How to Help the “Nice Guy” and the “Tough Guy”

Portland Men's GroupIf your experience of the male world is anything like mine has been, you might agree that many of us have polarized ourselves into two distinct categories: Tough Guys, and Nice Guys. Tough Guys tend to dominate others with force, fake confidence, size, and status. They tend to hide their hearts and exert strength. Nice Guys tend to lack spine, confidence, and the “balls” to make big moves in life, yet they can have amazing hearts, be great listeners, and tend to be loyal. Tough Guys will tell you “no,” just to protect their self-perceived right to choose “yes,” while Nice Guys will say “yes” when they mean “no,” just to keep the peace with you. Tough Guys displace uncomfortable emotions onto undeserving people, pets, and property, Nice Guys funnel discomfort by eliciting pity, sympathy, and enabling of their own lack of power.

I’m stereotyping and generalizing to help simplify and clarify some of these characteristics that most men vacillate between in to varying degrees. The reality is that most men and women group participants I work with tend to want the best of both “Guys,” yet many have an ingrained belief system that challenges the possibility for an Integrated Man (or whatever you want to call him). I’m here to tell you, both from personal and professional experience, that not only is a more fully-developed masculine possible, but you yourself can be an active participant in this process!

How To Help the Nice Guy Find His Spine

As an evolving Nice Guy myself, I can speak from first hand experience on this one. Here a few strategies that may help empower the Nice Guy in you and/or the Nice Guys in your life:

Give feedback – Tell this guy how you are impacted when you perceive he is compromising himself to keep the peace. Practice elements of Gestalt and NVC feedback by observing his behavior (no judgments), taking stock of your own emotions/thoughts/sensations, and how it really impacts your relationship. How much do you really trust this guy when he’s like this?

Stop enabling – When you see this guy slip into “nice guy” role, don’t let him off the hook! Challenge him with compassion and let him know you care enough about him to take on a little friction with him if it means he become more himself. Don’t become agreeable just to take care of him – that’s what he’s already doing!

Empathize – feel into the parts of yourself that get stuck in the black and white of existence. Try to understand that this man hasn’t yet been empowered in other parts of his masculine and that it’s very painful to give up his spine to spare his heart, even if you know it doesn’t have to be either/or…

How To Help the Tough Guy Find His Heart

I also know what it’s like to take on tough guy role, in order to find “strength.” Keep in mind, while the Nice Guy is usually open-hearted and receptive to you, the Tough Guy is typically more armored, so even though the skills can be similar, the type of response might differ…Here are some ideas on how to serve this guy:

Model Assertiveness – I mean this 100% as defined, so it’s important for you to know that when I say ‘assertiveness,’ that means impeccable boundaries with love and respect for both self and other, 100% integrity of speech and compassion of heart. The Tough Guy might only give you a first impression before he closes off, so cut the bullshit and bring your A-game with all the above.

Positive Reinforcement – When you see the Tough Guy elicit glimpses of other aspects of himself you enjoy, let him know how much you appreciate it, and how well it expands his manhood (be wary of sending the message of “either/or” as this guy would rather die than be vulnerable). If you’re a woman in relationship with this guy, let him know how much more turned on you are (if you are) to these parts of him – both verbally and physically.

Ignore Tough Guy Behaviors – Whenever possible, avoid giving credence to any behavior that keeps this guy stuck in his Tough Guy role. I’ll admit, the way I’ve presented this can be tricky to do assertively, so think of parenting a child whose negative behaviors you’d like to extinguish by non-acknowledgement. You still engage with that child and love unconditionally, right? Once he notices a different response he’ll challenge you and you can use another skill to give feedback and engage him directly.

I’ve been so lucky to have been served by honest and courageous men and women who have helped me grow as a man, and this drives me to work with adult men and women who want to find deeper layers of authenticity in themselves and in relationship with each other. I hope some of these ideas spark some progress in yourself and/or in at least one relationship in your life, because you can make a difference.



Interested in a free consultation with Jesse? Contact him  today!