Nice Guy Syndrome

A long time ago (or maybe not so long), it was beyond my understanding how being a nice guy can be a bad thing. I thought that the nicer you were the better results you got: in your relationships, your career and your life as a whole.

Then I learned about the nice guy syndrome and I embarked in one of the most electrifying personal development journeys in my life. If you tend to give a lot more than you get in your relationships with others, it’s a journey you may wanna consider.

What Is the Nice Guy Syndrome?

The nice guy syndrome refers to a behavioral pattern in some men of being very nice to others.

The typical nice guy puts other people’s needs first, always helps others, avoids confrontation, does chivalrous things, and is proud of it. His nice behavior is particularly obvious with women.

The nice guy syndrome has been getting increasingly more attention in the past few years in psychology, as the less than satisfying effects it creates make it start to lose its positive image.

What’s Wrong with Being a Nice Guy?

Quite a lot is wrong with being a nice guy as matter of fact. As a confidence coach, I often work with men who I soon realize have the nice guy syndrome.

As a result of this syndrome, they have mediocre careers compared with how skilled they are and how hard they work, they are in toxic relationships, or they sabotage almost every aspect of their lives. I have seen such effects so often that for me, they became highly predictable.

Nice guy behavior may look good on paper, but in reality it has a pretty ugly face. In order to grasp this, consider that the nice guy syndrome fundamentally means people pleasing behavior. As a consequence:

  • Nice guys come off as needy and insecure;
  • Nice guys are generic and predictable, so it’s hard for them to create a spark;
  • Nice guys end up ignoring their own needs and not taking care of themselves;
  • Nice guys end up not being there for the people who really matter, because they try to please everybody;
  • Nice guys are full of repressed rage and they tend to erupt at the most inappropriate times;
  • Nice guys lie, hide and they try to get what they want in indirect, manipulative ways.

From there, all hell breaks loose.

The Nice Guy Paradigm

The leading authority on this topic is Dr. Robert Glover, a therapist who specializes in working with men with the nice guy syndrome, and author of the best-selling self-help book for men No More Mr. Nice Guy.

According to Dr. Glover, all nice guys operate (consciously or not) on the same basic paradigm:

If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life.

Of course, this paradigm is unrealistic and ineffective, not to mention a pile of crap.

The point is not to turn into an asshole. Being kind and polite to others has its place. However, nice guys tend to take this too far and they make being nice and getting approval the compass of their social behavior.

Having been both a nice guy and (mostly for research purposes) a jerk, I can tell you that in my experience, none of these are healthy behaviors and there is a path in-between which creates much better results.

Overcoming the Nice Guy Syndrome

As an ex-nice guy and a coach who also works with nice guys (and girls), I came to believe that there are three essential stages in overcoming the nice guy syndrome:

Step 1: Realizing and accepting the fact that being a nice guy may sound noble and some people may compliment you for it but overall, it is not a healthy or productive way of being. The concept is flawed. For many men, this step is the hardest.

Step 2: Creating a deep paradigm shift. Even after you realize being nice does not work, the nice guy paradigm will still exist in your cognitive schemas, from where it influences your automatic thinking and disempowers you. You’ll need to consciously change your thinking and weed it out of there.

Step 3: Being less nice. This step involves changing your behavior, developing key people skills and turning it into a less nice one. Specific actions may include:

  • Expressing yourself more, even when you may upset someone;
  • Asking for what you want and saying ‘no’ to others;
  • Taking more time for yourself and taking care of your own needs;
  • Ending toxic relationships which go nowhere.

The earlier you start, the faster your will enjoy the benefits of being a less nice guy. So take that nice guy smile off your face and go kick some ass!

Image courtesy of micsalac


  1. I love this topic since I’m dealing with it right now. It can be hard to tell people what you want and what you feel when you’ve never done it before. I confronted a coworker about some things they were doing. Afterward I was happy that I took action but it was awkward and I felt weird for the rest of that day.

    I can’t help but want my interactions with people to go smoothly. But at the same time I don’t want to be disrespected or taken advantage of. I guess the key is treat people the way you want to be treated and I would respect anyone that confronted me about something I was doing wrong.

    • Hey Jesus, welcome back 🙂

      When you’re not used to upsetting people it feels awkward and you tend to try and patch things up, even if it means sacrificing your own needs.

      I recommended you don’t give in to this tendency and keep firm in your position – it gets easier with time and practice.

  2. Nice article. There are some great advices for the nice guys around the world that have experienced bad interactions. Yet, I have a question.. what about the nice girls out there?! I know that their number may be smaller, but these girls exist..
    Good luck to you all!

    • Hey Delice!

      Hm… I’m not sure the number of nice girls is smaller than the number of nice guys out there. I tend to work with a lot of women with a nice girl syndrome and what applies for nice guys applies for them as well.

      The best book for women I know on this topic is The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet Braiker.

  3. Interesting, so I understand from here that men are most likely to have this syndrome rather than women.. Do psychologists give any reason for this?

    • Alexandra, only men can have the nice guy syndrome because it is the nice GUY syndrome.

      However, there is also a nice girl syndrome which does a lot of damage, although I think it’s getting somewhat less attention, both in psychology and popular culture.

  4. I have some work to do. Thanks for the article Eduard.

  5. Hi Eduard,

    I respectfully disagree. In the words of Martin Luther King, “we must have a tough mind and a tender heart.” The problem comes in when individuals mistakenly equate kindness with weakness–which it is not. Good post, though.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I think kindness can be a strength or a weakness. It depends where you’re coming from. In the case of men with the nice guy syndrome, it is a weakness because it’s motivated by a desperate need for approval and it’s a sneaky (not to mention often ineffective) way to try and get their needs met.

  6. I have messed up big time by nice guy syndrome. I am now 49 years old and need to change. I don’t know how I ended up that way, I think it was the way I was brought up, but it sure does not work. I need all the help and advice I can get!

    • It’s incredible how many years one can waste by not handling issues such as the nice guy syndrome. Then again, it’s never too late to change.

  7. I have read and am a big fan of the book no more mr nice guy by Dr. Robert Glover. It has changed my life.

    I really like how compact and powerful your 3 step solution to the nice guy syndrome is.


  8. I confess I was that guy. Nice, over-loving, too giving…a victim. Till it hurt too much and now I am nice when it needs to be but firm and fair everywhere else. So, be real and say what you feel and you’re not cruel if you stick to your own rules. It’s good to be nice for only a slice of the time. The rest is setting and keeping the boundaries.

  9. Spot on! I am married to an INCREDIBLY NICE GUY. I am always hearing praises about him everywhere. Everyone just adores him. Women swoon over him, even in my presence. BUT he’s so nasty to me that even I have a hard time reconciling the 2. He erupts at me all the time. I have supported him through school and setting up his business, and now that he’s become successful, he cannot even hide his contempt of me. I have been slow to see things for what they truly are even though I am a reformed former nice girl myself. His ‘niceness’ crap outside the house and ‘nastiness’ inside the house is what shook me straight to my niceness nonsense. I am happier with my self since I got off the niceness wagon. Now I need to just get off his wagon too since despite doing my best to keep the marriage as stress free as possible, he still brings home the burdens of being overly nice to people and vomits it all over me. I am so afraid of mr. nice guy and his rage that I live everyday, trying not to offend him, until I can get on my own two and be free of him.

    • Hey JR,

      It’s great to get the insider perspective of a woman who’s married to a nice guy. I know that many women think that if they would find and marry a nice guy, they would be sooo lucky. This should get them to think twice about that assumption.

    • JR, you’re not married to a nice guy. You’re married to a jerk. Read the book “No more Mr. Nice guy” to get a better sense of the nice guy syndrome.

    • MaggieJean says:

      What this article is describing is an abusive passive/aggressive covert narcistist. I was married to one and living with this type of man is absolute hell. The complete Jeckyl and Hyde is a way to isolate their victims because no one can believe what a monster they are in private. The toxic relationship, which may be the woman’s fault, is just as much or more his. Living with someone who is incapable of being honest and who will lie and cheat behind your back instead of assertively trying to compromise is something I lived with for more than a decade and I almost ended up in the looney bin. If you are married to this man, get help immedietly! These men are dangerous and you need help to maintain your sanity and sometimes to insure your safety.

  10. Once upon a time, I was a nice guy. It SUCKED!

    I’ve written on this topic as well, because it deserves attention. People who are overly nice are not actually perceived as being nice.

    I know a girl who has no backbone whatsoever. She does anything to please people. She does the same stuff to me. And I don’t feel like she’s even being nice to me. I feel like she’s a bit manipulative, and really weak.

    Authenticity beats niceness, hands down. Even if you’re a little douchey, at least it’s something out of the ordinary!

    • Been there brother. I know it’s not in line with conventional wisdom, but being douchey can create some impressive results with people. Those who condemn it from the get go typically have never tried it.

  11. So Are you saying no girls want a nice guy?
    And if we re not going to be nice guys are we gonna be jerks?

    • I don’t think going to the other extreme and being a jerk is the best alternative. Instead, be what Dr. Robert Glover calls an Integrated Male: assertive, confident, and caring at the same time. Take the best of both worlds.

      You know, it’s typical for nice guys to ask that question about becoming a jerk. They tend to see this in black and white.

  12. Part of the Nice Guy Syndrome is not knowing how to say no when you really mean it. I started a twitter account to empower people to say no to the things they don’t want to do and in doing so, give them peace of mind. The twitter account is “_Doc_NO”. Everyday I will share a type or a resource empowering you to say no. You can signup here:

  13. I used to be the nice guy, until I realized it was losing me respect rather than gaining. Being nice isn’t bad, it’s when being nice is your method of getting people to approve or like you. It’s not effective, I have more friends than I ever have because I dropped the garbage and learned to “be myself”. Whatever that is eh? 🙂

  14. Mr NiceyNice says:

    All of the “Nice Guys” out there have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Fact is nice guys are just too intelligent for their own good. Most of them have a highly developed conscience and a higher sense of morality. Many nice guys become who they are because they saw their mothers go through hell at the hands of so called “bad boys”. The truth is, its women that have the problem here, NOT the guys. They are simply attracted to alpha males regardless of how bad it will be for them and the sad thing is, they cant really control it.

  15. I am a shy guy. A few women told me they can tell that im a shy.

  16. This article and website made my life,Because i got the right answer in right time to my social problems.Thank you very much.

  17. Wow, I never knew this syndrome existed, thought I coined this term myself. I am very much bedeviled with this, am always trying to please everyone and worry about hurting others’ feelings. I’ve also noticed it leads to a lack of interest from the opposite sex – “nice guys” are good as friends, that’s it. I’ve bookmarked this page and will definitely check in here often.

  18. There are parts of this is true and part of me ain’t true. I need to work a lot about honesty and letting my feelings known to my boss, bosses appropriately. But at the same time, I don’t want to appear like I’m whining. I do say things with my coworkers or during our meetings, but when it comes to one-on-one meeting with my manager I tend to be quit. I’m not happy with my current workplace, projects, and the lack of resources I’ve been give. I also learned my manager don’t want to promote because of our personality not clicking even though I just received excellent reviews. I’m sort of stuck. Feels like the only solution go somewhere else. I need some advice…

  19. I have similar interpersonal problems, as did Cinderella, who was ultimately vindicated, just for her goodness and beauty. (Unfortunately, Cinderella Syndrome has already been appropriated by several other, less apt in my opinion, maladies apparently.)

    However, I think this arises mostly from mediocre social bonding skills, which I certainly have.
    Paradoxically, I do possess significant charisma, though it is not available to me consistently enough to prevent this from occurring .
    In family, work, and social situations, I’m constantly subjected to extreme double standards and abuse.
    A recent example: A co-worker exploited me financially in violation of a company policy.
    My complaints were summarily rejected by our supervisor, but the coworker was permitted to express himself, totally unrestrained.
    His presentation of what happened was very loud, sarcastic, belligerent toward me, and clearly inaccurate, but accepted by our supervisor and our employer.
    If I had behaved as he did, it would have undermined my position entirely.

    When the truth later became obvious and I pointed this out to my employer, she said, “well, the two of you were equally responsible.”
    When I asked what specifically my contribution to this problem had been, she said that another employee, who complains all the time about everything and everyone, had made some negative comments about me so, “you had done bad.”

    I’m not doing everything I can to please everyone, so I’m not talking specifically about that kind of situation.
    I do try to represent my interests forthrightly and without distortion.

    I’m a civil and conscientious employee, etc. with a lack of crucial flair in my interpersonal skills.
    I believe this deficit leads to a low social ranking in most situations and unfair treatment.

    My point is, I don’t think this is primarily a problem of being too “nice,” though there are permutations of niceness that can be taken to extremes.
    Have you heard the expression, “the greatest sin is to be boring?”
    It very unfair, but I’m afraid the only remedy is to not be boring, which I’ve found is very hard to learn.

    • Very well said, Dale. You’ve spoken my own mind, but you have an exceptional clarity in how you say it. (I was about to say “nicely done”, but can’t bring myself to using that word now!)

      I’m an older ‘nice-guy’ and I agree… it can be the worst. I never like blaming anything in my life on others, but I do think my dad and I were a bad mix. He was so extremely gruff, and I so shy – that I learned as a kid that if I merely said whatever he wanted to hear, and acted however he wanted to see, then I was home free. Now I’m old and still doing it and feel like I have no real control of my life, I live in circumstances that exist to please others, etc.

      There was a time I would have disagreed with this article vehemently, but now I caution any skeptical ‘nice guy’ reading this to think very hard about it. You do NOT want to end up an ‘old nice guy’. Life often feels totally wasted, and unlivable. And this from a guy who looks like he has it all, basically.

  20. This is a very interesting article, and posts. I was that nice guy, I and the descriptions of symptoms fitted me very neatly, particularly the explosions of rage. The three steps I recognised myself as well, so it’s pleasing ( ugh, I hate that word,) to see I was on to something. I find step 2 the most challenging, because although I have clicked to the idea that it is not about switching from being a nice guy to a jerk, and I have sorted out or am sorting out through therapy many of the issues that led me to being a nice guy, I still find that even after 5 or 6 years of practice, old habits still rear their nice ugly head. I still smile too much and laugh and make jokes too much when I meet leople, especially the self depreciating kind. Occasionally I’ll click to this and start behaving more like a normal person, but after a while you just forget and you have to snap yourself out of nice guy all over again. Clicking to what had been going on though has reaped me great benefits though. 5 years ago, I was broke, had no girlfriend, and had either crap jobs or no job. Now I have money, am working in my field of study and love my job, and I have a girlfriend. I still have to work hard to keep from regressing though. It took me a while to understand that I am nkt thee to meet every need of my girlfriend. Thankfully she is not the sort to take advantage of me, but occasionally I hear frustration in her voice whenever I start falling back into the old pattern of doing too much for her. And I often have to reset boundaries at work whenever I get the impression that people think I’m a light touch. I find that people get far angrier when you say no to an unreasonable request when initially you said yes, than when you just say no straight up. It is at this point that some balance should be brought back, however. People do confuse kindness for niceness, and I find it very sad that this happens. Face it, girls are sluts who do go for bad boys. This isn’t perception, it’s biology. Channeling some of the bad boy in me was, biologically speaking, how I was able to attract a mate. I just understood that you can only take it so far before being abrasive, selfish and rude will get you to the same place as being people pleasing, smiling and chirpy. Also, there are plenty of aholes and narcisists who will put all the blame on you and use your niceguy syndrome against you. When you complain to them about how they treat you, they will say “well why didn’t you say so before.” But this does not alter the fact that their jerkness is their own resposibility, not yours.

  21. self esteem says:

    Very nice topic, I find sometimes I act the nice guy role too. But what made me up to post this is an issue happened recently between me and my wife and would love to see how you folk think about it. We had my wife’s family as guests from overseas, one of the guests who was the sister of my wife’s sister in law was to arrive a day after. We were hanging out when my wife’s sister in law was talking about how her sister should trip from the airport to ours in a way that I felt they are shy to ask us to pick her up, . At this moment my wife was not there so I offered that I can drive to the airport or could arrange one me or my wife to give her a ride. I realised after that my wife and her brother had planned not to give her a ride for some reasons that I didn’t know. Now my wife accuses me of being a show off guy trying to get the approval of that girl or in general to please others to hide my weaknesses.

  22. I feel like it’s all i know. Is to be nice. So it’s harder for me. My girlfriend just told me yesterday that I’m too weak for her and i have no backbone and she feels as though I will do anything she ask me to do. She also said that she can tell me anything and i will believe it. So she cheated on me. This just happened yesterday. I never had this problem with anyone. I’ve always been nice but I fell for her hard. I don’t know how to pull myself up from this.

  23. I have had nice girl syndrome and the behavior has felt so deeply ingrained that I bet it would be harder to give up a heroin addiction!

    Although my behavior has changed a’lot, there are still elements to tackle and underlined behavior that needs to be challenged.

    Theres actually a book I intend to buy called a pleaser no longer. Apparently it explains the pattern of behavior and how to break it. So I feel that knowing the pattern and the deep psychological reasons why people pleasing happens, it may be harder to break.

    A smoker will know they are a smoker, they might know why they want to quite, but without the knowledge then it may be harder to give it up.

  24. I am 6 decades old and after reading this article and totally identifying with it. I took the first step. These two sentences especially resonated with me. “Nice guys end up ignoring their own needs and not taking care of themselves.” and “Nice guys end up not being there for the people who really matter, because they try to please everybody” Thank you for this post.

  25. My boyfriend is discovering that he is a “nice guy.” The difficulty for me is that once we became a couple, he started leaning on me so that he could impress others. His reputation is definitely that of a nice guy but the truth is, when I really need help (as an example, after my brother’s suicide) he was nowhere to be seen. He acts so chivalrous to others and has obtained many skills that put him in a position of rescuer. He doesn’t yell or abuse me, but he isn’t exactly there in bad times although he markets himself that way. I am trying to hang in there but it’s hard to see him care more about the opinion of strangers than me. I get the feeling that he isn’t very truthful but he’s not exactly a lying jerk. I guess I feel conflicted and confused.

  26. My husband has to be a nice guy. One of his favorite “bewildering” stories to telk is how a girl dumped him for being too nice. Not entirely sure of her motives, but she may not have been entirely wrong. He’s not always a nice guy, but I think he might be people pleasing enough that many of his problems are being caused by it. I keep noticing how the more he gets stressed out with me and our child, the more I’m stuck reacting to his explosive temper… usually with my own, as that’s my reaction to stress, too. I’ll have to hunt down this book and give it a read. I can’t make him read it, but he really does have a kind and curageous side to him that doesn’t feed his ego. If he has the information, then he can consciously try to avoid being the “nice guy.” He owes himself that much.

  27. Asrar Raja says:

    Dear Robert,
    It was somehow intriguingly interesting. I want to agree with what you wrote beacsue everyone would like to have a chance vent out one’s frustrations.
    It’s easy to exercise thsas steps with your subordinates, but what happen a when you try not to be the nice guy with your superiors. Picking up rows with seniors just because you’re eager to be yourself all the time; does it really help being successful? Would it not lead you towards having a dual personailty syndrome when you try to get rid of this nice guy syndrome?

  28. A nice guy's ex fool says:

    “Nice guy’s” are not victims of their partners. … they are responsible for their choice to behave like door mats, and everything else that they also choose to do. It is incredibly frustrating to be in a relationship with a “nice guy” if you are a genuinely good woman, interested in a healthy relationship. Despite what seems romantic and caring behaviour at first, you soon learn that it was just a ploy. Once the “nice guy” has you, the thing the he wants, the relationship becomes shallow. They refuse to be honest or make decisions, including major life decisions, they lie to avoid outcomes that they extrapolate from their imagination of perceived reality…. and worst of all, the build up resentment for complaints that they never make, and allow their resentment to entitle them to indulge selfishly. When called out on their nonsense, the excuse is usually something to blame the spouse, or includes manipulative self loathing commentary. They can not accept rejection or criticism, and feel that their “niceness ” entitles them to a free hall pass to actually act like an insensitive jerk when it actually matters.

  29. So nice guys lie and hide. And no one likes them or want to be their friends. What is the world coming to!

  30. Mike Siagian says:

    I reckon that I’m up to Step 2 as I’ve acknowledged the fact that I have Nice Guy Syndrome and that being a nice guy hasn’t done any favours for me in the past, especially with my love life.

    But the reason I say that I’m up to Step 2 is because even though I’ve truly recognised my problem, as I still fall back onto this way of thinking all the time – as I’ve been a nice guy practically all my life and don’t know any better. Even when I try to be more alpha, the nice guy cracks still show. Like when I try to stand up for myself, I have to muster every bit of strength within me to do it. Assertiveness does not come naturally for me. I guess being born with Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t help my case, either. And there are other factors too which would have contributed to my NGS, which I won’t get into on here.

    I wish there were some kind of support group for Nice Guy Syndrome here where I live in Sydney, Australia – but I don’t know of any. Because to squash this problem for good, I don’t think I can do this on my own. Besides, only reading is not enough. And this is not a “one man operation” either, lol.

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