Nice Guys: What To Do if a Guy Turns Out Not To Be So Nice

When is a nice guy not nice at all? When he's a "nice guy"—a term used on Reddit to describe a man who believes acting "nice" or "moral" entitles him to "sex, romance and affection."

These types quickly become angry and insulting if they don't get what they think they deserve from women. Posts describing such exchanges often go viral on the r/niceguys forum, not least because the road from "Nice to meet you" to rage-flecked invective can be so short.

Newsweek spoke to psychologists and therapists, as well as a woman who has encountered the type, to figure out how to identify and deal with "nice guys."

What Is a 'Nice Guy'?

The moderators of the r/niceguys subreddit suggest that these men "demean others while simultaneously expressing a favorable view of themselves." While they may not explicitly refer to themselves as nice, they often "demonstrate an expression of their own virtue while being a**hats."

Venetia Leonidaki, a consultant psychologist and founder of Spiral Psychology, defined them as "men who do not clearly express or assert their emotional needs, including the need for emotional closeness, sexual connection, attention and love."

They hope women will notice them and reward them with affection in exchange for their "approval-seeking behaviors," Leonidaki told Newsweek.

"When women do not act as they had hoped for, 'nice guys' experience feelings of hurt, anger and even betrayal, which may lead to their demeaning behavior toward women," she added. "Diminishing the women while expressing a favorable view of themselves acts like a protective defense."

Woman covering face with man behind her
A woman covers her face while a man sits in the background. The "nice guy" can turn nasty quickly if he doesn't get what he wants. Getty Images

A Cornell University study published in 2018 found that "initiators of unrequited romantic advances" often don't understand the difficult position they put their "targets" in or how uncomfortable it is for them to reject an unwanted advance.

Audrey Tang, a chartered psychologist and leadership trainer based in London, told Newsweek that there is no specific pathology to describe "nice guys" but narcissism might be the closest in terms of personality.

Typical 'Nice Guy' Behavior

Tang said "nice guy" behavior could sometimes be explained through an understanding of the person's upbringing, but could also be more "nefarious and akin to gaslighting."

"Nice guys" can lack emotional intelligence as well as the ability to express and manage their own emotions in an effective manner, she added.

Marisa Peer, a therapist, relationship expert and author, explained that these types commonly use love bombing to disarm their targets. "They'll send endless [over-the-top] texts or emails, bombard you with compliments and always come bearing gifts, but beware—this period is shortlived," she said.

"Nice guys are never wrong and will never take the blame for anything," Peer told Newsweek. "However, if you try to confront them or point out their mistakes, their mask will start to crack and you will experience their wrath."

People with these personality traits are fundamentally insecure, she said. "Anything that challenges their authority unsettles their very fragile ego."

Most "nice guys" have trouble expressing their true feelings directly. "They look for ways to please a woman so they can gain her interest," said Leonidaki. "[They] may have misogynistic beliefs and not truly respect women, while at the same time they crave their affection."

'Nice Guys' on the Internet vs. Real Life

Ariana, a barista who declined to give her full name, has had her own "nice guy" experience. She had been exchanging messages with a guy on a dating app, who claimed he "wasn't looking for a relationship."

"I was suspicious but I messaged back a few times," she told Newsweek. "A week later, this dude messages and says that he's 'madly in love with me' and that he 'has to have me.'"

After she refused him politely, he bombarded her with derogatory messages—until she blocked him.

Woman looking at laptop while squinting
A woman looks at a laptop. "The anonymity and physical distance of social media allow feelings of rage to come to the surface," said one psychologist. Getty Images

"'Nice guys' are sadly pretty common, particularly on the internet," Ariana said. "I think it's the ability to be able to hide behind a screen and say whatever you want that gives these guys the toxic confidence they have."

While such behavior is most prevalent on dating apps such as Tinder, Ariana said she had had similar experiences on social networks such as Instagram and Reddit itself.

The psychologists who spoke to Newsweek also said social media facilitated "nice guy" behavior. "The anonymity and physical distance of social media allow feelings of rage to come to the surface and be expressed more easily," said Leonidaki.

When you meet them in person, she added, "'nice guys' may act in more passive-aggressive ways, such as withdrawing or expressing a milder form of frustration."

How to Deal With 'Nice Guys'

Look out for the warning signs that can identify this type. "If someone cannot talk through their issues or struggles with emotional challenges early on and doesn't accept help, support, or even want to address it, then it's not likely to get much better later in the relationship," Tang said.

When dealing with "nice guys," she suggested staying polite and remembering that "they may not be in the position to think about their behavior reasonably." This means any attempt to educate them is "likely to leave you feeling more frustrated," while responding to them rudely means they have gained that emotional control over you.

"Cut off contact and block them," Tang said. "Ask yourself, do you really want drama? What do you gain from giving them your valuable time and energy?"