Debunking the Myth of the “Nice Guy”

When I launched The Classy Geek I promised to help you get your act together, and to help you learn from some of my mistakes and some of the mistakes that I commonly see out there in the wild amongst our geeky brethren. This is a big one: the “nice guy” who perpetually finishes last, the guy who gets “friend zoned” all the time, the girl who’s just “one of the guys” so much that she can’t convince any of them to ask her out.

You know what I mean – and while the entire myth is far more prevalent among guys (and yes, I understand that this one is going to be heavily geared to the guys in the audience. I generally try to keep these types of articles relatively gender-neutral, because after all, there are plenty of lady geeks out there!) who consider themselves nice, upstanding folks who are just interested in an open and honest relationship with a partner, the truth of the matter? You’re probably not that nice, and you’re not being open and honest with yourself. And if you can’t be open and honest with yourself, any relationship you have is doomed to fail.

Let me help you out: part of it is likely that you’re not as nice as you think you are, especially if you’re busy judgmentally viewing everyone else who’s managed to find a partner in contempt. “What’s he got that I don’t” guys and “Wow, what kind of person is SHE if she’s with him” mumblers need not apply to the “really, we are maglie calcio poco prezzo nice guys” club. The second piece to this puzzle is (and the first isn’t required for this to be the big problem, it can be either, or, or both) is that you’re not being honest with yourself. You’re saying you want an open and honest relationship with someone, but you refuse to admit or acknowledge your feelings – likely to the person you’re interested in by being straightforward about what you’re looking for – in an honest way, of course.

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with you if you find yourself perpetually “friend zoned,” trust me, I used to be the same way – and I’m not saying you’re lying to yourself or being purposefully deceitful about your intentions, but what I am saying is that you can fix both of these problems by being the nice guy you really want to be, and just being upfront and making it clear you’re interested in someone instead of sitting back and waiting for them to “discover” you. It hardly ever works that way, and when it does it’s usually out of last resort or desperation, not out of true appreciation for you and who you are as a person.

Make sense? Let’s dig a little deeper, with the help of an excellent post over at Wired’s Alt Text blog that breaks this down really well, I think.

Writing for Alt Text, Lore Sjöberg points out that if you’re sitting on the wall silently hating the people around you for being engaged in conversation or in general social activity and wondering why no one seems to want to talk to a nice guy like you, truth be told you may not be as nice as you’re making yourself out to be – and that doesn’t make you a horrible person by contrast, it just means you need to open your eyes a bit and understand that it’s a two way Maglia Roma street and there’s more going on here – and that the same applies to intimate relationships, not just social events.

At the risk of lifting a bit much from an article that I wholeheartedly suggest you read, Sjöberg had this to say:

Given that nice guys get bedded and/or wedded all the time, you must have a more specific problem than that. Here are some specific behaviors I have witnessed in guys who think they’re “too nice” when actually they’re “unpleasant.” Is this you?

  • For some reason, you think “nice” means “completely devoid of sexual energy.” When you’re attracted to someone, you treat her like you’re her brother. Her brother the priest. Her brother the elderly Victorian priest who is actually a large stuffed animal. Then when some guy comes along and does a little thoughtful flirting and actually gets her attention, you think “Man, that guy’s a jerkface.”
  • When you say you’re trying to figure out “what women want,” you actually mean you’re trying to figure out what this one specific woman you’re friends with and have had a crush on for three years wants. (That one’s easy, by the way. The answer is “not you.” Now move on.)
  • You don’t know many women. Having been passed on by the six or seven ladyfolks you see on a regular basis, you are now ready to assume that all women are deeply broken individuals who don’t know what’s good for them. Somehow you think that treating all women as freely interchangable mentally damaged goods is compatible with being “nice.”
  • You’re one of those guys who wishes he lived in the Arthurian era — which is to say an era that never actually existed — and who actually uses the word prithee. You practice some sort of demented Hollywood version of chivalry. When women are creeped out by this, you assume they don’t like nice guys, rather than assuming more accurately that they have no desire to get involved with your little love-LARP.
  • You’re not actually nice. Ask yourself this question: All these nice, thoughtful things you do for women you have crushes on, do you do them for your friends whose panties you don’t want to chew off? Do you remember everyone’s favorite pizza topping? Listen to them bitch about work? Tell them when you see something neat on ThinkGeek that you think they’d like? Getting extra attention from someone who’s generally nice is flattering. Sitting under the laserlike niceness focus of someone who’s usually oblivious is actually pretty unnerving.
  • Finally, the most common affliction: searing, blinding desperation. There’s a big, inviting grassy area between being a schmuck and being an Alpha Jerk, and it’s called “self-confidence.” It’s nice for picnics! Seriously, if there’s any one thing that’s universally attractive to men, women and intersexed individuals of any and all types, it’s confidence. People like people who like being the people they are. The sort of guys who worry about being “too nice” don’t want to be who they are. They want to be Someone’s Boyfriend, as if that will solve all their personal problems. That’s as off-putting as real, true niceness is attractive.

I’m going to hone in on a couple of these that I think are really important. First, the whole “devoid of sexual energy” part is what leads you into the “friend zone,” my friends. Whether you’re male or female, this is what I’m referring to when I say you’re not being honest with yourself or with the people of the opposite gender that you meet. The fact is that this scenario is a complete and total fantasy: you wind up being nice and warm and loving and the friend that he or she always wanted and that one day they’ll turn to you out of the blue and realize that they’ve always loved you and for some reason up until then they just couldn’t see it.

Guys, ladies? That doesn’t happen. I’m not saying you need to be otherwise – in fact, you shouldn’t be otherwise. There’s just something that’s missing from the fantasy above: intention and stated desire. It dovetails into the last point – self-confidence. You have to be able to be nice, be yourself, and be open about Malia Juventus being a genuinely nice person, but you also need to be able to openly express your romantic interest in someone and confidently make the call that you can or cannot be that warm and loving friend regardless of whether they have the same romantic interest in you or not.

That, my friends, is being honest with yourself. If you’re interested in someone, whether they’re a friend or someone you’ve only recently met, your best bets are to be honest, be yourself, be nice, be confident, and be up front about your interest in them when you think the time is right – and let me dash those fantasies: the right time is sooner, not later after the judgment is made that you only want to be their friend.

The specific scenarios that Sjöberg has noted in between the first and the last items in the list are very specific, and I think it goes without saying that if any of those accurately describe you, you’ve really got to do something about that – I mean really guys, “prithee?”

Also, let’s be completely clear about this once and for all: Chivalry is dead, and by that I mean it’s no longer your obligation or your privilege to be chivalrous: the amount to which you’re chivalrous should rely on what you AND your romantic interest think is okay, not just what YOU think you’re supposed to do or what your preconceived notion of right and wrong tells you is okay.

I know! It’s crazy! You mean you should actually communicate with your romantic interest to find out whether he or she is okay with you picking up the tab or opening a door? Madness!

Forgetting that any relationship is a two way street of consent and mutual interest and desire leads you marching into the next scenario: you’re not actually nice. I know a ton of these guys – the ones that whine to their friends about how they always finish last, but if you ask any woman they’ve dated they’re the type who shows no interest in them at best, and at worst they’re actively demeaning and act superior because after all, they know what’s right and wrong.

But the issues that most of us, my fellow geeks, have are the first and the last problems. They think being nice is the same thing as being uninterested, and even if they wanted to show interest they’re lacking the self-confidence to do so, so they sit and lie in wait for happiness and love to fall into their laps instead of taking charge of their own lives and going out for it.

You dig? I know, I know, I’m not guaranteeing success, I’m not saying this is going to work for you all the time, or even at all with the people you’re interested in or that one person you’ve had your eye on for a long time. I’m not even saying you’ll be able to muster the courage to do this, but you’ll know when you’re really interested in someone when you’re willing to take the risk on them, and I’ll tell you what will never work: being that creepy/sexless geek watching from the sidelines while life – and your romantic interests – pass you by.

second image in this post courtesy of flickr user soundlessfall. (holding hands)





8 responses to “Debunking the Myth of the “Nice Guy””

  1. Deinera Avatar

    The movie-scene of “suddenly they realize” is exactly that. It doesn’t really happen. It happens pretty spontaneously and out of the blue. But it’s usually when you’re hanging out doing normal things. Not being doted on. Not having someone be your doormat. Just the regular everyday stuff.

    Also of note, it doesn’t matter of the object of desire is opposite gender… I’m just sayin’. :P

    Excellent topic. I have so many people that come to mind when I think of those scenarios… some from the past, and the present. It’s kind of scary.

  2. Tyranny Avatar

    Personally I prefer the nice guy :)

  3. […] Last week was lovely; the week itself was kind of rough and tiring, but I managed to catch up on my writing and blogging and really get a good head start on a number of posts, including some of my most recent posts over at The Classy Geek, including what I think was one of my best posts to date, Debunking the Myth of the “Nice Guy.” […]

  4. Alan Henry Avatar

    @Deinera – you’re absolutely right! It doesn’t matter whether the object of affection is male or female or the bearer of the affection is male or female – I think all of us can fall into this mindset, especially if we’re the type who’s spent our entire lives on the sidelines wondering what’s wrong with us that we can’t get a date/find a partner/find someone to date or love.

    I think the real key here, boiling down the bulk of the article, is that we need to be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we want from someone else, and when we find someone who has some of those qualities, we need to be open and up-front with them that we think they’d be a good fit for us – and sometimes that requires a good look in the mirror beforehand.

    @Tyranny – you’re right! I’m not saying that there are no nice people, just that the stereotype of the “nice guy who always finishes last” or the “nice girl who’s just never viewed as a woman and is always ‘one of the guys’” is generally a myth – it’s not that those situations don’t happen, but they don’t happen in a vacuum! In the end, you just have to make sure the nice guy really is nice, and doesn’t just claim to be!

  5. […] And by be honest, I mean be honest to yourself and to the other person, the way I described in Debunking the Myth of the “Nice Guy”. The more honest you are, the more success you’ll have. If you try to conceal something about […]

  6. sg Avatar

    This was a great article and very true in my experience. I actually believed this myth when I heard it from others, and I tried being a “not nice guy” to get more attention from women. Pretty dumb, I gotta say. Live and learn, right?

    I feel like some of my friends should read this though.

  7. Resigned Sidekick Avatar
    Resigned Sidekick

    “I’ll tell you what will never work: being that creepy/sexless geek watching from the sidelines while life – and your romantic interests – pass you by. ”

    I’m confused you claim that nice guys or most nice guys believe that being someone’s boyfriend will solve all their problems. Yet this article is geared toward changing yourself for women or a woman. Even if the entire nice guy persona is to please women how does this article change this? They’re still dealling with the same dilemma. What if the nice guy actually believe in chivalry? Should he adbandon his beliefs just to carter to women?

    In other word same dilemma just different hang ups.

  8. Alan Henry Avatar

    Ah, but my dear drive-by Sidekick friend, who commented without reading and will likely never return to see the error of his ways, you fail to understand.

    This isn’t about change. It’s about being who you are and finding someone who can appreciate you for that – and it’s about understanding the compromises required to meet someone who does truly appreciate you and can live with you on equal terms. If you really do value chivalry, that’s fine. The point being made is that you shouldn’t try and force it on someone else because *you* think it’s the right thing to do, or the right way to be. It’s about shedding that Nice Guy Persona and entrusting in the personality you actually have – as opposed to creating an artificial facade to impress people that you subsequently blame for not being impressed.

    Ultimately, it’s not about the dilemma, or the hang ups, it’s about shedding all of it and taking responsibility for your own personality and your own actions, instead of forcing that responsibility on someone else. With luck, eventually that defensiveness will fade and you’ll be able to embrace it. Until then, good luck!

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