How to Get Rid of the Nice Guy Syndrome

A few decades earlier, being referred to as a “nice guy” was quite a compliment. It meant that you were trustworthy, gentle, honest, loyal, sensitive, had a sense of humor, could cry, disliked confrontations, got along with your girlfriend’s family, made that extra effort to please, helped with the chores.

You seemed to be ideal marriage material, a great friend to have, and the perfect father, brother, son.

So where did it go wrong? Where did the concept of the Nice Guy syndrome come from?

Today, “nice guys” are seen as being wimpy, not assertive enough, boring, lacking confidence, and don’t present enough of interest or emotional challenge. In popular culture, they’re seen as without ambition, overly attached to their family. In the feminist canon, nice guys are faking niceness so that they can receive physical intimacy as a reward. They can become bitter and manipulative if their strategy fails.

Nice Guy Syndrome

Traditionally, in most cultures, men must be the initiator of romantic or sexual moves. Many cultures also deem that a man-woman relationship can almost never be one of “just friends” and it would cross the line at some point.

One of the discourses that has spun off from internet discussions is the concept of the Nice Guy Syndrome.

Typically, the term is used to describe men or boys who get fixated on friendships with the aim of ultimately converting them into a romantic relationship. They are the quintessential confidant, when women undergo difficulties with the existing male romantic partner. They are the ever-present shoulder to cry on, willing to spend hours dissecting and analyzing, providing the emotional support that’s needed at this time.

In the complicated realm of relationships, the Nice Guy is seen as the second choice. Women may love the nice guy, but they don’t fall in love with him!

It is also seen as manipulative, fake and can become pathological at some point. Serious sufferers of the Nice Guy Syndrome could refer to women in disrespectful, misogynistic terms in private conversations, and see themselves as heroes for not taking sexual advantage of women or physically abusing them when they “deserve it.”

Nice guys tend to complain about the unfairness of it, that women don’t want a nice chap, and they get attracted to jerks and creeps. They dread being “Friend Zoned” though they continue to behave in “friends only” ways, and cannot understand why the woman can’t read their minds.

This leads to stress, manipulative behavior, game-playing, contradictory emotional states and can result in breakdowns and displaced violence.

Signs of Nice Guy Syndrome

Typical symptoms include:

  • Planning and performing acts with the main aim of receiving sexual favors
  • Believing that they were rejected because they were nice
  • Being an eternal “giver” fixer and approval seeker
  • Requiring constant validation
  • Suppressing real feelings, hiding flaws and mistakes
  • Being overworked and underpaid but not trying to change things
  • Making their partner the center of their emotional universe
  • Assuming that normal etiquette, good manners and compassion makes them different and nice
  • Believing that women are stupid not to recognize their niceness and instead prefer “bad guys” and jerks
  • Complain about being friend zoned constantly
  • Try too hard to do the right things
  • Being too predictable and coming across as fake
  • Emphasizes their own “niceness” and kindness, implying that other men are not so
  • Putting down other men at every opportunity
  • Sees dating as a cumulative trajectory where niceness points are earned, collected and rewarded
  • Unwillingness to reveal true intentions in relationships

Long Term Effects

Prolonged Nice Guy behaviors lead to frustration, emotional trauma, anxiety, depression and insecurity. The symptoms spill over into all areas of relationships, both personal and professional. It can also lead men to do desperate things to gain attention or form relationships. Inconsistencies and contradictions in behavior become more apparent as time goes by. They usually display passive-aggressive behaviors and suppress rage and negative emotions. This can lead to a huge explosion at some point, addictions, perfectionism, snobbery and intellectualism. They play the victim and martyr but never do anything to change the situation.

Ultimately, the Nice Guy could find themselves emotionally exhausted, isolated, mocked, not respected and unable to progress both personally and professionally. They become secretive, controlling, dishonest, go out of their way to avoid conflict, and are highly manipulative. They compartmentalize their lives excessively and find ways to explain and reconcile contradictory aspects of their life.

How to Get Rid of the Nice Guy Syndrome

Seek professional help if you feel you need it, but don’t use it as a crutch. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself too.

  1. Awareness: If you notice some or all of the symptoms of being a Nice Guy, it’s important to become aware of the condition. Read up as much as you can from trustworthy sources, talk to a trained professional and recognize the stimulus-cause-behavior chain. Recognize your own manipulative and controlling behaviors.
  1. Behavior Changes: Once you recognize the signs and symptoms, spend some time analyzing your behavior. You may be prone to immediately agreeing with people to avoid conflict. Take small steps to disagree politely and learn to back up your disagreement with facts. Stop being a people pleaser and learn to say “No” politely and firmly. Set boundaries and teach people to respect you and not ignore you. Realize that you are not solely responsible for the happiness of others and identify your own “White Knight” responses. Learn to help and give without ulterior motives.
  1. Emotional Shift: Make the emotional shift to a more “me” centric way of thinking. If you’re uncomfortable doing something that someone wants you to do, examine your own values and ethics first before you agree. Find ways to express your feelings and ask for support when you need it. If you need to give negative feedback, use techniques such as the “sandwich” to provide it honestly but compassionately.
  1. Take It Slow: It can take a considerable amount of time to alter emotional and behavioral habits. There is no magic wand and no overnight miracles. Becoming aware of the problem is half the battle won. You have to learn to respect other people and not see them as less worthy of your “niceness.” Stop believing that you’re “different” from other men because you think you’re non-violent, helpful, caring, non-controlling, etc.
  1. Truly Connect: One of the issues with Nice Guys is that they cannot make real relationships. Learn to truly accept people for who they are, and respect yourself for who you are. Connect with good masculine role models, and stop depending on approval. You need to connect with your own sense of assertiveness, creativity, response to new experiences, courage and healthy competitive spirit.

When you ditch the Nice Guy syndrome, there’s nothing to stop you from being truly a nice guy: decent, warm, caring, responsible, ambitious and honest.


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