Don’t be a Nice Guy, be a good guy

Man With Clay Facial Mask In Beauty Spa.If you were an alien visiting Earth (perhaps seeing some TV adverts and suburban homes) you might conclude that middle class humans prize comfort above all else….above passion and achievement…certainly above freedom.

Why else would people trade decades of their life working for more cushions, curtains and sofas?

For fluffy white toweling robes on expensive spa mini-breaks? For cake, candles and cosmetics etc

This is a big puzzle. So I’m interested when I find a book that helps explain this. I’ve just read No More Mr Nice Guy by Dr Robert Glover and was struck by the similarities between what he calls “Nice Guys” and what Steve Biddulph calls “Walking Wallets”.

For this to make sense, you probably need to read my previous article about Walking Wallets.  As a reminder, these are middle class men who’ve given up on living with purpose and adventure and have become only The Payer of the Bills.  They’ve been subdued and emasculated by debt, sedentary living, Keeping Up With The Joneses and suburban conformity.

Here’s the start of Biddulph’s book Manhood which hit me like a Mustachian face punch when I read it ~15 years ago:

“Most men today don’t have a life. 

What they have instead is an act. When a man is deeply unhappy, desperately worried or utterly lonely or confused, he will often pretend the opposite, and so no one will know. 

Early in life little boys learn – from their parents, from school and from the big world outside – that they have to pretend. And most will do this for the rest of their lives.

Thoreau [author of Walden and one of the founders of the financial independence movement] put it best:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. 

Most women are not like this. More and more, women live from inner feeling and spirit.  They have their struggles…but they generally know who they are and what they want.  The men in relationships with these strong and healthy women are simply no match for them

Biddulph describes masculine energy as power that can be used for good or evil.  What’s the difference between a male petty criminal and a male police officer or soldier?  Its mostly self-control, discipline and the ability to defer gratification for higher values and / or greater rewards over time.  These are skills that boys need to learn to grow into well-adjusted men.

it seems obvious that if you live in a man’s body, you need to learn how to “drive” one from someone who knows how to drive their own

The process of learning to “drive” a male body is like driving a supercar.  If you just get in and floor it, you’ll spin off at the first corner. You learn to respect its power and be cautious with the throttle.

Humans are emotional creatures. Without self-control, anger and frustration are dangerous (especially when combined with male strength).  Boys learn self-discipline by being around older guys who have their shit together…hopefully starting with our fathers.

But what if we never had strong male role models? Dr Glover’s theory is that we end up with a generation of Nice Guys.  I’m not saying this is an absolute truth…it’s just a theory. But it resonated with me (probably because I recognised some of my own flaws in it).

Here’s Dr Glover’s definition of a Nice Guy:

A Nice Guy’s primary goal is to make other people happy.

Nice Guys are dependent on external validation (especially from women) and avoid conflict like the plague.

Nice Guys are guided by the following three “covert contracts”:

  • If I am nice, then everyone will love me and like me (and people I desire will desire me).
  • If I meet other people’s needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask.
  • If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life.

These covert contracts operate at an unconscious level. They don’t work for a number of reasons, but Nice Guys are convinced they should.

Because most Nice Guys believe they have kept their side of the contract, they often feel helpless and resentful when other people (and the world) don’t keep their side of the contract.

What does a Nice Guy look like?

According to Dr Glover:

  • He is the boyfriend / husband who lets his girlfriend / wife run the show whilst he is absent (either at work or at home behind a newspaper or watching TV)
  • He won’t argue directly…he frustrates his partner because he’s so afraid of conflict that nothing ever gets resolved.
  • He tells one person what they want to hear, then reverses himself to please someone else.
  • He keeps secrets rather than “owning” and stating his true preferences
  • He lets people walk all over him because he doesn’t want to rock the boat.

Nice Guys seek the approval of others (especially women). They put other people’s needs and wants before their own, often playing the role of victim. They’re insecure and try to hide their flaws.  They’re disconnected from other men and from their own masculine energy and often feel shame about their sexuality. They create relationships in which they don’t have much sex. And at work they frequently fail to live up to their full potential. As Glover puts it: Nice Guys rot in middle management.

You may be thinking what’s so wrong with Nice Guys? Aren’t they better than misogynists, wifebeaters and rapists?

Errr….yes, but that’s setting the bar kind of low, don’t you think?  We need more good guys…not more wimps.

How does this relate to financial independence?

I know from my coaching that many guys struggle to negotiate effectively with their partners on life choices (especially spending choices).   In my career I saw plenty of Nice Guys with not enough oooomph to get promoted nor reach their full potential. I also know plenty of guys are driven through life by anxiety / fear.

And I know people spend ridiculous amounts of money on comfort, convenience and luxury…that’s mostly why everyone’s broke.

How did this happen?

Glover argues that social changes since World War II have produced Nice Guys:

  • The transition from farming to an industrial / information economy
  • The movement of families from rural areas to urban areas
  • The absence of fathers from the home
  • The increase in divorce, single parent homes and homes headed by women
  • Women’s liberation and feminism

These combined to create 3 key dynamics that contributed to widespread Nice Guy syndrome.

i) Boys were separated from their fathers and other male role models

In a rural society, boys connected with their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and cousins by working alongside them in the fields.  This daily contact with men provided boys with an model of maleness.  Sons learned about being male by watching their dads just as their own fathers had learned by watching their fathers.

As families migrated from rural areas to cities and suburbs, contact between fathers and sons declined. Dads left home to work. Sons didn’t see what their fathers did and didn’t get much time to spend with them.  Fathers became unavailable as men’s addictions to work, TV, alcohol and sex took them away.  Increases in divorce began to separate boys from their fathers.

As a result, men became disconnected from other men in general and confused as to what it meant to be male.

ii) Boys were left to be raised by women

Glover’s argument is that the unavailability of dads during this era often forced mothers to try to take over the job.  Unfortunately even the best and most well-meaning mothers are not biologically equipped to show their sons how to be men by themselves.

The education system also contributed to boys being raised by women. Boys entered schools dominated by females (men make up about 15% of primary school teachers). For most boys the early years at school became basic training in how to please women.

As a result, men became comfortable being defined by women and became dependent on the approval of women.

iii) Radical feminism implied that men were bad and/or unnecessary

The Escape Artist says: feminism is a good thing. It’s great that women got more choices and more power, because life is not a zero sum game where women can only benefit at the expense of men (or vice versa).

I’m happy that countries (and companies) are now lead by women on merit…I voted for Theresa May as Prime Minister…although she’s not been as good as Margaret Thatcher, my favourite Prime Minister since Boadicea. When Stella Rimmington lead MI6, I slept soundly at night. When Angela Ahrendts was making me and other shareholders money as CEO of Burberry, I was delighted. And I’m a fan of Oprah Winfrey and her self help business empire…I could go on and on.

Perceptive readers may be starting to realise that The Escape Artist respects and admires strong women…or, more accurately, non-wimps of either gender.

millieBut Glover makes the reasonable suggestion that women’s liberation came with some unanticipated side effects. Radical feminism told many men that if they wanted to be loved and get their needs met, they had to become what they believed women wanted them to be.  For many men, this meant trying to hide any traits that might cause them to be labeled as “bad” men.

Some radical feminists in the 1960s and 70s angrily claimed that men were the cause of all the problems in the world. Others said men were an unnecessary nuisance.

The majority of women during this era probably didn’t feel this way about men. Nevertheless, enough angry women were significantly vocal to contribute to a social climate that convinced many men that it was not OK to be who they were. Men who were already conditioned to look to women for approval were especially susceptible to these kinds of messages.

How would you enslave the world?

The next bit is The Escape Artist’s theory:

Producing a generation of malleable Nice Guys suits advertisers and companies.  That way they can influence us to buy their stuff (and keep working for them)

How would you persuade men to sit and watch property makeover shows about soft furnishings and garden decking? And watch adverts telling them to shuffle off to the garden centre to buy more? How would you condition men to avoid taking risks? And cling onto safe, salary paying jobs?

By selling them comfort and convenience and persuading them to take on debt that has to be serviced each month.

Once you’ve seen The Matrix you wonder if consumerism is a gigantic conspiracy co-ordinated by politicians and CEOs to enslave the poor, working and middle classes? But there is no conspiracy.  Here’s how Ed Latimore puts it:

I don’t think there’s an INTENTIONAL conspiracy to make everyone fat, lazy, and stupid. The goal is just to make a lot of money. The best way to do that is to get people hooked on junk, both physically and mentally.

A fat, low-attention span, instant gratification, dopamine seeking population is easy to control, and better to profit from.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can choose to change.

How can you cure Nice Guy syndrome?

Well, awareness is the first step. Glover then recommends a combination of joining mens groups and counselling. And I wouldn’t argue with him about that. After all, he’s the pyschologist with the bestselling book…I’m just some bloke tapping shit into a computer.

NailsBut I’ll add a couple of suggestions.  If joining a men’s discussion group seems a bit New Agey, how about a martial arts club?  I take my son to Karate.  Men bond over shared activities and clubs like this provide community and structure.

Or what about lifting weights?  Its been amazing for me to experience the changes to my mind and body that came after financial independence.  Just over a year ago, I started to lift weights regularly.

Everyone knows that lifting weights changes your body. But it also changes your mind. Its does this over time through a subtle and complex series of mental and physiological changes.

Your hormone levels change. You feel different, more powerful. Your posture changes, you naturally stand straighter with your shoulders back and lift your chest.  Its weird but people actually respond differently to you.  I don’t expect everyone to believe this…I just invite you to try it for yourself….male or female.

Some women say they don’t want to get huge muscles. This is silly as you have to do a ridiculous amount of training to turn into a body builder type. Trust me, that shit ain’t gonna happen by accident.

No, the point is wellbeing. Arthur de Vany writes about the importance of testosterone (for men and women).

Testosterone controls body composition for both sexes and is important for vitality.  Low testosterone is associated with poor body composition (too much fat, not enough muscle), bad mood, depression, high blood pressure, low strength and energy…there are no known supplements that will raise testosterone because the level is tightly controlled in the body but these suggestions may help:

  • cut down on the booze (tragically, beer is the worst for men)
  • drop the sugar (and other processed carbohydrates)
  • lift weights (and do other high intensity exercise)
  • eat natural food (de Vany suggests celery might be particularly effective!)
  • take occasional cold showers / baths (or natural swimming)

I only stumbled across much of this after financial independence….but there’s nothing stopping you from doing it right now.  It will make you richer in money terms.  But it may also make you richer in ways you can’t predict.


Further reading:

  1. No More Mr Nice Guy
  2. Manhood
  3. The de Vany Diet

30 comments

  1. MissSaraBee (@MissSaraBeeBlog) · · Reply

    I am a new subscriber, and I am extremely disappointed by the conclusions of your article. You say feminism is a good thing in your post, but in the same breath you are blaming women for the emasculation of men. Way to backtrack….

    Of course the “Nice Guy” mentality isn’t getting men anywhere. Being “nice” means nothing if you aren’t contributing to society in some way. Extreme example: say a man is bleeding on the side of the road. There are two men who can help nearby, a “nice guy” and a registered doctor. Who will be able to contribute in this situation? The one who has prepared for this moment through education and training, the registered doctor.

    This example can be expanded into every facet of life. Having an amiable personality means nothing when you aren’t contributing to society in a useful way. In today’s society, the concept is called capitalism.

    I agree with you that World War II was the turning point. But I completely disagree with your reasons. Before WW2, men and women had a symbiotic relationship. During WWII, the men fought in the war and the women contributed through manufacturing jobs at home. Women experienced new ways to contribute to society outside of child rearing and house management. Instead of being the “nice wife,” they became contributing members of a larger society. Something that men had been doing for years.

    Then the men came home. Men wanted to go back to being the sole contributors in society, while their wives continued to be “nice wives.” In which the women didn’t contribute to society as a whole, but contributed only to the comfort of their husbands.

    The whole gender equality and feminism movement is women rejecting the idea that only men can contribute positively to society as a whole. Men have been trying to reconcile these feelings for decades now through excuses like emasculation. Men are now faced with additional competition for employment with women, and the realization that they are not entitled to a job because of what’s between their legs.

    Laziness and entitlement in a capitalist society is what has “emasculated” men as you say. Capitalism doesn’t care what you are. Capitalism only cares about what you can contribute. Do not blame women because some men have a fundamental problem with getting out there and making something of themselves.

    If you want to earn more, learn more marketable skills or improve the ones you already have. If you hate conflict, learn communication skills and negotiation tactics. If you feel you aren’t interacting with enough people, get out there and join clubs and social groups. If you feel you are failing at life, it is because you are not putting in the effort to make it better. You are failing because you are seeking external validation (materialistic crap) when you should be seeking internal validation (making positive contributions).

    I am not going to say “with all due respect” before saying my final statement, because your blatant misogyny in this post has thoroughly disrespected me, all your female readers, and all the women who have contributed to your development as a human being.

    This post is a prime example of a man trying to use external factors (women) as an excuse for his lack of internal and external value to himself and society as a whole.

    1. Cashflow Cop · · Reply

      I’d just like to unpick this a bit to understand both the author’s article and your views. I think linking feminism, the idea of ‘Nice Guys’, bring up children, capitalism and financial independence would be difficult to do even in a series of books, let along a single blog post.

      I have followed the author for a long time now and it is the first time I have commented. Based on his other articles, I do not believe he intended to disrespect you or anyone else. Although I can’t speak on behalf of the author, what I think has happened is in trying to link all these concepts together (which I am yet to be convinced should be linked), it has led to unintended conclusions and remarks.

      I am yet to be persuaded by the ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’. It is like saying there should also be a ‘Bad Girl Syndrome’ for those who do not conform to outdated traditional female roles. It’s absolutely ridiculous. These labels only serve to generalise and divide. What I see are differences in people’s personalities and attempts made to group them together by giving them stereotypical labels, which can encourage discrimination and prejudice.

      But hey, I am not an expert in any of these topics. Just an observation which I thought I should add to this discourse.

    2. nowimangry · · Reply

      Feminism isn’t a perfect religion so accept that he pointed out its flaws. Defending it like its your holy grail is just hilarious and tells us more about your radical/extremist feminist attitudes.

      1. Cashflow Cop · ·

        It would appear @MissSaraBee is no longer following this thread. That’s a shame. It is only through dialogue are we able to move forward, learn and understand each other’s views (even if we don’t end up agreeing). At least we can still respect one another. Having a reaction like that and then leaving the discussion or going silent does not help.

      2. If you write a blog, dealing with some over-reactions is normal. The above illustrates how a vocal minority of angry people try to shut down different views with personal attacks.

        When you see an over-reaction triggered by a rather mild and unoriginal article (not my most controversial) it usually tells you that person is in emotional distress and has been reminded of some past personal trauma….for example, the article may have triggered memories of their childhood being brought up without a father…a father they felt anger towards and / or let down by.

        I don’t know her back story, I’m just illustrating a broader point that when you see a reaction like that…its not about logic, its not about the article, its all about them.

        p.s. just to clarify, Miss Sara Bee keeps trying to leave more comments on my blog but I’m not providing a platform to people that start a conversation by screaming misogynist…she can write anything she wants elsewhere.

    3. It takes quite a lot for a human to understand himself/herself even then there might be unexplored consciousness or emotions that are difficult to explain. It takes even longer and even more effort to learn about another other person, especially one of the opposite gender. I don’t believe we can truly and fully understand each other as per Alain de Botton lectures on the concepts of Love.

      I think most guys would read Manhood and your post and find some inkling of truth in it. It tells us what we can’t explain to ourselves without collective observations by psychologist like Steve Biddulph or Dr Glover. I appreciate their work very much.

      I think feminism is great for providing a voice and great for the empowering females and also their male counterpart as well but I can’t help but feel slightly uneasy with the current culture of it almost narcissism. Feminism has many qualities that are great for guys as well, being more open and supportive and helping the male grow into himself, being more in touch with his emotional self.

      I think the term ‘feminism’ is in itself divisive. It creates a Me, You mentality. We should be empowering humans, empowering humanity to better relationships, independence, self reliance, resourcefulness, knowledge, kindness, environmentalism and all the values that are good and for the better of our species.

      FIREplanter

  2. Survivor · · Reply

    Whoa Dude, were you bored this Sunday afternoon so thought you’d run up to the wasp’s nest you’d been eyeing, to give it a good kick …..& test your reflexes? Well, kudos for not dodging the contentious issues with this poisoned chalice 🙂

    Given the reaction to your ‘Get rich with feminism’ article just recently, you have to know from the number of knee-jerk, card-carrying crazies who surfaced to rage at you – having barely skimmed what you actually said ….that this will be similar.

    Ah well, at least it’ll be fun checking out the comments for the frothing-at-the-mouth brigade, who don’t try to understand what you are saying & then all the mouth-breathers who wont understand it even if they read the words.

    For what it’s worth, almost all of my family are strong women, so that’s what I’m used to & find normal ….. As a biologist it’s becoming more acknowledged in the mainstream that women are tougher physically [meaning things like disease-resistance, not structure-related-to-function differences in musculature] & my personal belief is that their superiority in mental strength is significant – the caveat is that these are generalisations, but as such still hold water on average.

    I’m sure there is a world of nuance lost to your thoughts presented here on this subject …..because its hard to be concise enough to keep people engaged with such a complex topic. Similarly it’s hard to do it justice with mere comments, but I’ll just state a fact [without judgement] that my observation is at the midpoint of my life, I only have a single peer in my entire social circle who always, instinctively, stands for what he believes, without checking for permission first. I think it is very much a consequence of modern lifestyles & that women are losing too, they can’t be fully happy with disgruntled partners either. For the benefit of head-bangers at this point, I’m not advocating a return to medieval times or most of human history when women were almost always little more than slaves & livestock – I’d rather be alone that with someone against their will…..

    1. Thanks Survivor….your comments are always a treat…like finding water in the Sahara 🙂

      I LOL’d at your question: did you think you’d run up and kick the wasps nest just to test your reflexes?

      The answer is no, this stuff needs to be said…and The Escape Artist will not be intimidated

  3. Survivor · · Reply

    No Worries ……sadly, I think there is a great discussion to be had with this – at the risk of sounding boring, it’s one of the defining problems of our time. As a species, we’re out of balance, nobody is winning & as families – the building blocks of society – break down, communities are torn apart, with the escalation in social malaise threatening the fabric of nation states via the rise of populists.

    Yet the sheeple are distracted regardless of education with divide & rule red herrings such as setting the genders against each other …..So they don’t connect it to the steady deterioration in their quality of life – from civil liberties, to income inequality, to pollution at levels where breathing & skin conditions are so widespread as to be considered normal. [yet were unusual a generation or so ago, like asthma to give just one example]

    As a parent, you probably feel the worry even more …..my own close relatives have divorced what they later acknowledged were good men, without full understanding why, a more thoughtful individual admitted she grew to despise what she had gradually created via emasculation over time. But not everyone can look in the mirror & see their own part in it though – which is why I personally don’t reply to those commenters who aren’t prepared to listen & engage with an open mind – as opposed to those simply exercising their intellectual right to a different opinion.

    1. Survivor – I don’t always agree with everything you say 100% but your comments are ALWAYS valuable and interesting. I salute you, my friend 🙂

      Its probably time to reveal the draft TEA comments policy….which is this:

      1. The Escape Artist welcomes comments

      2. If you want a direct response from The Escape Artist to your question / comment, you have to make your comment / question USEFUL…in other words it has to add value to other readers, to my website and to the world

      3. You don’t have to agree with me…I believe in freedom of speech and constructive disagreements are more interesting than everyone agreeing…but see points below…

      4. Angry rants, insults and petty point-scoring will either be ignored or deleted (mostly) or mocked (very rarely but fun when it happens)

      5. Ethics: Do not say anything to me (or other readers) online that you would not say direct to their face in real life (have you noticed how troll types shout aggressively online and yet are chickenshit meek in person?).

      6. Pro tip: comments are always better when the commenter has actually read the article….not just seen their trigger word (e.g. Trump, Brexit, Patriarchy etc), thrown their rattle out the pram and made a pee-pee in their pants.

      7. If in doubt, read the article again before commenting. Better still, sleep on it and comment the next morning when you have a clear head.

      8. In the event of ambiguity or disagreement, The Escape Artist will do whatever the fuck he wants…what with it being his blog and everything

      Happy commenting 😉

  4. It’s a pleasure Man. I really value your site for the skillful meld of classy humour, playful intellect & those dives into serious thinking …..it’s not an easy balance to get right especially in an age where ignorance is revered. [I thought the film Idiocracy was so crass I’d have done better in 6th form – until Trump was elected] So keeping any eye out for your latest observations is always a reward, you’re not the only one longing for those oases.

    It’s all good too that you don’t always agree with me – if anyone claimed to, I’d know they weren’t sincere – different people can’t think exactly the same & an indication of intelligence is intellectual curiousity …..wanting to know why others think something else, even if we don’t necessarily agree.

    One of the most illustrative moments in my life was meeting Eastern Europeans just after the wall came down – I was at veterinary college & they had just been allowed in to study. [yes, people even felt sorry for them then; the irony] Whilst I was barely into my 20’s, it struck me as the natives around me only seemed amused at their being frozen in time, [jeans & cassete tapes of Abba made them happy] what we had also lost. It dawned on me with horror that while we had so much more attractive tinsel in our lives, by middle age they had all the culture we for the most part only associated with period dramas by this stage. Even as ordinary individuals, excluded from a world only worshiping materialism, they played musical instruments or could recite plays, poetry etc……

    I’m not saying their repressive regimes were good/better [for the avoidance of doubt with route-one pedants again] but all in all, I’m not sure we were happier – pros & cons – maybe the final score was the same. I was a piss poor student & got talking to this old guy at breakfast who wasn’t eating much, so asked him what was wrong. He said his family were trapped in Tiblisi under bombardment by the Russians at the time & how could he eat when they were hungry & afraid. So at the next breakfast [student canteen] I took him a mix tape of Abba [he’d said he liked them] because I felt so sorry. Then a couple of days later, he gave me a charcoal drawing of the beautiful country house on whose grounds our institute stood. I thought this is what we lost, some connection with what is real – beauty, nature, family, culture – in a nutshell, some of our humanity.

    Yes there are fantastic improvements to our modern lives, I’m not a luddite …..but I advocate balance, don’t sell your soul [democracy/privacy] so cheaply in return for what? – mediocre uniformity, McJunkfood culture? We benefit from being a civilization that also inherited the greatness of the good [of course there was bad too] of Viking-Greco-Roman advancements yet so many of us today unquestioningly would forfeit all that for consumerist baubles. How are we different now to the ‘savages’ on then new continents we proffered trade beads to in contempt?

  5. Great Post TEA.
    I think more men need to start talking about this.
    Although, it amuses me immensely that when a Man says what he thinks and stands up a bit for masculinity and to make a better man, “a good guy”, this sharing of thoughts to empower men is shouted down as misogyny. When the shoe is on the other foot it’s called girl power! You really couldn’t make it up!

    1. Thanks 😉 I agree that more men need to start talking about this.

      There are 2 challenges here:

      1. Most men don’t feel comfortable talking about things that relate to emotions, relationships, sex etc

      2. People fear speaking out because they are worried about triggering an angry reaction that totally misses the point they were making (see exhibit A above)

      Its interesting…I wouldn’t have published this post whilst still employed. Financial independence has given me the freedom to explore and express my views and that (regardless of whether Glover’s theory is right or wrong) is a beautiful thing.

      1. This article inspired me to pick up Steve biddulphs book raising boys. I’d bought it and never read. But I thought I’d give it a bash and try to do something for my son instead of mincing my brain watching tv……
        Since doing so I’ve read up a bit and we really do need to start trying to be “good guys”
        There are some starling facts I’ve learned:

        Boys are 5 times as likely to have problems at school,
        Three times more likely to die before age 21,
        57% of university entrants are now female,
        Male suicide rates are almost 3 times that of females

        Didn’t know all of the above.
        There are real issues to be faced bringing up boys. Looks like creating good guys is something we all should be striving for

  6. Hail and farewell to Great Britain from the heart of the continent, first-time-
    commenter here.

    Thank you as always for picking up thought-provoking topics and leisurely
    exploring the seldomly frequented sideways of what is the mostly jammed highway of
    common sense.

    The content of your article targets an indeed fascinating subject which has been
    interesting me for years. I have read that book of Dr. Glover awhile ago and
    although i found myself agreeing with lots of his observations i am not yet
    convinced about his premises and conclusions. First off, i do not have any
    definitive answers to offer and i am in no way a specialist but a layman on the
    topic.

    I will concentrate my comment on the most glaring fault, that i found in Dr.
    Glovers thesis, to spare me and you an even more obtrusive wall of text:

    That there is anything particularly new, original or troubling in what he labels
    “the nice guy”-phenomenon. I will take the role of the advocatus diaboli here and,
    in contrast to his proposition, dare to proclaim, that:

    – Nice guys (and girls) are as old as mankind. Reason being, it is indeed a useful
    and very valuable survival-strategy. (Don’t mess with the big ugly or the
    violently jealous specimen, unless you’re sure, you can win the fight and see
    another day.) The attitude of harmlessness and helpfullness also helps to evoke an
    instinctive response in other humans which is called “reciprocal altruism”. Many
    social species show this trait: Birds have it, dogs and horses as well and
    primates most definitely are prone to it, just to name a few.

    – According to the scientifically proven concept of the five mayor dimensions of
    personality structure, agreeableness, which does closely fits the description of
    the behavioural structure typically associated with “nice guys”, is a deeply
    ingrained part of the persons’ psyche from earliest childhood on and not something
    artificially imposed. It is also a predictor of rather favorable outcomes in life,
    like stability in jobs and relationships or higher academic success which is an
    important matter in our rapidly developing age, oversaturated with information and
    innovation.

    – Historical studies imply, that at least since the early dawn of civilization, at
    the beginning of agriculture and with the foundation of the first urban centres,
    there had been an ongoing process of societal stratification. The invention of the
    first prototypes of writing are ascribed to the development of complex systems of
    propriation and indebtedness (how ironically fitting, that you are using written
    symbols to warn against the dangers of debt ten thousand years later).
    It was a very thin line between being a sovereign debtor and being a slave or
    having to sell of your children to settle debts. Not unlike today, basically…
    (only half kidding; they nowaday accept your liver or kidney, so you have got a
    choice if your children are no good).
    The worst form of unfreedom, slavery, was banned in the land of the “leaders of
    the free world” only about 150 years ago for example, let’s say roughly about four
    or five generations past, only a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things. Wide
    parts of europe did not have equal rights for their citizens (men and women alike)
    until the first half of the last century and especially in the eastern parts the
    whole process of democratical participation only started thirty years back. Some
    poor saps – even up to this day – are loyal servants to the progeny of violent medieaval robber barons… 😉

    Let that sink in for a second.

    So, now think back to this famous scene in Spartacus with Kirk Douglas, when, one
    by one, all the rebellious slaves stood up mighty bravely and declared proudly: “I
    am Spartacus!” Now, fast forward, to the long camera glide past the endless rows of
    crucifixes at the sides of the via appia. What lovely sight and smell in the brooding sun of southern italy this must have offered.
    If you are too young, to remember Spartacus, pick Braveheart. Same stereotype,
    same result. So much for masculine energy…

    – Now assume living in a repressive system, lacking the necessities of life and
    surrounded by traitorous, greedy and envious primates, where successfully
    schmoozing up to your superiors can signify the small divide between waking up
    with your head on a cushioned bed or a chopping block.
    It is no hard stretch of imagination, to assume, that beeeing “nice”, inconspicous
    and reliably servile has been, still is and will be a widely common and highly
    successfull survival strategy in most human societies that are even only remotely
    encumbered and threatend by scarcity of material, social and emotional ressources
    (which are basically all human societies – and will be for quiet some time).

    But why does Glover – and many others – give the nice guys a bad rep, although he at least offers understanding for their plights and genuine compassion?

    There are many factors at work here and i have tried your patience long enough, so i will just give a few hints.

    Social Paradigmas:
    Dr. Glover is an American, meaning he is working with the unconcious blindfolds of
    his specific cultural upbringing:

    Compared to many, if not most, human civilizations of today and days past, the
    U.S. are obsessed with the importance of the sole individual against and not in
    accordance to the society as a whole. The enjoy privileges like no others before them: Primarily in form of the justice system, with its many branches that, although incompletely, protect your rights as an individual in a measure that you would not be able to sustain yourself, so being disagreeable does not get you lynched as easily as back in the day.

    It is also an hysterically extroverted society (meaning traits like timidity or modesty are shunned) – read Susan Cain, if you want to know more about the specific struggles this puts an estimate of one third of the population in (introverts).

    A compulsive fixation on the concept of happiness and its pursuit. Despite scientific analysis suggesting, that this fixation actually lowers the abillity and likelyhood of feeling truely happy, it still remains a measuring as well as a beating stick. (Quiet contentment and satisfaction on the other hand, derived from a sense of inner understanding for ones own humble existance and gratitude for moments of calm and peace are devalued. Why? You can’t sell empty promises to content monks.)

    Abundance: The assumption that everybody should and could be able to satisfy all his or her needs, stemming from the blind and ruthless plundering of natural and human resources all over the world – for a reminder: This whole lifestyle of “abundance” is degrading the wealth of this planet in a ratio of approximately 8,6:1, meaning it would need more than 8 earths to sustain this so called abundance which is not much different from a compulsive gambler burning through his savings, sitting in a mafia joint, stripped bare down to his underwear, all the while shouting “YOLO!”.
    Self-restraint combined with a sense of guilt about demanding too much of everything for oneself may appear to be an erratic adaptation when living in a bubble of awesome abundance.

    Last but not least, his society is a technologically advanced, capitalist one. This
    translates to a fiercely competitive mindset, where success is determined by
    overcoming your competitors in an neverending rat-race and accumulating the
    greatest amount of ressources even if this means to throw the whole planet under bus.
    It has been proven times and times again, that the biggest proportion of psychopaths and sociopaths in any subset of modern society can be found in a) jail and b) higher management. Agreeableness does obviously not work well with this.
    Does this on the other hand mean, that we all should become psychopaths now (not, that this is
    possible, since it is also an genetically inherited trait, effects of freak accidents aside)?

    Conclusion from this: A behaviour deemed “too nice, timid or modest” in the U.S.
    would probably earn you acceptance, respect and access to the social ressources in other
    societies.

    Historical blindspots:

    There had been no precursor to a “free”, aka individualistic, civilization in
    human evolution. Being dependant on the help – and therefore the good oppinion of
    others about you – had been crucial for survival. This was equally true for men as women, so the modern day asumptions of what “real men” ought to be, like for example highly individualistic, is nonsense. There always had been many “nice guys” and they were and are as real as any other type of men.

    The enstrangement of the modern day era and its methods of production and consumption may lead us to the wrong conclusion, that we are independant of others. But just because the interdependancies are hidden does not mean they are not there. I would even propose the hypothesis, that – in general – we are less individualistic and free (in the sense of self-reliance as supposed by Jacob from ERE) than most other human civilizations before us and that the popular and massively peddled myth of individual freedom is based on a distinct misconception of freedom that is a result of semantic obscurantism and skewed perception, namely a lack of
    awareness for the underlying structures of dependancy, debt, enslavement and the influence of happenstance like place of births. This in turn leads us to overrate the merits and perfomances of popular individuals, nourishing the myth of the “self-made”-whatever (survivorship bias and swimmer’s body fallacy come into play heavily).

    Agreeable people do also form more stable bonds, guaranteeing their children a
    higher rate of survival and also a safety net with other likeminded people in times of hardship like a hunting accident which would otherwise translate to starving alone and in the cold. Nowadays social support systems cater to individualls and families regardless of whether they are agreeable or disagreeable people in the first place.

    The romanticized picture of the strong, silent male – fearless, square-chinned and
    gun-slinging – that is so pervasive in american popular culture actually got you
    killed. Look up the average life-expectancy of the likes of Billy the kid and all
    the other mavericks.
    The hard-working, honest-to-god men, though hardly loved by their wifes, but
    tolerated due to their usefullness as beasts of burden, produced and fed more
    offspring, thereby distributing their seeds.
    Ironically, their grandsons have lost their usefulness due to automatization, that
    was primarly pushed forward by men in the first place, which led to a fundamental
    upheaval in the demands for physical and skilled manual labour, hence leading to a
    rapid decline of economical usefullness of the specific fortes of the average male
    while at the same time generating a whole new universe of quietly civilized, safe
    desk-jobs and mental menial work that is much better suited to a more calm,
    cooperative, long-term oriented, studious style of performance, something that is
    – again, on average – developed earlier in childhood and more effectively overall
    in womens’ brains. By being financially autonomous their underlying criteria for chosing suitable mating-partners shift from their potential contribution to sustenance to something of higher entertainment or at least social value.
    Deprived of their economical usefulness, the nice guys decline as quickly in romantic
    value, as the rouble did fiscally in Russia in the 90’ies. That it is the harsh part about it. Still being somewhat useful in a broader social sense – like in “a useful idiot” – but individually, romantically? Not so much.

    On a little overdramatized note, one could conclude, that the nice guy had his time on the stage of history.
    But you can’t teach a fish to dance.
    In this brave new woman’s world, it is she who has got the pick.
    So now, who is next? (Chose your stereotype.)

    1. Wow…that is some comment! You make a good point about the inherited aspect of agreeableness…seems like that would be one of those traits that is a mixture of nature and nurture

  7. Gentlemen (assuming from the style of your writing, and given the feminist lady has left the thread), have some mercy. The discussion is fascinating but impossible to carry on if the points are not convayed in a concise way (and format).

    I, a female representative, actually don’t mind being “responsible” for turning a macho man into the so called nice guy, if that has been the case. Not that it is a desired outcome whatsoever, but I guess this must be a result of some set of strengths women possess that led them to overpower men, squeezing them into this rather conformist, not to say weak, form.

    Thus, I do not observe the sense of being offended, Ms Bee was so hugely put off by. Perhaps we have the nice guys, because they’ve been threatened by oppresive characters, as the so called Exhibit A above.

    Just sayin’

  8. The Rhino · · Reply

    @Dodo – a comment longer than the OP! chapeau!

    I agree re: your observation about the success of being nice as an evolutionary strategy. Theres fascinating work in this area, I’m thinking particularly the research of Robert Trivers, John Maynard Smith et al in combining the fields of genetics and game theory – think the Hawks and Doves experiments and stuff like that..

    I think this is probably a digression from the definition of ‘nice-guy’ as it is meant in this context though. I can’t add anything useful to the OP as I’m not sure I buy into it.

    But what I can say is that TEAs recommendation of the cold shower is a fantastic piece of advice. There isn’t a greater tool for voluntary discomfort available – and pretty much everyones got one. The art of the cold shower is an article all of its own..

  9. Great article – thanks! I’ve read “No More Mr Nice Guy” and was a big fan, I must check out the other books you mention. Unfortunately, because you are addressing an audience mostly comprised of “Nice Guys” and women who have only ever known Nice Guys, writing an article like this is risky. Anything which does not conform to the standard over-simplified comtemporary narrative that states feminism in all it’s forms is always good and masculinity is scary, and usually harmful (and hence Nice-Guys are the only acceptable form of male) is always likely to result in emotion-fuelled impulsive posts full of bile and accusations of misogyny etc.

    It must be difficult as a blogger to find a balance between pleasing the masses (and working around their often naive opinions) and hence gaining popularity, and just stating your personal opinion, trolls be damned. Good to see that you’re trying to walk your own path!

  10. Greg the Egg · · Reply

    Such a huge and controversial topic TEA. I can’t help but wonder if you published the article as a kind of metaphorical “cold shower” for yourself. I see all of Dr. Glover’s Nice Guy flaws as applicable to me to varying extents. However, you also mentioned in the comments that you perhaps wouldn’t have published this whilst employed. I suspect that applies to any “heretical” views*, not just the view that certain offshoots of feminism can be problematic. It is a sad situation if the right to speak your mind is an expensive luxury – and must surely contribute to mental health problems.

    *In my line of work, that includes things like challenging the statistical significance of unprocessed headline gender pay-gap figures, regarding Brexit as anything less than national suicide, and a desire to minimise the scope of the government. I’m sure this varies a little depending on the environment and the age of your colleagues.

    1. Yes, you’re right…I did publish this article partly as a metaphorical cold shower but mainly because I think these ideas need to be explored as calmly as possible.

      I knew it would be uncomfortable for me as someone that has some of those Nice Guy traits. But The Escape Artist did not get to where he is today by giving in to fear. It’s like that phrase: feel the fear, and do it anyway.

      These ideas tie naturally to what I wrote in The Inestimable Advantages of Hardening the Fuck Up which was not especially controversial.

  11. Survivor · · Reply

    @ EA, fair enough, I wasn’t trying to corner you by the way, I just wondered given your silence on the main event of the last couple of years what your position was. But Dude, admitting to voting for Treeza May & her menagerie of spitting image puppets, ouch, embarrassing ! 🙂 …..they couldn’t deliver a pizza. And if it pans out to a Gove or BJ leadership, how will you hold your head up high in international, genteel company …..mind you, I get that if you have to be agoraphobic for the rest of your life, there are worse places than Surrey to hole up in 🙂

    Seeing as your appetite for controversy seems to be ratcheting up so you need a bigger hit for the same buzz, 🙂 …..another thing I wondered about related to that point with Jason – anonymity. If you recall, he said one downside for him was mulling over the criticism in the comments relating to the ethics of FI/RE – which interested me in that until then, it never occurred to me that there could be an ethical downside. What say you Sir?

    1. Glad you brought up anonymity…it has important implications for behaviour.

      Compare and contrast 2 popular UK FI sites.

      1. The London FI Facebook Group – People comment under their real names and pictures
      2. Monevator comments section – People use fake internet names

      The comments and conversations in the Facebook group are courteous because everyone has “skin in the game”. People reveal their real names and identities and go to real life meetups. No one shrieks insults like misogynist! That would be crazy and socially inappropriate behaviour. As a result, little input is required from the moderators.

      I have HUGE respect for the Monevator site and content. But, as a fellow (unpaid) blogger, I feel The Investor’s pain re the grief that he puts up with responding to / policing his comments section. The articles about Brexit etc set off poisonous comment trails. There are regular anonymous trolls who sneer and find fault with everything. Understandably, it seems to make The Investor quite unhappy and stressed at times.

      Seeing this, I vowed to never feed the trolls. Dealing with trolls, nitpickers and pointscorers is a huge time and energy suck. So I just delete most of their comments immediately.

      We all have a limited amount of time. I can spend an hour EITHER reading to my youngest child OR I can spend an hour pandering to angry people on the internet….guess which one I’m gonna do? 🙂

  12. Survivor · · Reply

    Completely understand – I also don’t know why TI wastes time getting riled by ignorants, there’s no cure for pure stupidity – But I figured you [as the owner of the site] could easily work out who people really are behind those fake names anyway, so that seems even dumber of the obnoxious brigade too. Initially I wondered if some of them were spoofs, but there are other giveaways that they may genuinely be that thick, like not being able to spell better than primary schoolers &/or seemingly unaware of the concept of grammar.

    So that covers why you refuse to engage in any activities boiling down to monkeys throwing sh*t at each other, but are you saying you also don’t see what Jason meant by ethical downsides of FI/RE? I always thought it was the epitome of common-sense & taking responsibility in general…..

    1. Ah yes I just went back and read Jason’s comment on Earning More Is Not Cheating…he wasn’t saying that he thought there are real ethical downsides of FI…just that some complainers will hint at these

  13. Afraid I’m in agreement with Dodo’s comment here TEA, but recognise symptoms of ‘the nice guy’ in myself … must work more at developing those psychopathic traits! Seriously, though, I can see much more mileage in pushing back on personal comfort zones, rather than a “masculinity in crisis” approach. Each to his/her own I guess – we’re all at different points on the same journey.
    On the positive side, all this controversy has got to be good for your site hits 🙂
    Talking of “Skin in the Game”, will you be reviewing Nassim Taleb’s new book (I know your a fan of his previous books)?

    1. No need to be afraid…you are allowed to agree with Dodo’s epic comment…so don’t apologise for that or for recognising Nice Guy symptoms in yourself. The purpose of writing this was to help people see traits in themselves (just as I saw some of those Nice Guy traits in myself when I read the book).

      Record page views on the website in Jan although I suspect that’s more down to other factors eg Jason & Julie’s starring role on the BBC website

      Re Taleb…yes, I do plan to comment on that book….but The Escape Artist has a policy of actually reading a book before commenting on it. If everyone that commented / emailed me about this post had actually read the Glover book (as Dodo and Secretschiz had….all power to them), we would’ve had a more informed debate…ho-hum

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