We’ve all heard the phrase “Nice guys finish last,” right? Why is that? Why do the men whose female friends tell them they’re a great catch never have a date come Friday night? Why does the guy who never rocks the boat at work get passed over for the promotion? To answer these questions, we talked to Dr. Robert Glover, author of the book No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan For Getting What You Want In Love, Sex, and Life.
We discuss the attributes of these Nice Guys, why there’s been a proliferation of Nice Guys during the past 30 years, and what men can do to beat the Nice Guy Syndrome and get more out of life.
For more info about Dr. Glover’s book and his work, check out Nomoremrniceguy.com
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another episode of The Art of Manliness podcast. Now, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘Nice Guys finish last’ right, but why is that? Why do man whose female friends telling that he’d be a great catch for some girl never get a date on Friday night? Why is the guy that never rocks the boat at work and is pretty much Mr. reliable never get the raise or the promotion?
Well, our guest today has written a book been about this topic and his name is Dr. Robert A. Glover and he is the author of the book in ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’. Dr. Glover is a psychotherapist, a Ph.D. in American Family Therapy and he says he is recovering Nice Guy himself and has spent thousands of hours helping other men recovering from the Nice Guy syndrome. Dr. Glover, welcome to the show.
Dr. Glover: Thanks Brett, good to be here.
Brett McKay: Well, Dr. Glover, tell us who is Mr. Nice Guy, what’s he like?
Dr. Glover: Well, fundamentally, the Nice Guy doesn’t believe he is okay just as he is. Now, this is might even be a conscious thought process. For some Nice Guy it is, but for many is much more even unconscious process of thinking that in order to be liked and loved and get their needs met, they have to find a way to become what they think other people want them to be.
Brett McKay: So, basically a people pleaser, I think?
Dr. Glover: That’s probably one of the most fundamental ways to look at. Is it they’re people pleasures, they often avoid conflict, they’ve difficulty making decisions, making their needs or priority, they tend to believe they’ve get to other people first before their needs can get met and you know I guess this maybe in common vernacular we might say that you know he is the wimp, the doormat, the spineless guy. They wants to make everybody happy but yet lets everybody walk on him, now that’s probably the extreme characteristics of a Nice Guy and Nice Guy fall everywhere in between seeking approval versus being total doormats.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and you talk in your book that–– that I was really interested–– that Nice Guys really aren’t that nice, they has a kind of ulterior motive sometimes.
Dr. Glover: And that is really the core fundamental issue. Probably the two issues for Nice Guys is, one is that they’re not that nice and two trying to make everybody else happy does not make them happy. So, there’s two fundamental flaws in the paradigm of the Nice Guy. But that part about not being so nice there’s a few reasons for that. One of the first one is, if you’re trying to please people, you’re always going to be fundamentally dishonest. I tell the men I work with there is only one way to be in integrity and that is to ask yourself what feels right, what seems right to you and then do it and if you’re trying to seek other peoples approval you never either ask yourself what feels like the right thing or if you do ask yourself, if you’re think you might upset somebody or they may not like it or they may be mad at you about it, you won’t do it. So, Nice Guys are, as long as you’re trying to please anybody else you’re not going to be a high integrity kind of person. Now, if you’ve ever been in a relationship with somebody that you couldn’t trust, you couldn’t depend on their word, there is something might be bothering them or on their mind and they never told you or you found out later or as is true for a lot of Nice Guys comes out indirect, passive, aggressive ways when you’re not expecting it, which is another reason why Nice Guys fundamentally aren’t nice because of their passive-aggressiveness.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that was interesting you talked about how–– and I’ve seen this with a lot of–– you know not just men but a lot of people but yeah, and a lot of times with Nice Guys that they’re keeping score, a score that no one else is aware of except for them.
Dr. Glover: That’s a great way to put it, Brett. And I see that a lot in relationship especially and I tell couples I work with, anytime you put a scoreboard up in your living room the relationship is in trouble. But that’s especially true with Nice Guys and that score keeping often leads to what I call a victim puke and that is you kind of keep things in, keep things in, keep things in either all the things you believe you’ve done for other people that haven’t been reciprocated or all the things you keep in that people you perceive have done to you and you feel like a victim and sooner or later that stuff is going to come out in not- so-very-nice ways.
Brett McKay: So, how did this Nice Guy develop? I mean is it a recent phenomenon or it has been with us for a while?
Dr. Glover: You know I suspect that there has always been milk toast kind of guys and henpecked kind of husbands. I really believe it has really come to be much more prominent now for, I think, at least a couple of reasons. One is that at least the men I work with, I see a lot more men growing up in homes where they’re not connected to their fathers either because dad was absent, he was gone, he worked too much, or the boy was trying to be different from his father, either dad was angry, philandering, alcoholic, treated mom badly. So, I see a lot of young men have grown up and I’m in that category as well trying to please my mother, trying to get approval from women, not feeling well connected to my father and I think also a part of that is the dominance of young men having to please woman at an early age whereas maybe 100 and 150 years ago, young men spent a lot of time with her dads or uncles or cousins or grandfathers and not been trying to be different from their fathers or trying to please women. I think that was really big part of it and if you add to that, if you consider the typical school system, I’ll often ask the men I work with how many male teachers they’d between kindergarten and in junior high, and average is about 1 to 1.5 over you know all the guys I’ve asked. So if you think about it even getting from third grade to fourth grade, not only math, you’re learning how to do your reading, writing, arithmetic, but usually even how to please a woman and what I’ve found is when men start trying to figure women out and start tying to figure out how to make women happy, not only do they not make the woman happy as I’ve heard countless times from countless women, but the men become passive, indirect, pleasing, and is again passive-aggressive and not particularly available to the woman they’re actually trying to please.
Brett McKay: That’s interesting. So how do this Nice Guy traits, the Nice Guy syndrome, how does it is getting the way of living a full life for man? I mean and what areas do you see has effect, just love life, does it affect work, or is it very pervasive in all their life?
Dr. Glover: You know I found with most Nice Guys it tends to affect most of the rest of their life. Occasionally, I’ll talk with a guy that’ll say ‘Well, yeah, at work I’m not a Nice Guy, I kick ass but as soon as I get home I’m a pussy, I’m trying to make my wife happy. ’ But I found with most Nice Guys because of their emotional road map, or emotional paradigm of life. It really is in most areas trying to seek external validation through getting the approval by other people, is in avoiding conflict not having anybody upset or angry at them, it’s what I called covert contracts where they give to get, where they give to other people hoping to get something in return. And usually for Nice Guys what they’re hoping to get in return is praise and validation and appreciation and recognition. But in almost always when it comes to getting their needs met they’re typically giving to other people hoping that other people again will get back to them without them having to ask. So if you look at it, if you’ve a person who is seeking external validation, trying to please everybody needs, not being fully honest and transparent, not letting know people what he thinks or wants or what’s on his mind or what’s bothering him, if he avoids conflict, if he is always trying to make sure everybody is happy and nobody is upset and then if he can’t make his own needs priority, if he can’t be honest, if he can’t faces fears and his challenge, if his anxiety is ruling him, okay, they’re all old package right there. And it usually is going to affect every area of his life and I found that the core areas where I tend to work with Nice Guys the most is around women and relationships, around sexuality and around working career and around having passion and living up to their potential. So, those are usually the biggest areas that I see get manifested where Nice Guys tend to be frustrated in those areas but because they assumed the road map they’re following of trying to be a good man, get everybody’s approval, avoid rocking the boat because they think that as a legitimate road map to take them where they want to go. When they get frustrated they don’t know what else to do but just try harder doing more of the same thing.
Brett McKay: That never works, that never, never that works.
Dr. Glover: Never works, just like you know say somebody to give you a map of Cleveland drops you down in Seattle and says you know find your way to the court house and if you believe that map should help you find the way to navigate the way to the court house but it doesn’t seem to work. But if you think that map is accurate, you’re just going to keep trying harder, getting more frustrated and not be particularly successful and that’s what I see with Nice Guys. They are following a road map they believe should take them where want to go but the road map is completely inaccurate, outdated, and just totally flawed but they just keep trying harder anyway.
Brett McKay: Alright. So, Dr. Glover a lot of men might be hearing this right now and might be thinking you know this is me, I’m––what you’re saying describes me perfectly. What can these men do to shed the Nice Guy syndrome?
Dr. Glover: That’s a great question and, of course, there is a not a single simple answer to that. Now, typically when I talk with people about Nice Guy syndrome, whether I’m talking with guys or talking with women that are curious about what I teach men, the question often is–– are you’re saying I should become a jerk, you know, should I become an asshole and just start not caring what anybody thinks. And this is a typical black & white thinking that maybe most humans fall prey to but especially Nice Guy is. Nice Guys tend to see everything in black & white. Now, the other thing that I’ll hear is not only the question, well, do you want to become a jerk. I’ll often hear Nice Guys say something like well, you know I realized to being you know passive pleasure isn’t working to get what I want and I realized I don’t want to become a jerk or be like my father so I want to find a happy balance somewhere between the two. And what I often tell men is that I don’t know where the tipping point is between two dysfunctional extremes. So, actually what I teach men is how to understand what I called a third model of masculinity. I look at both the asshole-jerk and the pleasingly passive Nice Guy is what I called first order men. They’re both just trying to manage their anxiety by controlling the people in situations outside of them. The asshole-jerk tends to deal with threat and strength and bravado whereas a passive Nice Guy tries to manage people in situations with subtlety and directness, okay, but then most of them are trying to do the same thing. So, what I teach men fundamentally is where have to begin is recognizing where their road map is not working and begin to look at a different model towards they become a order men. And the second order men begins by living in integrity. He is cautious of what he wants in life. And real core issue I found with the guys I work with, as they’ve to learn to suit their anxiety because Nice Guy syndrome is fundamentally an anxiety based disorder. Everything they do is trying to keep their anxiety in bay. Well, if you’re out there living a life, if you’re challenging yourself, if you’re putting yourself in new situations, if you’re dealing with people in conflictual situations, you’re going to feel anxious. The key is not either intimidating people to get them to change or manipulating them. The key is only to hold on to yourself and you suit your anxiety from the inside. So, that is probably one of the most core fundamental issues that I work with recovering Nice Guys around is how to learn to sue their anxiety, so that they can lean into things, they’re frightening them and were challenging.
Brett McKay: And I imagine though that say this is a Nice Guy in relationship who starts doing this type of things, starts kind of setting boundaries for himself and not, you know, completely trying to please his partner in every aspect, there is going to be some pushback, the partner might not like this. I mean is this–– could this challenge of relationship–– I mean could this end relationships that a Nice Guy might have?
Dr. Glover: Well, of course it could. Because… I just said my background in my doctorate is in marriage and family therapy so I’m a systems thinker. I tend to look at the systems that hold people cooperate with each other. So, I look at every relationship say between two adults that are in intermittent relationship. Those two people have unconsciously co-created a system that works for both of them at some level and often in very dysfunctional ways. That system is co-created by both people usually to let them use the relationship technology skills they’ve learnt when they were three years old in their family of origin. So often times, for example, if you’ve a person who one of his strongest relationship skill has been a fixer and problem solver, what kind of person he have to attract to himself to do what he does best.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s how …
Dr. Glover: I’ll let you answer that question.
Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Glover: Yes, obviously you’re going to have to track somebody that has problems that needs fixing and that person probably has spent all of their time being perceived as a problem that needs to be fixed and so when they go to the Nice Guys, it feels normal to them too. Now, what I found in talking–– people say, well for example, how do woman react to your book or has there have been backlash against you teaching men to be not nice and the other truth is yeah, I’ve got stacks probably a foot high emails at home that I printed out, email I got from men and women all over the world in response to my book and that stack of email, I think I’ve two emails from women that were critical of my book and it’s obvious they hadn’t even read the book. So, woman like it, they like that I’m teaching men to be honest, to have integrity, to tell them what’s on their mind to be transparent, to set the tone and take the lead in a loving integrated way in their relationship and not burden the woman to have them to make all the decisions. By the way guys, woman hate it, they hate it when you ask what you want to do to night. Now, we guys think were be nice, we think we’re giving them the choice and the option and that’s a kind thing to do, but woman hate it, they feel burden when we men say what do you want to do to night. They want us to show up and say, “Hey, put on your dancing shoes, let’s go dancing.”
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Dr. Glover: They can also always say “No, I don’t feel like it,” which is fine, but at least show up with plans. So what I found is that when men start doing what I teach them to do in general their partners like it. Now, yes, it can cause their partner anxiety as well and that’s one of the beauties of relationship that turns it into what I called personal growth machine. That if one person challenges themselves and grows and holds on to themselves and sues their anxiety and there are other person feels anxiety because of it, but if their partners holds on to themselves and continues to the path, that person then gets to hold on to themselves and sue their anxiety and together the relationship helps both people grow. Now, well it break apart some relationships if the man starts showing up being honest as he probably wants setting boundaries, not tolerating bad behavior, yeah, it’ll.
Brett McKay: Right, well Dr. Glover thank you for your time, it’s been pleasure.
Dr. Glover: It’s been great chatting with you and if any of your listeners want to find out more about my books or online classes they can just check out nomoremr.niceguy.com and get all the information there.
Brett McKay: Alright. Our guest today was Dr. Robert Glover. Dr. Glover is the author of the book “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and to find out more information about his book checkout nomoremr.niceguy.com.
And that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manliness tips and advice make sure to check out The Art of Manliness podcast at “artofmanliness.com” and until next time stay manly.