I had a conversation recently with someone about being agreeable and disagreeableness, which led me to think about the nice guy syndrome and the problems associated with it.
I don’t know any statistics on this, but it seems like there’s a lot of concern about guys, in particular, being very agreeable these days. The narrative is that a lot of guys traditionally would have learned to be more disagreeable, more assertive, and not conflict avoidant by being around more men who had already developed these skills. But in the past few decades, men have been increasingly raised primarily by women. Mothers are the primary caretakers of children and then kids are shipped off to school Monday through Friday where the overwhelming majority of teachers are women. Consequently, these primary influencers tend to not promote traits such as handling conflict, being assertive, and being disagreeable.
The problem is having a healthy handle on these skills or traits is necessary. Conflict in life is unavoidable and you need to know how to deal with it. Being assertive and reasonably disagreeable means you get your needs met and people won’t walk over you. For men, these tend to be traits that women also find particularly attractive when selecting a partner.
I know the author Dr. Robert Glover talks about this in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy. Another famous person that talks about this is Dr. Jordan Peterson. If you type in agreeableness or disagreeableness on YouTube, a lot of videos of Peterson pop right up.
The older you become, the more ingrained these behaviors become. Many people, however, may notice that they exhibit some of these not-so-desirable traits and wish to change them. Knowing is the first step, but I think the healthy versions of these practices should be practiced. If you think about it, how often on a daily basis do you have to be assertive, or disagreeable, or combative? Probably not that often. I think there should be a “gym” of sorts to practice these behaviors so that when the time arises, one can effortlessly put them in motion. Another way to frame this is just to have a controlled environment where one can practice these traits.
What do you think? Is this necessary? Does this already exist? What would it look like?
2 thoughts on “We Need a Training Program for Nice Guys”
The other day in the grocery store I said “Excuse me” to a young person who was needlessly blocking my access to the limes. The mother thanked me for my manners, and explained to the kid that they didn’t have to be rude to get their way. I was startled by her reply and said, “Well, of course. We don’t need an excuse to be civil,” or something like that.
I have to get assertive or even disagreeable with customer service people frequently when they tell me no or that they don’t know how to do something. So yes, etiquette is lacking and I think we could all do with a refresher course. Like driving tests for everyone, including pedestrians and bicyclists (which I am), every five years at minimum. But good luck getting school districts much less adults to sign up for it!