Watch the video above or read the blog post version below
Being “nice” is a bad thing.
As a former Nice Guy or should I say a recovering Nice Guy, who spent over two decades being incredibly nice, I speak with some authority when I say that being nice is a completely bullshit way of being. It actually does more harm than good!
What is “nice”?
Let’s start by defining what being nice means. Nice means trying to make somebody else happy, trying to make them more comfortable, or trying to make their life easier.
And I know it sounds good on paper. It sounds like a noble thing to be. But today, I’m going to give you five reasons why it isn’t.
It enables bad behavior
For someone to change for the better they need to go through what’s called a ‘crisis’. They need to experience enough pain to realize “Shit, I gotta get my act together! I must change my behavior and improve my life!”
When you are nice to someone who’s going through self-inflicted suffering, you actually reduce that pain level. And quite often, you reduce it so much that it’s no longer a crisis. So they don’t change.
This essentially condones bad behavior. It means this person is now going to repeat what they were doing because it doesn’t quite feel bad enough to change. Niceness, or making someone feel better, essentially removes the necessary motivation that people require to improve their behavior… even if it’s for their own good.
That’s why those who are surrounded by nice people all the time tend to stay the same, whereas people who get harsh but true criticism, discouragement from bad behavior, and get tough love do tend to improve.
Self-sabotage doesn’t require compassion. Compassion is for people who have something they just need to accept – a problem that can’t be fixed. But when someone’s damaging their own life with their shitty behavior, they don’t need compassion; they need assertiveness. They need someone to hold up a mirror and say, “This is what you’re fucking doing. Sort your shit out.” Being nice always means not being confrontational, and confrontation is often what’s required to save somebody’s life.
We’ve all got the devil inside us – we’re all capable of awful things. When you’re around a nice person who’s got no boundaries, you’re more likely to become that dark thing. If you’re a user, or you’re manipulative, or you’re an abuser of some kind, it’s a nice person who is more likely to provoke that in you.
So if you’re going around being extra nice all the time, you’re essentially encouraging bad behavior in others because you will not set boundaries with them. You will not confront them on their shit and therefore they get away with it. The longer they get away with it, the more it becomes a pattern, and the entitled they feel to be this way.
You’re essentially training people to be bad.
What to do instead:
Just tell the fucking truth. Be honest about your thoughts and your feelings about other people’s behavior. Give them genuine feedback.
You can still tell them “Yes, I like the way you did that” and “Look, that’s out of your control, you just need to accept it” if those things are how you truly feel. But when someone’s doing something bad deliberately, something that they could choose not to do, you need to be straight with them about the way you feel and what you think of their behavior, even about your judgments.
They don’t have to take it on board. They don’t have to change but at least ensure they had the opportunity to see what they really look like, rather than giving them that compassionate pat on the back that discourages self-awareness and change.
It prevents emotional processing
When you’re nice you prevent people from processing complex emotions.
Niceness is a strategy. Essentially, it’s a strategy to reduce the amount of uncomfortable emotions that you and other people feel. Emotions like grief, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, fear, anxiety, depression, on and on and on – pretty much any emotion that isn’t happiness or calmness or excitement. Anything in the ‘uncomfortable’ category gets squashed by niceness.
Now, what’s the problem with that, you ask? The problem is all of those emotions are necessary experiences. They serve a purpose. Grief helps you overcome a loss, as does sadness. Anger helps you be more assertive, courageous and passionate. Confusion is what’s needed to help motivate you to find an answer. Disappointment teaches you a lesson.
If you’re depriving people of these emotions, you’re depriving them of helpful stuff that comes with those emotions. If you’re always cheering someone up when they’re sad, they won’t process their losses properly. If you’re always calming someone down when they’re angry, then they won’t develop assertiveness and courage. If you relieve them of confusion, they won’t solve the problems they need to solve.
When you use your niceness to make someone feel happy instead of feeling something else, you’re not doing it for them; you’re doing it for yourself because you’re uncomfortable with them feeling that way. They might need to feel that way, and you’re stealing that away from them!
Deprive someone of their natural emotions for long enough and you make them weak. They need those emotions to process the vast variations of life experiences. If you deprive them of those emotions, you deprive them of their ability to process life. You are making them fragile, all because you can’t handle them being angry or sad or hurt.
What to do instead:
Support, but don’t fix. If someone’s in pain, you can be there for them – you can throw an arm around their shoulders and be a good listener – but don’t try to change their mood.
Don’t try to ‘fix’ the problem. Let them be angry for as long as they need to be angry. Let them be sad until they’re over their grief. Leave them be confused until they figure out the solution.
Don’t try to speed up that process. Leave them to do it themselves instead of being manipulative.
It creates unhealthy codependence
Niceness is often a sneaky technique to make people need you.
It comes from a deep fear that we nice people have about being insignificant. We need our validation; we need other people to say “Without you, I would be lost.” And so we use niceness to disable people.
They start to become dependent on us. They start to need our help, support, and approval. We actually set that system up in a somewhat subconscious and very manipulative way. People will start to believe that because you’re always there to support them and always there to help them and always nice to them, that they’ve always needed it – that they can’t survive without it. So you actually undermine their self-confidence.
By always being nice, instead of being honest, you also push them towards something that’s very poisonous: the path of least resistance. People will come to rely on you. They’ll see that it’s easier to go to you than it is to sort shit out for themselves. They’ll start to avoid struggle and hassle and anything else that builds character.
I used to do this all the time at the office. I would solve someone’s problem quickly rather than making them solve it themselves. Eventually, that developed into a pattern of them just coming to me without even trying to solve the problem by themselves first. It wasn’t long before they started to believe that they couldn’t solve problems without me.
You create a codependency with people that disables them. They lose their ability to problem-solve because they think they need you.
What to do instead:
Push people to solve their problems themselves. If they’re going to come to you for guidance, make sure that guidance is on how they can figure it out rather than you figuring it out for them. Push them to be independent, so that they never need you. That’s truly helping someone. That’s teaching a man to fish rather than fishing for him.
If you struggle with helping people without trying to fix them, check out this blog post on how to help a friend.
It creates false relationships
With inauthentic niceness, you manipulate people into a relationship based on false impressions.
When somebody starts to like you or even love you because of how nice you are, you are essentially tricking them into a relationship with that nice representation of yourself, which isn’t all of who you are. In fact, it’s only a small slice of the pie.
All those other emotions you feel and all those disagreements and confrontations you want to have are all hidden when you’re being nice. So they’re falling in love with the bullshit act that you’re putting on, and that is very fucking manipulative.
There’s a manipulation technique known as ‘gaslighting’, which essentially means you make someone doubt their own reality. When you’re being nice all the time, what you’re doing is making people doubt the possibility that you have any so-called ‘bad’ qualities. They’ll start to see you ‘perfect’, which will also hurt their self-worth when they’re around you – they’ll start to see themselves as flawed compared to you because you always seem so nice and happy all the time.
Overall, this will lead people to question their understanding of reality and of life. If they’re not sure about what you really are, they start to become unsure about what they really are… about what anything really is. By you putting on a false act and convincing them of it, you’re undermining their ability to accurately assess reality.
Worst of all – and I see this happen all the time – this can lead to very long term friendships or even a marriage. You can keep someone strung along for years on this act (I know I did). And what are you doing? You’re stealing their life away! Because if they don’t really like you for who you really are, and you’re married to them for 5-10 years, essentially you’re committing a really serious type of fraud.
If you don’t show people who you really are and you form long-term relationships with them, then you are stealing their life. How is that nice? I’m surprised there aren’t laws against this!
What to do instead:
Let them see who you really are, what you really feel, what’s beyond the ‘nice’ performance… and let them decide for themselves whether or not they like you. Stop fucking manipulating people. It’s unfair and nobody wins in the long term. All you get is some short-term validation, and then everybody loses.
It sets unrealistic expectations
You’ll start to convince people that this kind of niceness actually exists, that humans really are this altruistic and happy all the time. This creates a very false impression of what humans are actually like. This is why a lot of people have shame around anxiety and depression and anger problems: because they’re surrounded by nice people who don’t seem to have any of those problems. They don’t realize they’re surrounded by a bunch of bullshit artists.
When you’re nice all the time, you set the bar too high for ordinary honest people. You make everybody else look like they’re mean or selfish in comparison to you, without realizing the truth is that you’re the selfish one – convincing everybody that you’re nice just so that you can get their approval.
Real humans are a mixture. We can be good and we can be bad. We can be nice and we can be nasty. And that’s a real human being. That’s what we need to get accustomed to. We need to be able to look out into the world and know that’s what really exists. If you’re surrounded by nice people all the time, you start to lose your ability to judge people accurately and that can lead to disasters.
And think about yourself here: you’re going to be exhausted keeping up this nice guy/girl act all the time. You’ve gotten yourself into a trap – you set a precedent where you’re nice all the time and now you’re backed into a corner because if you break out of that people are going to think you’re suddenly being weird. But still you must break out of it.
You must go through the initial transition period, otherwise people are going to expect you to be nice all the time and it’s going to put a huge amount of pressure on you to be something you’re not. If you’re spending a lot of time being something you’re not, you’re going to lose track of what you really are. And there’s nothing worse than that.
Nice people tend to explode, it’s what Dr Robert Glover (author of No More Mr Nice Guy) calls a ‘puke’. It can be an internal explosion, like depression and self-harm and suicide, or an outward explosion, where they suddenly react very aggressively to somebody for no real reason. This is what happens when the bitterness and resentment of being nice all the time – that comes from feeling like you’re being taken for granted – builds to breaking point.
You’ve got to understand something about all the rage and anger you’re building up – you’re causing that by being fake. Nobody else is doing that to you. And it’s going to destroy your career, your relationships, and your psychology. Whereas if you could just be a bit more honest, you can have a healthy baseline of all these things and not have to worry about an explosion
What to do instead:
Let people see those other sides of you. Let them see you when you’re tired, when you don’t want to help, when you’re bored, when you’re lonely, when you’re anxious, when you’re depressed, when you’re a real fucking human being. Let them see that while you are often nice and generous, it’s not all the time. You also have the ability to be other things.
Let them get can get a sense of you as a real human being, and they’ll start to develop reasonable expectations of you. And they’ll be able to project that onto the rest of the world and have reasonable expectations of other human beings as well.
You’ve got to ask yourself, “Can a manipulative liar be defined as a nice person?”
If not, then you have to stop being a manipulative liar, which means you can’t be nice all the time because nobody is nice all the time. They can appear to be nice all the time but that means at least some of the time it’s being faked.
You’re hiding anger, you’re hiding sadness, you’re hiding tiredness, you’re hiding dislike, you’re hiding disagreement. That’s faking it. That’s manipulation. The solution to this – which is my solution to everything: just be more honest.
It will be hard at first, but you will get used to it. It’s so much easier than being a nice person and it’s better for everybody.
Thanks for watching. If you struggle with Nice Guy Syndrome, please join the BROJO community. Subscribe to the YouTube channel. It will help you break out of it to become a confident yet still generous person.
If you want some 1:1 support on this, niceness is my specialty. I ‘rescue’ nice guys every single day, and you could be one of them. Just get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk through some strategies.