While looking at niceness and being too nice I’m reminded by one of my favorite fictional nice guys, Michael Bluth.
Hidden in niceness, there is a layer or arrogance, mainly visible from the outside.
Today we’ll be looking at why and how over niceness happens, and how to outgrow it.
WHAT IS THE GOOD GUY SYNDROME?
Ah… niceness, it’s a character trait but not a charming one.
Most nice guys have people pleasing tendencies. That’s whats at the heart of it. We see that people respond to kindness and then feel that well if we prioritize kindness to an absurd degree, then only good things would happen right?
There are worse connections to make for sure. But these guys will base every decision based on how something they’re considering doing will have on the person they’re talking to or thinking about.
What nice guys don’t realize is that their actions become a self fulfilling prophecy.
For the longest time I had a hard time articulating why I enjoyed the michael bluth character so much. It was more than just being a funny character in one of the best live action comedies ever.
There is almost a feeling of martyrdom in niceness. “I’m so nice and yet people still hate me, wtf?”
This is where the just be yourself advice can ring hallow. Well i already do that and spoiler alert, no ones gonna love that guy.
Lets dig into the people pleasing aspects because they cover the full spectrum of niceness.
- Does small errands for people and gets pissed when there’s no recognition. But of course recognition happens… I DON’T NEED YOU TO THANK ME, IT WAS MY PLEASURE!
- Tries to agree with everyone, (the yes man) looks for plausible deniability to justify this when challenged.
- Plays small… he might recognize opportunities but rarely risks breaking social rules or norms.
- Avoid conflict and pain
- Worry wort, anxious mess
- Spends life distracted or numbing pain
Best person ever right?
HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU?
This is the core problem of the nice guy. It’s clear that we need friends and allies in this world. But the way we approach them from niceness guarantees suffering — and not much connection.
To make things more confusing we often had no idea EXACTLY where we got the idea to be nice in the first place.
I used to wonder about that. Like where did I even get the idea from. It was mostly being implied from other people. It’s easy to see people acting like total dicks and conclude, well surely that’s a bad idea.
The confusion happens when we make the wrong assumptions about relationships. People don’t actually want you to agree to everything they say. They want to be challenged but in fun ways. They want to laugh. And a nice guy who can’t create or tolerate social tension (unless its unintentional) will not get many laughs, dates or other opportunities.
The very question of how to get people to “like” you indicates we have some learning to do.
Now, I’ve been familiar with the concept of nice guys for decades. Not all nice guys are the same. We have different degrees of niceness or how other people would describe BEING FAKE.
Here’s a truth bomb: people can tell when you don’t mean what you say. This was hard for me to understand at first.
Why? Because… social rules. Most people will never tell you to your face something embarrassing they noticed about you. That’s jerkfully daring someone to get angry and have a bad day.
Whether it was due to my ADD or something else, I routinely got distracted in conversations.
Unintentionally, I could tune people out for long periods of time. I woud regain my attention when people stopped talking and because no one pointed out how it seemed I didn’t hear or understand them, they were glad to end the conversation.
But a lot of nice guys assume that oh that’s pretty cool.. they didn’t notice at all. They think: that was a freebie.
Being nice is like always saying yes when you want to say no or vice versa.
HOW DO I STOP BEING A NICE GUY
Self knowledge is the short answer. Depending on where you are in your journey, you might have to spend a lot of time figuring who you are versus who you think you should be.
At first, it can be quiet liberating. I remember when I took my first plunge into non niceness. I had recently read The Charisma Myth. It’s written by a executive coach and she has a lot of great lessons about the psychology behind charisma. I tried out not being nice or feeling that everyone was my responsibility.
Wow did it feel good… to walk around and realize that I didn’t have to take on other peoples problems and that I just had to worry about myself.
Yet I also noticed at the same time I was being less empathetic so clearly there is a balance that we need to find. I had swung too far in the opposite direction. So in the past year or two I’ve been trying to become more empathetic while having stronger boundaries of what I will allow and not allow. Standing up for yourself, speaking out, these are all ways to honor your integrity. Each time we silince when we mean to speak, we die a little on the inside.
I’d recommend journaling to get started. You might need to get your emotions moving. Which sometimes can only be achieved by deep inner work on yourself.
Another hallmark of niceness is the behind the scenes anxiety-overload-machine aka your body. The primary problem (besides killing relationships before they get deep) is all that time where you worry about something in the past or scheme in advance about something that may happen in the future.
This is killing your body, you dont need to change right this second. Just know that all the stress is effecting you physically, not just emotionally. In other words, this isn’t sustainable.
Wouldn’t it be nice to not worry?
Questioning is intelligent but too much doubt is confusing. I think that’s what a lot of nice guys go through. They want to do the right things. They focus on “rules” and then get pissed when people break those rules and get everything they want. Likely the very same things that you want too.
Today I want to challenge you to be more real with the people in your life.
Tell them exactly what you feel. You will no longer be inauthentic if you continue to find ways to do that.
You may finally get the elusive likeness which was actually trust all along. People don’t want you to like them, they want you to trust them. They want to feel like their trust in you is valued.
Now when you see opportunities you can take them.
What’s your experience with being nice?