How Much is ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ Holding You Back?
Notice I didn’t ask, “Is ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ holding you back?” That’s because, after working with hundreds of men (and noticing it in myself) it’s become clear that most modern men have some degree of Nice Guy Syndrome. Most men’s first reaction is, “What’s wrong with being a Nice Guy?” If this is you and you think being a Nice Guy is a good thing, let me explain… You may have heard of Robert Glover, because he is a pretty big deal. He’s a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist and has a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Glover made a splash when he wrote the 2003 mega-hit book No More Mr Nice Guy: A Proven Plan For Getting What You Want in Love, Sex and Life. Through the book and his career, Dr Glover has helped thousands of men transform from being passive and resentful to empowered and integrated. For more on his background, check out the podcast interview with Dr Glover. So you still might be asking, “What is Nice Guy Syndrome, and why is it a problem for me?” Learning to identify and overcome Nice Guy Syndrome is one of the most important steps a modern man can take in his personal growth. First, let’s sort out what causes Nice Guy Syndrome, then we will focus on how to identify it, and finally, what steps you can take to correct it.
What Causes Nice Guy Syndrome?
Dr. Glover identified the most common pattern that creates a Nice Guy:
- Men aren’t well connected to their father. Their dad wasn’t there physically, emotionally, or sometimes the dad himself had Nice Guy Syndrome. One way or another, their father failed to be a strong masculine role model.
- Meanwhile, most men lacked a strong male presence outside of the home. All day, every day, they were surrounded by strong female personalities in their mothers, babysitters, and most teachers. In this environment, men inevitably get comfortable hanging around primarily with women and treating women as their sole role models. Note that Glover isn’t saying boys shouldn’t have any female role models, he’s saying they should also have male role models.
The result of these factor is that many men spend their formative years only learning how to connect with women. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it becomes treacherous when combined with a complete lacking of masculine energy and positive male role models. This situation has left a large percentage of modern men as more comfortable around feminine energy than masculine. This imbalance in masculine and feminine causes men to get stuck in a cycle of seeking validation from a woman rather than self-validating. Do this pattern (or some elements of it) sound familiar? Still not sure if Nice Guy Syndrome applies to you? Well, see if any of these traits sound familiar.
What Does ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ Look Like?
In his book, Dr. Glover outlines these signs of Nice Guy Syndrome:
- Nice Guys are givers. Does it make you feel good to give to others? Nice guys often believe that by being generous it makes them a good person and that will make people love and appreciate them. Note that it’s not bad to give, but do you fail to get your own needs met?
- Nice Guys avoid conflict. Do you try to keep everyone happy? Nice guys often avoid saying the plain truth, even when it is important, because they fear conflict.
- Nice Guys are manipulative: Do you ever say to yourself, “I helped her do that, so she should help me do this.” Glover calls that a ‘covert contract,’ which is a secret agreement that you make with yourself and unknowingly bind others to. These contracts stem from a dysfunctional paradigm that many men have. This paradigm states:
- If I’m a Nice Guy, people will love me
- If I meet other people’s needs, they’ll meet mine
- If I do everything right, then I’ll have a smooth, problem-free life
- Nice Guys seek the easy life. Do you think that there is a perfect way to handle a situation? Nice Guys think that if they just do X things would be easier. If they just do X they would be problem free.
- Nice Guys are bad at receiving. Do you have trouble accepting gifts or having people do favours for you? Nice guys are so bad at receiving that even during sex, they can have trouble accepting pleasure from their partner. They are typically uncomfortable asking for what they want and even receiving it from their partners.
- Nice Guys seek approval from others. Do you love when someone notices the work you have done? At a core level, each action a Nice Guy takes is to gain someone’s approval, especially in relationships.
- Nice Guys fix and caretake. Do you love to give advice and solve your friend’s problems? Nice guys always want to try to solve the bad things in life and often will do it in other peoples lives, uninvited.
- Nice Guys hide their flaws. Do you believe that “If at first, you don’t succeed, hide the evidence”? Due to some circumstance, Nice Guys believe that men are valued based on their good qualities and they are disliked for their failings.
There are a more signs we could mention but if any of those sound familiar, check out the book or the podcast and you can take a deeper look at what Nice Guy Syndrome really is.
How Do You Overcome Nice Guy Syndrome?
Ok, so you have experienced some (or a bunch) of those warning signs. You realize you might have Nice Guy Syndrome. Now what?
- First, read Dr. Glover’s book. It will be a revelation. You’ll probably say to yourself multiple times, “I do that exact thing.” This is what most men I know who read the book have
- Listen to the podcast episode with Dr. Robert Glover where he and I dig deep into these issues and see how they apply to your life.
- Follow the steps laid out in the book.
- Find a group. Not just any group though, find a group of men that meets these characteristics:
- They are supportive
- They require honesty
- They are non-judgemental
- Men only
- Once you have found a group, start doing the following activities:
- Be radically honest. Tell the whole ugly truth and then tell the lie you wanted to tell instead of the truth.
- Never attack or shame other members of the group or yourself. We are humans, we have ugly bits.
- Engage in activities with the group of men. That’s how we are meant to bond. Something special happens when men are together.
- Reclaim your masculinity.
- Do hard physical activity. Men are built to work with our bodies.
- Spend less time watching movies and more time tapping into your true masculine nature.
- Quit, ‘giving to get.’ This means you don’t have to always give up something to get what you want.
- Tell your partner exactly what you want. Without offering something in return.
- Start being selfish and doing things purely for your own benefit. Do you want to do X? Do it, don’t apologize or give a reason. Just go and do it.
- Ask someone to do something for you that you could probably do yourself. (If this is really hard, start with something small like, “Can you grab me a coffee?” Work your way up from there.)
- Give to give
- Get to get
- Learn to say no. Practice this until you master it.
- Try saying no to something that you could easily do.
- Say no to someone and don’t apologize or give a reason.
For a more in depth look at the activities to break free of Nice Guy Syndrome get Dr Robert Glover’s book.