Book Review: No More Mr. Nice Guy

male psychology manliness self development

Let me define my terms. A Nice Guy, as described by Glover and any man or boy who has ever called himself that, is exactly what the term means when a girl says it in explaining why she is friends with a guy, but not attracted to him. It is the term referring to a neighbor who is willing to do any favor but who never seems to have his own affairs in order. It is the guy who always tries to please, but who people never seem to want to hang around anyway, or if they do, it's only because he tries to do everything for everyone. He is an easy target for jokes because he smiles and takes it, never thinking of defending himself because he is afraid of conflict, thinking that if he just plays along, he will be liked.

Glover goes into a lot of detail about this, but two of the most important traits of Nice Guys is that they seek to win the approval of others (especially women) by anticipating their needs, and they try to minimize or deny their own needs. Glover traces this first problem to a generation of men raised almost exclusively by women. After the 50s, fathers spent much more time away from home, working, and the home became the domain of the woman. Teachers in recent years have been almost exclusively female. Thus, a generation (now two) has grown up with no significant male role models and a strong disposition to winning the approval of female authority figures. Women raised these men, so you'd think they would be great with women, and women often describe Nice Guys as "a real catch for some (other) lucky woman." Turns out, however, that women don't actually like men who constantly try to please them. Big surprise, I know...

Nice Guys are so keen on winning approval because they are afraid of being abandoned (this gets kind of Freudian, which I'm not a huge fan of) as a result of childhood difficulties. Thus, in addition to trying to please others, caretake, and anticipate needs, Nice Guys avoid conflict like the plague. They believe that if they just fit in with everyone, don't make any waves, never get negative attention, then others will want to be around them. Thus, they never stand up for themselves. Thus, nobody like them anyway. Their answer: try harder.

The other big aspect of Nice Guys is that they try really hard to deny their own needs. This manifests in things from career aspirations to sex. Nice Guys think that, if they can be completely needless, then they will cause no trouble for others, won't be competition, won't make any demands, and will be liked. The problem is that they have to get their needs met somehow and too often they resort to passive-agressive behavior or build up a lot of resentment. It's actually pretty illogical when you spell it out, but I know it's how a lot of men think and behave, because I did.

The real value of the book lies not in describing the Nice Guy Syndrome, but rather in providing a roadmap for men to break free of the thought patterns and behaviors that are holding them back. The old idea of manliness held than men should be assertive, confident, brave and have the self-assurance to follow their own path without trying to please everyone around them. Glover sprinkles his book with exercises for men to try in their journey to overcome their problematic thinking. The exercises range from thought experiments, to list-making and goal setting, to things like "do one thing for yourself every week."

The stories of men's trials, tribulations, and triumphs truly is inspiring. We read of men who are so paralyzed by their fear of abandonment (disguised as a sense of responsibility to their family) that they let their wives walk all over them. When they start standing up for themselves, setting boundaries, their wives initially balk, but suddenly find themselves for assured of their husband's love, more respectful, and more attracted to him. They appreciate the relationship more and find it gives them greater value as well.

This goes into a lot of the psychology of attraction and male-female interactions, but the point of the book is often that women want to be with a man, not some male-shaped stand-in who lets her call all the shots. This willingness to give the woman all the power does not make a woman feel secure in her relationship. Obviously, this is a generality; I know at least two women who prefer pushovers, at least in stated preferance. The advice in the book applies to interactions with other men as well, but I'll be honest and point out that most of it has to do with interactions with the opposite sex.

I really appreciated the writing of this book because it does a lot to give definition to that murky middle ground between pushover and jerk, that combination of assertiveness, consideration, self-efficacy that used to define manhood, but has since fallen prey to...I don't know what (Glover offers a number of reasons including those aspects of the feminist movement that cast a lot of positive masculine traits as oppressive). There's the good lead dancer, then there's the guy that is too passive to lead well, and the guy who just shoves women around on the dance floor; the first is assertive, the third is insensitive and obnoxious, and the second is just as frustrating to dance with (I was also that guy, and I know women don't like dancing with men who do that). I myself am still coming to grips with this vision of manhood, but so far, it has proven to be a truly liberating and empowering experience. My friends like me more, women find me more attractive, and I like myself more. Instead of losing friends because I bother to argue my point of view, instead of driving women away because I look after my own needs, instead of alienating professional contacts because I assert my presence, I now assure people of my ability to stand firm in my convictions and to take care of myself. I know, these things are obvious to anyone on the outside, but to someone who has believed his whole life in the lies of the Nice Guy, it's kind of an eye-opener.

I recommend this book to anyone, male or female, who wants to understand either the dynamics of male self-empowerment, or the ways men and women interact and fill unique roles in a relationship. If you know a Nice Guy who can't understand why he never gets what he wants in life even though he tries so hard, please, please save him the agony and get him this book.

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