He’s such a nice guy. Nice guys finish last. Women want nice guys. Women don’t really want nice guys. We’ve all heard these clichés.
How do we make sense of this?
Fair or not, the stereotypical nice guy is passive. And some women may wonder if his sensitivity is a ploy.
On the other hand, charm is easily mistaken for niceness. Charming people are outgoing, have excellent social skills, and are funny. Ted Bundy was charming, but he was also a serial killer.
Self-confidence can also be deceiving. Narcissists are charming and self-confident. One study found that women with more dating experience are more attracted to narcissists (even if the women are marriage minded).
That doesn’t mean being cocky, arrogant, or inflexible. It’s like dancing. A strong lead lets his partner know where they’re going with gentle signals. A bully pushes her around the dance floor. A weak lead creates confusion and frustration.
Nice guys face other pitfalls. Being sensitive and empathetic is important. But he might get sucked into someone’s psychodrama.
But being nice isn’t about giving people whatever they want. That’s being a pushover. Someone might pretend to like you when you let them get away with something. But they don’t respect you. They think you’re a sucker. And by giving in you’ve only encouraged them to take advantage of other people. That’s not nice.
Self-respect is about being nice to yourself. A self-respecting man doesn’t blind himself to a woman’s disrespectful behavior. She might lament that she thought he was a nice guy, but he left her like all the rest. But maybe he left her because he’s a nice guy. He was being nice to himself.
Saying no can be nice, even if it upsets the other person. What they want might not be good. Being nice can mean setting boundaries, confronting someone, or refusing to bail someone out of the natural consequences of their poor choices. It’s nice to let people learn from their mistakes. It can prevent them from doing harm to others in the future.
A nice guy respects a woman’s boundaries without being told to. And a nice woman doesn’t test a man’s boundaries because she has good boundaries to start with.
Most of us have a list of things we want in a romantic partner. It’s important to know what you want. Some folks have extensive lists detailing the most mundane things. But a nice guy’s list is limited to deal breakers. He wants to discover her as a person, not force her into a preconceived mold.
And a nice guy doesn’t take a woman’s list too seriously. He’s not going to pretend to be someone else just to please her. He knows who he is.
A nice guy doesn’t mess with others, and he owns his stuff. Cooperation is his first move, and he doesn’t retaliate when people treat him poorly. He contains the situation instead. Sometimes that means just walking away. Other times it means confronting things directly with non-violent communication. And limiting self-defense to whatever is minimally necessary to prevent further harm.
In the end it’s about balance. Respecting other people’s boundaries and insisting that other people respect his.