Nice Guy ™ Style Coercion in Everyday Life

April 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

I think I’ve had enough distance from this subject to write about it, but it’s taken a while.  When I first came across the phrase Nice Guy ™ in the feminist blogosphere, it really cracked me up.  However, I really had only encountered this type of person in the comments threads of feminist blogs, which probably says a lot more about who I hang out with than the consistency of the world.  Well, last year I got a dose of pure Nice Guy ™ tactics in action with a housemate.  I feel like I have a whole new understanding of the term and what it encapsulates.

This housemate “accidentally” coerced us into living with a friend of his, which only with very strategic and uncomfortable resistance did we stop.  He wanted to get out of his lease mid-year, which is fairly common and usually no bit deal, kind of routine for a big house.  We just needed to meet and approve someone, and they would take over his signature on the lease.  After we met and declined his friend as a potential housemate, he then proved mysteriously unable to set up meetings with other potentials despite weeks of posting the room.  Then he mistakenly had his friend submit the rental application to our landlord.  He called us passing it off as a big whoopsi daisy that his friend was all ready and excited to move in even though we had said no.  One detail of note might be that he had just sublet his room for three months with no confusion or difficulty just a couple months before.  So apparently he “forgot” how it worked in the meantime.

Some harsh words were exchanged between the two of us after a craigslist post I put up produced over 20 responses in 24-hours, our landlord and I had a difficult conversation in which I was told the information he’d gotten was that “the house” had been slow in finding someone despite repeated resistance from our roommate when we offered to help search, and I somehow magically managed to find us a new housemate in exactly 8 days.  Included in his passionate defense of his actions was the phrase “the reason I am trying to convince you all to live with my friend is…” after he asserted multiple times in person that he was not trying to control our decision, but about his friend…

Having moved out into his girlfriend’s old room literally two minutes away, he failed to return his key, and to this day his things are still being kept in our house.  I cleared off his bathroom and food shelves for the new roommate, eventually giving his things to donation boxes.  He still comes by to get his mail, which he never had forwarded, making an appointment with a current roommate then showing up randomly on another day.  He’s been asked to come get his stuff and said he would be over that weekend, then not come and not said anything about it.

But here is the part that really gets to me.  During this whole debacle and even to this day, most of my other housemates say he was just a nice guy who had good intentions.  That he thought he was doing the right thing trying to make us live with his friend or explain his behavior by saying that he is just “really laid back.”  You know that feeling you get when after you’ve become feminist someone goes into apology mode about sexism – the one where you feel you might burst a blood vessel in your eye or go into a self-defense blackout?  Yeah, I got that every time my house attempted to talk about it for a long while.

My understanding of a Nice Guy ™ type is someone who wants the relational privileges of appearing nice, but does not actually divest of their sense of entitlement.  As such, they will be nice and sweet, until they don’t get what they want.  Then they’ll coerce you nicely, then blow up.  They’re those people still think their boundaries are somehow set within your space and can’t seem to figure it out when you indicate otherwise.  A good example would be when my friend’s abusive mother, upon discovering the concept of boundaries, tried to set a boundary that she had to call her once a week.  Something key missing there.

Nice Guy ™ types want the ego gratification and extra benefits that come from being considered nice by others, rather than being considered pushy jerks, which to my sensibilities sets their coercion in a new realm of creepy.  It’s bad enough being coerced, let alone having someone try to control what you think and how you feel about them during the process.

When you set a proper boundary with a Nice Guy ™ and claim your rightful space, they don’t adapt or even negotiate.  They typically go on a rampage and try to convince you that you are abusive for not giving them what they want and being “nice,” and if you then call them out, for saying “bad things” about them and “making them feel bad.”  Whatever it takes to get the world back to its right state of being, where they can walk into other people’s space and have what they want without their entitlement being questioned.  You know, where they get their proper reward for being so nice.


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§ One Response to Nice Guy ™ Style Coercion in Everyday Life

  • Rairun says:

    I’ve always seen the term being used in a more limited sense – to me, a Nice Guy ™ is a guy who claims to be nice in contrast with the “bad guys” women supposedly go for. He is the type of person who, upon being rejected, rages: “BEING NICE DOESN’T PAY! I’M SO NICE TO THEM AND YET THEY PICK THOSE ASSHOLES. WOMEN ARE FICKLE AND ENJOY ABUSE!” Basically, they are guys who appear (or at least attempt to appear – some of the creepiness almost always shows through) lovely, but whose loveliness is dependent on you giving them what they want. They aren’t nice to a woman because they like and respect her as an individual. Being “nice” is just a strategy they hope will make them more alluring. When it doesn’t, they start spouting their misogynistic claptrap.

    But it’s true, people use more or less the same strategy to get all sorts of things in life. Your example is a good one. I just think of it as something more general than the usual Nice Guy ™ nonsense.

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