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Nice Guy syndrome
Today we’re going to be talking about how to overcome Nice Guy Syndrome in the simplest, most effective way possible.
For those of you who don’t know, Nice Guy Syndrome (NGS) comes from a long-term compulsion to constantly try to be seen as a “nice” person. It’s like if people-pleasing were an entire identity. This basic premise of being nice is a strategy designed to make people like you (or at least not reject you).
For some nice guys, this is about trying to make all people like them. For others, it’s about a certain type of person they’re trying to get the approval of (usually attractive women).
I firmly believe that NGS and people-pleasing in general are hugely prevalent around the world. I think literally billions of people suffer from this in one way or another.
NGS seems like a very complicated thing to deal with. There’s sexual shame, there’s fear of rejection, there’s having an entire lifestyle based on peer pressure, there’s heaps of overthinking, there’s emotional suppression, and always there’s a big dose of social anxiety.
All of these things combine together, and there are many more problems on top of all of this makes NGS seem like a really complicated thing to work through. It will feel like it’s going to be really difficult to build confidence and become authentic from this position.
Luckily, it’s actually really simple to overcome NGS, as long as you’re prepared to be very courageously honest about one particular thing:
“Preferences,” are simply what you like versus what you don’t like, and what you want versus what you don’t want. Very simple, yet preferences make up everything about who you are. If you’re honest about your preferences, you are honest about yourself entirely.
No matter what type of nice guy you are, this will be one thing that you have in common with all other nice guys have in common: You are dishonest in some way about your preferences. And most nice guys are very dishonest about preferences, especially when there’s some social ‘risk’ involved in expressing them i.e. you’ll provoke negative reactions.
Some examples of this dishonesty:
1) Being overly agreeable or easy-going, making it out like you don’t really care one way or the other
2) Always trying to fit in with what the group wants or what your partner wants and never really resisting or taking a stand against what everybody wants
3) Being indecisive. Most specifically; knowing what you want or what you like, but hesitating to act on that – hesitating to express it
4) What I call Green Light Syndrome – wanting to do something but always waiting for permission or invitation or leadership from someone else. Like if you wanted to go for a promotion, you wait for your boss to invite you to go for a promotion, or if you want to ask someone out on a date but you must wait for them to look at you and smile – constantly waiting for a green light to go
5) Withdrawing when you get a bad reaction. Every time they get a negative reaction you take it back and you try to moderate it. You apologise, or pretend you were just joking, or say, “Well, I see your point I guess from that perspective, blah, blah, blah.” You end up giving up what you originally stood for
6) Being vague, hesitant or otherwise apologetic about what you want/like and what you don’t want/dislike. Like asking you someone out but saying something like, “Do you maybe want to sort of hang out sometime, or something?” Instead of just saying “I like you, I’d love to see you tonight.”
7) Trying to be cool. Try not to appear too eager, excited or passionate about anything. Showing that kind of blase apathetic attitude that nice guys think looks cool, calm and unaffected
Going all in
Being honest about your preferences means not engaging in any of those forms of dishonesty above. Instead you need to start being very direct about what you want and what you don’t want, what you like and what you dislike.
It’s about going “all in.”
If you like something you go all in on it, and if you don’t like it you go all out. It’s a Hell Yes versus Hell No thing that I learned from Mark Manson.
It doesn’t matter what the outcome is – it’s okay to not win. It’s okay to express something you want and not get it, or to tell someone you like them and they don’t like you back. Expressing your preferences honestly is what is really going to cue NGS. You don’t actually have to get what you want to be cured, you just have to be honest about it.
For example, you might be with a group of people and everybody wants to go and get Chinese but then you say “I want pizza.” Maybe you’ll get voted down and everyone goes for Chinese anyway, but at least you said you wanted pizza. And you don’t pretend that you now want Chinese – you hold strong with your pizza, even if you end up going with the group. It can be things as small as that that make the hugest difference to NGS in the longer term.
You’re going to make sure you take a clear stand on every issue. If you’re not surem then consider yourself “all out.” From now on, treat everything as either Hell Yes or Hell No, and if it’s not Hell Yes, then by default it’s Hell no.
That’s one particular strategy you can take.
the 51% rule
Another strategy that I developed for myself to use is what I call The 51% Rule.
One problem with being a nice guy is that you’ve probably suppressed your emotions for a lot of your life, so you actually lose feeling. You don’t even really know what you want, because you have no strong feelings about anything from all of the suppression.
The 51% Rule is this idea that if you’re even just 51% for something (49% against it), then you consider yourself all in. And if you’re 51%+ against something, you consider yourself all out. Never be a maybe or sit on the fence about anything. Don’t “pick your battles” – fight them all! At least until you really do know yourself.
So if you feel even slightly in favor or against, then treat that as if you feel 100% that way. Because your emotion is so vague, suppressed, weak and so shallow, you have to take the tiniest hints of feeling and extrapolate on them.
You can’t trust that a weak feeling means a weak belief. You do have strong preferences, you just don’t feel them very strongly. The stronger you express them, the clearer they become.
Eventually, once you go all in and all out consistently for a while, you’ll start to get stronger feelings and come to know what you really wanted all along.
Permission to quit
“Be a good ender.”
It’s really important that you give yourself permission to end things. Most nice guys have a chronic fear of commitment, they don’t want to get themselves into anything (even though they desperately also don’t want to lose things – it’s a great paradox). One of the reasons for this fear is because they don’t trust their own decision-making.
They don’t know who they are – they don’t know what they want and what they dislike and so on – so they’re afraid of making a decision that commits them for the longer term because they can’t trust why they make decisions. They know they’ve made plenty of poor decisions in the past based on confusion, fear, and autopilot reactions.
One way you can relieve the pressure is becoming good at ending things. Allow yourself to know that just because you go all in on something doesn’t mean that you’re all in forever.
For example, if I really like girl on a date, going all in just means having one more date with her – it doesn’t mean marrying her. As long as I don’t make false promises or get her hopes up to make her like me more (classic nice guy tactic), then I can end things if I find out my decision was unreliable e.g. based on fleeting attraction rather than real connection.
And if I really like my new job, then I’ll just stay one more week. I can quit any time – even after years in the same industry.
On the other hand, if I really am all out, then I go all out.
If I’ve started my job a week ago and I really don’t like it, I quit. If I go on a date and I really don’t like her that much, then I don’t see her again.
Become good at ending things, because once you get good at ending things you’ll be able to trust yourself to take risks with going all in – knowing that you can pull back if it turns out to be the wrong call.
Why bother with all this?
Why take the risk to be more honest about even small preferences? Because then you’ll figure out who the fuck you are.
Your personality is essentially a combination of likes and dislikes, wants and not wants. Your preferences make up who you are. And if you don’t know what your preferences are, then you don’t know who you are.
If you start being more honest about them, you’ll figure out what they really are, which means you’ll figure yourself out.
Not only that, but you’ll also:
- Have the confrontations you need to have
- Let people will know what you really want so you’ll actually start getting it sometimes
- Push away and polarize people who are bad for you, because your true views and your true interests and your true preferences will be very magnetic to people who are right for you, and very disgusting to people who aren’t
- Be more honest and authentic
- Build self-respect.
In the end, you build self-confidence over time, simply by being honest about your preferences. And that’s how simple it is to overcome Nice Guy Syndrome. While there’s more work that needs to be done – just be honest about your preferences to figure out what work remains. Your fears and insecurities and limiting beliefs will all clearly reveal themselves as you try to express your wants and likes directly.
Whenever the opportunity comes up to make a choice, make that choice boldly. Remember, you don’t have to win. You might end up getting argued down and that’s fine, as long as you expressed your preference clearly and you held strong (until your mind is genuinely changed and you find out actually what you want).
Your preferences will tell you who you are, and once you know who you are, your confidence will rise, your self-respect will rise, and NGS will no longer be a problem for you.
Thank you so much for watching/reading, I appreciate you going all the way through to the end.
If you liked it or you’ve got things to say, please comment below and share it around.
And of course, if you’re struggling with Nice Guy Syndrome or people-pleasing and you’d like to become more confidently authentic this year, so that you can respect yourself and know who the fuck you are, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org – this kind of work is my absolute specialty – I have taken thousands of nice guys from being confused about who they are to being boldly confident and enjoying their lives.
I’d love to do the same for you.