my old friend's rant after getting friend-zoned by yet another girl.
He was one of those men who were nice to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.
He tried to mold himself into her perfect match. He kept hiding his true intentions, desires and needs from her. He believed if he was nice enough, that she eventually couldn't resist but fall in love with him.
He genuinely couldn't understand why it never worked...
This man is a perfect example of what Dr. Robert Glover calls Nice Guy Syndrome.
The problem is not "being nice"
All human motivation is based on moving away from pain and towards pleasure. Being authentically nice to others is a pleasure. It feels good whether you're the one giving or receiving. It's part of our human nature.
The problem emerges, when "being nice" is not authentic, but unconsciously acted out with a transactional outcome in mind.
"If I'm nice to you, you'll be nice to me and I'll get what I need in return."
This is, by nature, manipulative.
But Nice Guys have no idea because they believe that's how the world works.
It's part of their belief system.
They HAVE TO be nice.
The "niceness" driven by the Nice Guy Syndrome has specific traits:
Obligation. Nice Guys believe they HAVE TO be nice. Their behavior is not a choice, their "niceness" is compulsive. They HAVE TO fake smile because not doing so would be unbearable. They HAVE TO give up on their needs, otherwise, they're a burden.
Global beliefs. Since they've been operating with this pattern ever since they remember, they BELIEVE it's how the world works. They truly believe this is the blueprint of the Universe. They believe they're the normal ones and if everyone was behaving that way, the world would finally be a good place.
Expectations. Because of the #1 and #2, their niceness will create unconscious expectations of others being equally nice and respectful, no matter what their inner truth is. Therefore, when they're nice and don't get what they expect in return, they feel "justified" anger and frustration. And sadly, they tend to express those reactively and destructively every once in a while.
The men who run the Nice Guy Syndrome have all some common marks:
They feel they are givers and they are proud of it. They see themselves as those who give freely to the world, but secretly they expect the world to give back to them. The world does not seem to appreciate it and it frustrates them and creates resentment. They will buy a girl dinner, saying it’s nothing, but secretly hope that they will get affection or sex from her.
They seek approval from others. The approval allows them to feel safe and good about themselves. However, they want to get approval so bad, that they become fixers and caretakers for those around them - paradoxically being unable to be truly present and supportive. They have difficulty making their own needs a priority because that would feel selfish to them. Conflict is a big risk of losing approval and therefore is avoided at the cost of their own authenticity.
They believe that they must hide their perceived flaws and mistakes so that others will love them. They think, there is always a “right way” of doing things so that others do not get upset. They will break their own integrity for the sake of pleasing others compulsively. This obviously results in decreased confidence and self-esteem.
They analyze their feelings instead of expressing them in order to get things "right". They suppress their true feelings because open emotional expression would mean a risk of rejection and losing others' approval. On top of that, they often put responsibility on others for their feelings. This causes a lot of repressed emotions that very often get triggered and expressed at the least appropriate moments.
They believe that their partner is the key to happiness in their lives. They often make their partner an emotional center and base their happiness upon them. This becomes a burden for the partner and it slowly makes the relationship deteriorate.
All these behaviors stem from the key beliefs, they hold:
If I am nice, giving, and caring, I will in return be happy, loved, and fulfilled.
If I am nice, I will be loved, get my needs met, and live a problem-free life.
When this strategy fails to produce results, they want, Nice Guys tend to do more of the same strategy even if it does not work because it is the only thing they know.
"When Nice Guy loses his patience, the devil shivers…"
Nice Guys are nice only on the surface. If you dig deeper, you will quickly discover the shadow part of the Nice Guys, which is not-that-nice.
In the world of duality, everyone has a shadow part of their personality - a dark side. The more we're unaware of our dark side, the more destructive impact it has on us.
We're all capable of great good and great evil. Only if I'm blind to my capacity to do evil, my overconfidence will lead to recklessness and my actions end up causing a lot of harm unintentionally.
But because Nice Guys believe, they're ONLY nice, and ONLY good, they're completely unaware of their own shadow and it has a massive impact on them and those around them.
Here are some examples of when they are actually not nice:
The attempt to be good whatever it takes typically involves trying to eliminate or hide certain things about themselves and become what they believe others want them to be. This obviously makes them dishonest as they hide their mistakes, avoid conflict, say what others want to hear, and lie about their true feelings. They will hide information that would be a threat to their self-image. They can even bend truths. They would harmonize contradictory pieces of information and rationalize so that they can feel good about themselves despite breaking their own integrity.
They are controlling and manipulative. They tend to manipulate the other person to get what they want because they are scared to ask for it directly. They expect the world to give them back for being nice and if it does not happen, they seek it indirectly. Even though they claim they give unconditionally, they secretly feel frustrated about giving so much while seemingly getting so little in return.
They are passive-aggressive. Due to not expressing their emotions as they come up, they have a lot of suppressed anger and they express their frustration and resentment through indirect means. This includes being unavailable, forgetting, being late, not following through, not being able to get an erection, climaxing too quickly, etc. As a result, they are full of rage. They deny ever getting angry, but this repressed anger creates a pressure cooker of anger that tends to erupt in the most unexpected and seemingly inappropriate times.
They struggle with relationships. They tend to be terrible listeners because they are too busy figuring the other person out. Their fear of conflict is making it close to impossible to work their way through the problem. They struggle with setting boundaries, which is key to healthy relationships. They feel they want the closeness of other people, but their behaviors make it difficult for other people to get truly close to them. As a result, they often feel like victims and see other people as a source of their suffering.
They are often attracted to people and situations that need fixing. It is one of their strategies to receive approval so that they can feel loved and appreciated.
They are only relatively successful. There is a limit to their potential success because they are incapable of taking bold risks and greater responsibility. Doing so would be a threat to their approval from others.
Even though these behavior traits seem to be complex, they all have one common denominator, stemming from their childhood.
How does a healthy young man become a Nice Guy?
"I am a Nice Guy, I swear to fu*king God..." -Kristen Roupenian
This is an extremely simplified way to understand how the Nice Guy pattern emerges.
All children are born in an imperfect world. They are dependent on their caretakers to recognize their needs and act appropriately. So their greatest fear is abandonment. For children, abandonment means death.
All children also have to develop ego as part of the developmental process. At one stage of their development, they perceive the world as one, and they perceive themselves as being in the center of this world - ego-centered.
And since they believe they are the center of everything that happens around them - they causally link everything that happens around them to themselves: "It's because of me."
As every child is born into an imperfect world and imperfect family, every child has abandonment experiences. Due to their early ego-centric nature and later emotional immaturity of their caretakers, they wrongly interpret their actions as being the cause of abandonment because they have no other way of understanding the world.
These children eventually create a belief that it is not acceptable for them to just be who they are because it causes important people in their lives to abandon them.
Pete Walker calls this the 4th survival strategy: fawning (after fight, flight & freeze).
They do not understand that their abandonment experiences are not caused by something about them, but by the people who are supposed to recognize and meet their needs.
This creates feelings of toxic shame. Toxic shame is shame on an identity-level. It's a belief that one is inherently bad, defective, different, or unlovable. Toxic shame is very often triggered by feelings of guilt, that one did something inherently wrong or bad.
Once the child has enough of these painful experiences, it will develop defense mechanisms to prevent similar situations from happening. After enough repetitions, it will internalize its fawning survival mechanisms as a standard mode of operation in the world. They effectively start to hide from the world.
As a result of these efforts, the key Nice Guy belief emerges:
If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life.
Nice Guys have been using their strategies from a very young age and they really know nothing better. So once the strategies turn dysfunctional, they just do more of the same thing. This is what keeps them stuck.
Even if it might sound like a dead end, there is a way out.
Do not fix yourself!
“Trying to appear needless and wantless prevents Nice Guys from getting their needs met.” -Dr. Robert Glover
There are 2 common myths that Nice Guys struggle with before they decide to take on the journey of outgrowing their Nice Guy patterns.
Myth #1: I need to become a Selfish Jerk.
This is the typical Nice Guy's worst fear. Both of them are extreme forms of behavior. While Nice Guys pay all the attention to others' needs and emotions, Selfish Jerks pay zero attention to others' needs and feelings. They're both defense mechanisms from abandonment. Whether it's hot or cold, it's still temperature. This thinking is typical black & white thinking of the Nice Guys. The way to overcome your Nice Guy Syndrome is not to become the other extreme but to integrate it.
Because the fact is, they already do have parts that are "selfish jerks" - it's their dark, shadow side. But because they're repressed, Nice Guys can't benefit from their gifts - assertiveness, boundaries, and leadership. The point is not to flip the switch to the opposite extreme but to recognize and integrate their shadow parts, so they can access the full specter of their personality.
Myth #2: I am broken and I need to fix myself.
One of the main obstacles for Nice Guys is the belief: "I'm broken". Their internalized, toxic shame makes them believe that something is wrong with them. Very often, what they do in the process of personal growth is trying to fix themselves.
The problem with fixing is that it's based on black & white thinking and it turns their healing and growth into a salvation fantasy. "If I figure out what is THAT ONE THING, that I need to fix, I'll be finally okay."
The solution is not salvation, but a commitment to continuous growth and establishing their own values, moral code, and patterns of behavior that will help them live a good life.
What's at the end of the tunnel?
The healing and growth out of the Nice Guy Syndrome is by accepting all aspects of one's self, including their power, their courage, their passion, mistakes, imperfections, their feminine side, and their dark side.
Dr. Rober Glover calls this man "The Integrated Man".
An integrated man makes sure that his needs are met. He likes himself just the way he is. He is comfortable with his sexuality and he has integrity which he acts upon. He is open in an expression of his feelings and vulnerability. He knows how to set boundaries and is not afraid to step into tension and work his way through conflict. He knows he can "handle shit when shit hits the fan" and he expands joy in the world by first being genuinely joyful himself.
Becoming an integrated man is not an overnight process. The Nice Guy patterns and beliefs are rooted deeply in the unconscious. and it takes time to work through them.
Luckily, there are tools that can help you with overcoming your dysfunctional patterns and beliefs. One of them is to read the book by Dr. Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, which offers lot of exercises and case studies. Another one is to join a men's group or attend a workshop, focused on developing your masculinity and leadership.
If you want to dive deep right away, you can book a free session with me, we'll have a look at your current situation and I'll give you a step-by-step game plan on how you could work through the Nice Guy patterns in your life.
“Being too nice can be a dangerous thing sometimes.” -unknown
Nice Guys believe they need to hide their flaws and become what others want them to be so that they are loved, get their needs met, and live a problem-free life.
As a result, they unconsciously become quite the opposite of nice: they are dishonest, manipulative, passive-aggressive, and feel a lot of frustration from the world for not treating them equally as nice.
Nice Guy behaviors emerge as a result of the strategies they learned during their childhood to cope with abandonment. Even if these strategies do not work, Nice Guys keep applying them because they are the only thing that they know.
Nice Guys are not broken. And the solution to their problems is NOT to become the opposite extreme. They need to outgrow their current dysfunctional beliefs and patterns by integrating parts of themselves they suppressed a long time ago. There are multiple ways of integrating these suppressed parts.
If you want to understand the Nice Guy pattern in more depth, download my free e-book with more case studies, examples, and in-depth understanding.