If I am forced to choose between nice and effective, I will take effective every time. Women should be nice, but men should be effective.
I’ll admit it, I’m a reformed nice guy. When I was a younger man I believed the familiar tropes like “don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” or “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. I still believe that people should be fair, honest, and act in good faith when dealing with other men who follow these precepts. I also believe that basic courtesy and respect are important to grease the skids of human interaction.
However, where I have changed is that I no longer have the naive belief that you should be nice to people who don’t deserve it, or that you should always give the benefit of the doubt and show respect to those who have done nothing to earn it. I no longer have much interest in “catching flies”, honey or no. And I don’t have any interest in being perceived as nice, by those who otherwise don’t give a damn about me.
When another man behaves like a nice guy towards me, it doesn’t make me automatically respect him and it doesn’t make me show more generosity toward him. Instead it makes me wonder what he wants from me, and why he thinks I’m foolish enough to fall for his supplication. Now I get it. This is how others were viewing me all those years ago. Unfortunately in the world we live in, unwarranted kindness IS a sign of weakness or low self-esteem.
What’s more, some of the sleaziest, greasiest sons of bitches I’ve dealt with have perfected the art of being “nice”, while they plot to screw you over. It’s phony and manipulative. The classic example is the guy who shows fealty to women, bordering on submissiveness, because he thinks it will help him get laid. Again, I now understand a fact of life that had baffled me for years. Why do women instinctively dislike overly nice men? Because they know it’s bullshit. They know he is just trying to get in their pants but he lacks the confidence to be straightforward, so he dresses it up with insincere respect. When these slimy tactics are used on men, the objective is usually to squeeze money out of him, to get an undeserved favor, or to commit an egregious violation without too much blowback.
You’re right to be suspicious of men who act overly nice to you without any familiarity. For the most part they are out to get something, and they have such little respect for you that they believe a few fake expressions is all it will take to bend you to their will. If you think about it, that’s the opposite of respect – it’s downright insulting! They also lack respect for themselves, and have become convinced that their kindness is the best thing they have to offer.
The men I have the most respect for are direct, honest, blunt but tactful, and humorous. They are confident, skilled, and effective, while still being able to subdue their egos and be a team player, showing respect and appreciation to other men when it’s due. They know their place on the male hierarchy, and understand that they are only due what they have earned through the results they produce.
Being reasonably polite, having manners, and showing basic common courtesy is not the same as being nice. These behaviors are appropriate for any refined gentleman who wants to foster a sense of fraternity among his comrades. But taken just a bit too far and it becomes cloying and irritating, likely to diminish respect and lower one’s place in the natural hierarchy. Like all things, the mastery is in the fine sense of balance. Be a good man but damn it, stop being so nice!