I work with an increasing amount of guys who find it really hard to say ‘no’ to others, even if it means foregoing their own wants, needs and desires. For these guys, they swallow their own voice to meet the demands of others, usually with women in romantic relationships, but more commonly with coworkers, service providers, people on the street… whomever.
The “nice guys” out there look unassuming on the surface. They’re extra friendly, people love them, and their generally non-toxic to others. It’s when it comes to themselves that the problems begin.
Here are some features of the “Nice Guy”:
- Has a hard time saying ‘no’ to others, including intimate partners
- Doing for others until they’re tired, or exhausted
- Have a high degree need for appreciation or validation, and will work hard for it
- Not feeling in control of relationships
- Carry around guilty feelings
- Being dependent on others – including women – or “orbiting” them like a human satellite
- Deals poorly with rejection
- Takes many things very personally
- Tries to be the life of the party, make others laugh, take on other’s personalities
Fundamentally, Nice Guys don’t know how to meet their needs, because if their needs are known, they could not be met by those who are in the position to meet those needs. Instead, they end up playing games – sometimes through coersion or manipulation – through playing the role of the “nice guy”. They’re not straight with others, or themselves. It’s too risky to be oneself, because the role or mask is the one they think gets all of the attention and validation. Nice Guys forget that pleasing other people is not pleasing themselves.
The other issue is anger. Anger gets stuffed within nice guys, but ends up seeping out as passive aggressive behavior. Their anger cannot be communicated directly, because of the risk that runs of being rejected or abandoned. But, it has to go somewhere, and so it gets filtered through other ways like the passive-aggressive approach. This can be displayed through constant joking, sarcasm, not being straight with one’s anger, playing the victim, etc.
A good book on the topic of “nice guys” was written a couple of years back by Dr. Robert Glover. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” explains these types of issues that guys struggle with. It’s worth a read.
If you think you’re a “Nice Guy” and want to start to break the cycle, start by understanding how you can’t say ‘no’ to others. Is it fear? Is is rejection? Are you taking too much ownership or responsibility for other people?
- Practice saying no in small ways, and try building up to the big ‘no’s.
- Start monitoring your anger and seeing how it might leak out in less direct ways, as mentioned above.
- Work on validating your own self more, instead of being dependent on other’s to fill you up
- Start to differentiate between those people that are truly your friends, and those people who are friendly with you because you do things for them solely. If the relationship isn’t reciprocal, reconsider your investment in it.
- Look at your schedule, and determine which activities, chores, events, etc. you do that’s for others, and really reconsider what you’re getting out of the deal? Is it worth my time? Does it prevent me from taking care of myself adequately
I was once a “Nice Guy,” and let me tell you: it’s a lot better on the other side. People still like me, even more so than when I was trying to be nice and cordial all of the time. I understand the struggles, and reform can happen if you work at it.