Read My Mind

The Likability Factor

by Dr. Robert Glover on Oct 10th, 2012.     7 comments

smiling man 1Nice Guys want to be liked. Probably, everyone does.

Unfortunately, true to form, men and women who follow a Nice Guy paradigm, often do the opposite of what works.

Nice Guys follow three core covert contracts:

1. If I am a good guy, I will be loved and liked.

2. If I meet other people’s needs without being asked, then other people will meet my needs without me having to ask.

3. If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life.

While Nice Guys are convinced that these are sound, foolproof principles for life, they do not come anywhere close to reflecting reality.

There are a myriad of problems with these covert contracts. First, the Nice Guy himself is often unconscious of the contracts. Second, no one else knows that the contracts exist -- so they have no idea that anything is expected of them. Third, they don’t reflect reality. There is no foolproof way to get everyone to like you all the time. No one else is responsible for your needs. Only you are. And, life isn’t smooth or problem-free.

Let’s take a look at the "wanting to be liked" contract. “If I’m a good guy and treat everyone well, then I will be liked and loved, and women I desire will desire me.”

First of all, not everyone is going to like you. Even Jesus got hung on a cross. Even the people who do like you may not like you all the time.

Wanting and needing to be liked is childlike in its pursuit of external validation. It also leads to repression of your true self, which takes a toll on your personal integrity. Most significantly, it makes you a Teflon man. Since there is no “you” there, there is nothing for people to connect with. People connect with those who have rough edges, not with people who are trying to be perfect.

David Burns, the godfather of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), states that the cause of all anxiety is “niceness.” Since not everyone is going to like you, trying to get everyone to like you will keep you in a state of constant anxiety. The neediness and anxiety of seeking approval actually pushes people away.

Being willing and eager to do things for other people actually turns you into a doormat that makes people walk on you and lose respect for you -- not at all what the Nice Guy is seeking.

Here is a really interesting paradox. I remember my professor in psychology 101 making the following assertion, “Doing something for a person doesn’t make them like you more. Conversely, asking a person to do something for you tends to make them like you more.”

This is because the human mind wants to be consistent. It wants to match our actions with our beliefs. So when we do something for somebody, we justify our actions to ourselves by assuming that we did the person a favor because we like them.

This phenomenon is dubbed the “Ben Franklin Effect," who stated, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

The bottom line is that when you ask someone to do you a favor, they are likely to like you more.

This is one of the reasons I often give Nice Guys in my groups and classes the assignment to ask three people a day to do something for them that they can do for themselves. This does at least three things:

First, It forces the Nice Guy out of his comfort zone. Nice Guys typically get a “deer in headlights” look when I give the assignment. For that reason alone, it is good practice for breaking free from the covert contracts of the Nice Guy Syndrome.

Second, it increases the likability of the person making the request -- The Franklin Effect.

Finally, it gives other people the opportunity to get pleasure from giving. We Nice Guys feel good when we do nice things for other people. Being needless and want-less actually deprives other people from these same good feelings.

Want to be liked? Stop trying to be liked. Be yourself. Be authentic. Challenge your covert contracts. Let other people do things for you.


Topics: Confidence Friendship Personal Integration


jwardl says ...
We don't always like those we respect, but we cannot like those we don't.

Even as a recovering nice guy, I find I respect those who are true to themselves and make no apologies for their attitudes, opinions, manner, and desires FAR more than those who are constantly yielding, following, willing, and giving. The former are interesting, the latter, boring.

Does that mean I LIKE everyone who fits into the first column? Not at all -- but I respect them. The others are just annoying.

Good stuff, doc. It's strange that in life, psychology, and philosophy -- but it seems that those things we feel we need and therefore chase hardest tend to elude us. When we sit back and just try to live our lives and be ourselves though, they eventually come find us.
Matt says ...
Great stuff, Robert! The whole "covert contract" issue was the central thing that was f*****g up my life. Having you point that out and helping me break out of that mindset has improved my life immensely!

Keep up the great work! YOU DA MAN!!!!!!!!!
recovering says ...
Did Dr. David Burns really say that "The cause of all anxiety is niceness?" Really?
That is a foolish, careless statement, misleading the ignorant.
I'd go with Jung, who said that anxiety results from hoping & trying to avoid the unavoidable unpleasantries in life (ie, pain).
Or Buddhism, which said this futile attempt is the cause of most emotional suffering.
Or the basic explanation from psychology 101, which is that anxiety results from being told that reality (some condition of consequence) is 'A' when you can sense that the truth is really 'B' (for example "Your job is secure").
The Nice Guy covert contract is only ONE version of these futile efforts and/or false diagrams of reality.

Anyway Dr. G, thanks for another helpful post.
Strength says ...
Strength says ...
I find that I have often been too nice in my life. People have often accused me of being too 'nice', and I have been. However, this is changing. I often feel like I do too much for other people, and as a result they respect me far, far less.

It is far greater to be a jerk. I never thought 10 years ago that I would say this, but the a*&hole gets far greater results in life. However, there comes a point where things backfire on the jerk. So, more than being a jerk, I think it is essential to make your own needs the #1 priority and to never, ever take crap from anybody.

I find that the world as a whole seemingly rewards 'sheeples' who never challenge the status quo. Go into a crowded elevator, and notice that nobody ever talks or makes eye contact with one another. It's almost as if we as a society have become so afraid of conflict, we won't even initiate a conversation.
Igor says ...
I've got a question. Where is a borderline between asking to sth fo you and abusing someone's kindness and niceness.

I know, I know, you told (ok, wrote) me, that we must assume that adult people can decide for themselves. But I still can't see how I know if I'm using someone or if a person sincerely wants to help.

Thanks : )
Stacy says ...
It seems my bf and I have come to terms that he's the "nice guy"; however, the lengths he goes to to people please and gain his on validity is just and slap to the face. For 3 years I have felt his childhood abuse, abandonment, and use as manual labor for a lazy father caused him to doubt his self worth and ability to be a likeable guy. I became his go to person to unload on and once he became comfortable with sharing he remained stagnant, dipped into depression, and hid out. I was the giving, loving, reassurer that wanted him to get some help, some friends, and stop pushing it aside. He refused and its become a battle daily to keep taking thirds. He finds his self worth by drowning himself in his career, expecting people to see that his dedication warrants bigger and better machinery to work with. He winds up depressed and angry with those people he just idolized and placed n a pedestal. He's become so fixed on wanting another's approval that he can't see that his relationship is fallng apart. Hes recognized that he has the self worth and self love deficit however he refuses to work on it even after hating himself for being something or someone he's not just because he feels its what gets him ahead in life. After 3 years I'm prioritizing myself and letting him go. I feel that his I love yous are in vein, he can't possibly love another when he cant love himself, he cant compromise with me to work towards a future together because he's too busy compromising with his inner distorted belief system. When you start seeing less of him because his space is needed over and over again to the point that you don't know where you time to pack up and move on. I love him but I love me too. Its said that he recognizes what he "cant" give me, but he willingly gives it away to those who cant and will never do anything for him. Thoughts?


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