When I start hearing the same message coming at me from multiple independent sources, that usually gets my attention. Last year I kept hearing that women want men with backbone who they can “push up against”. They get tired and ultimately resentful of Nice Guys who always yield powerlessly to them, and everyone else.

Nice guy syndrome is caused by too much anxiety and not enough confidence.

I listened to an interview recently where Robert Glover described what is wrong with Nice Guys most succinctly by quoting a comment from his ex-wife, who said “How would I know that you could ever stand up for me, if you can't even stand up to me?”. Robert calls it Nice Guy Syndrome in his book titled No More Mr. Nice Guy! He points out that while Nice Guys think that what they are doing will please other people, ultimately it just leads to resentment. In short, it really pisses women off.

At Passionately Alive, Nicholas talked about the importance of having relationships with people who meet us where we are at, with a similar level of passion. Women want guys who don't just collapse or run away in the face of strong emotions, whether they be the pleasant or unpleasant variety. When a woman pushes up against a man emotionally, she's testing his boundaries and his resilience; she wants to know that he's up to it, and that he's not going to just walk away or act all pathetic in the face of what's real for her.

In an anger management workshop, Denise Cook talked of the importance of being able to express our anger, and there's even a chapter about this in The Confident Man Program Guide. But she also talked about being prepared to stand our ground and listen to another person's anger without collapsing, running away or becoming defensive.

Women particularly want men who are prepared to listen to what they have to say, even when it isn't all sugary and sweet. When I'm dancing, girls often comment that when I'm providing a strong, firm lead, they enjoy dancing with me more. They want to be led strongly; they don't want a weak, noncommittal lead. It works the other way too; when a girl has no “tension” and her arm just flops around and yields when I push against it, I feel no connection with her. I want a strong connection, not a weak one. When I push against a girl, I want her to push back because that makes the partnership feel more connected and ultimately more fun. It's the same in the rest of life too.

I'm recovering from Nice Guy Syndrome myself. I was brought up to be polite and respectful, and thought that if I was always “nice” to other people, I'd avoid conflict and get through life relatively unscathed. But another way of looking at it is that I adopted the nice guy persona because I mistakenly thought it was the best way to get my needs met without ever upsetting anyone else.

But never upsetting anyone else is impossible; especially if we want to live the life of our dreams. At the very least, other guys are likely to end up jealous of our success. Trying to keep everybody happy means playing life to the lowest common denominator, which just results in us ending up frustrated and resentful with other people.

Being a Nice Guy is really a lazy way of trying to be happy by seeking other people's approval and validation, rather than having to learn how to love and validate ourselves.

Some of the symptoms that have affected me are:

  • Seeking approval and validation from other people
  • Trying to make other people like
  • Worrying too much what other people thought
  • Avoiding conflict
  • Worrying about offending other people
  • Trying really hard not to upset people
  • Taking responsibility for other people's feelings
  • Apologizing for other people's feelings of upset
  • Not allowing myself to feel or express anger
  • Not asking for what I really wanted
  • Not speaking up for myself
  • Making rejection about me, rather than about other people
  • Feeling like I was never good enough
  • Believing that if I just tried harder to please people, they would give me what I wanted without me having to ask
  • Telling people what I thought they wanted to hear
  • Avoiding feelings of shame by not exposing thoughts, feelings or desires I thought were morally unacceptable
  • Pandering to the lowest common conservative denominator

Nowadays, I'm starting to look at things differently. I recognize that Nice Guy Syndrome not only doesn't get me what I really want, but it also tends to piss people off. Especially women. They want a man that's his own real self with them, not a compliant wuss that's trying to seek their approval all the time. I'm working on finding my own validation internally instead of seeking it from other people. I'm learning to accept that when people are upset or angry with me, that's about them rather than about me. I can take it. I'm learning to question and challenge the misguided things that I have been taught about basic human nature which made me feel shameful about myself. I'm standing up for myself and speaking my truth, whether other people like it or not, and I'm learning to handle the uncomfortable feelings that I get when I do so. Ultimately, I'm learning to be more authentic by stripping away the act that I misguidedly played in the hope that it would make other people like me.

I highly recommend Robert Glover's excellent book No More Mr Nice Guy. Love Systems also have a great interview with Robert Glover with more tips on how to be a more attractive man by dropping the Nice Guy act.

The first step in recovering from Nice Guy Syndrome is to stop trying to make people like you. To do this effectively, you also need to ditch the emotional baggage that makes you seek other people's approval in the first place. These are key steps to changing your mindset which I cover in The Confident Man Program Guide, so grab a copy right away.

Graham Stoney

Graham Stoney

I struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. I created The Confident Man Program to help other men live the life of their dreams. I also offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype so if you related to this article contact me about coaching.


Matt · March 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

While it might not be entirely true that nice guys finish last, you rarely see them having a win, do you?

When you break it down to a primal/survival level, of course a woman is going to find a man who 'has a spine,' more attractive. They instinctivly want to know both themselves and their future children can be protected by their partner.

While we have evolved, there are just some things you can't budge from the brain and that, I believe, is most certainly one of them!

Paul · January 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Hi Graham, when I had it, I definitely didn't know I did. Even when I got acquainted with the concept, I still refused to accept it applies to me. Is the nice guy syndrome a mental disease? Thanks for the advice.

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · January 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Hey Paul. I wouldn't go quite so far as to call it a mental disease, but it's basically a combination of anxiety, shame, and using ineffective communication skills while trying to get our needs met. But yes, the first problem is acknowledging that we've got it. Cheers, Graham

Rashad · November 17, 2011 at 5:08 am

At the ripe old age of 18, I have a feeling that I'm heading in this direction. I've never had anyone interested in me and every girl I was interested in eventually played the friend zone card. I don't blame them because I know it's a problem I have with myself.
I noticed I have these traits for "Nice Guy Syndrome":
Not asking for what I really wanted
Not speaking up for myself
Feeling like I was never good enough
Pandering to the lowest common conservative denominator
Thing is, I've had my life pretty easy until now and I honestly feel really bad inside that I am complaining. Every time I go through these thoughts, I just mentally kick myself for feeling sorry for myself because I don't have any real conflict experience. Any extra advice you could give?

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · November 17, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Hey Rashad. Although it mightn't seem it, I think you're in a really great place. I wish I'd had your level of awareness at age 18; awareness is the first step and most important step. Once you have that, you'll naturally start noticing opportunities to do something about it. My advice is to start expressing what you want and how you feel despite the discomfort you feel, so that you learn to deal with discomfort, conflict and rejection. The underlying belief behind Nice Guy Syndrome is that we aren't good enough, and we will be overwhelmed with anxiety if we actually start being true to ourselves around other people. As you start putting out what you really want, feel and think, you'll start chipping away at the anxiety and discover that you don't always end up overwhelmed; in fact, it feels liberating. And when you do get overwhelmed, it's not terminal. Get on my online course if you aren't already, and do the exercises to get out of your head and out of your comfort zone. Hit the forums too and ask anything you like there; they're quiet at the moment, but it'll be a great resource once everyone starts using them. You have a bright future having discovered this so young; I know 50 year olds who have only just discovered the insights you now have, and ~80 year olds who still haven't got it. Good luck! Graham.

G · October 4, 2011 at 1:26 am

Hi these are the ones I definitely have:

  • Seeking approval and validation from other people
  • Trying to make other people like me
  • Taking responsibility for other people’s feelings (yes with wife )
  • Not asking for what I really wanted
  • Not speaking up for myself
  • Feeling like I was never good enough
  • Pandering to the lowest common conservative denominator

But I was brought up to be a tough guy so a lot of this I don't have.
I hate being the tough guy and the perceived image of toughness. My Dad drilled it into me that I had be able handle myself. My dad was a good man though the only thing he was probably quite passive.
Therefore I cannot socialize and make friends.
Any advice?

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · October 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Your Dad's idea of "handling yourself" probably meant keeping your feelings to yourself because he was uncomfortable with any emotions, including yours. He meant well, but it's not a very helpful role model when it comes to relationships or being a fully self-expressed and happy person. The tough guy act is just a way of avoiding your feelings; you hate it because deep down you know it's not really you. This would explain why you're overly sensitive to your wife's feelings, and why you don't get the acceptance and approval you crave: People relate deepest on the emotional level, and your Dad shamed you into denying yours. The solution is to learn to feel and express your feelings. Learn to play music if you don't already. Get some emotional healing. Start telling your wife and others how you actually feel, and just allow your emotions to be and to flow naturally. It may feel unnatural at first, since you're out of practice at it. Also read the article on how to recover from a passive father. Expect some ups and downs as you join life's emotional rollercoaster; it's natural. Remind yourself that the more you reveal your true self and the less you seek other people's approval, the more it comes your way. Good luck!

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