(The Root) —
"Why don't nice guys ever win? I'm tired of being overlooked and unappreciated." —W.N.
There are women who wouldn't be able to spot a good man, or even a man who is good for them (there's a difference), if every guy wore a list on his forehead that included his character traits, credit score and current salary. Some women just would overlook those qualities for a guy with "swag" or who is fun or is just fine and offers little else. Those women are immature. But that does not mean all women are. Please don't confuse some women for all women.
But back to your question: There are a few reasons why so many people say, "Nice guys (and gals) finish last." Everyone likes to think of themselves as "nice," and that's healthy self-esteem. But when it comes to dating, it matters as much what you think about yourself — confidence is sexy — as it does what other people think of you, especially those whom you want to date.
In my dating observations over the last decade, I've noticed that on general lists of what people are seeking in a partner, "nice" never makes the list, not even from people who consider themselves "nice." When it comes to personality traits, most people say they want someone with "a sense of humor," "great energy," "witty" or some other descriptor that basically means "someone who will grab and hold my attention."
That's not what "nice" is. "Nice" is what you say when you need to say something positive about something — or someone — that is impossibly mediocre. It's what you say to your kid when they paint you a picture and you can't make out what exactly it was they were going for. "Oh, this is nice!" It's how you describe an all-beige, same-textured living room. It's what you say when you're trying to hook up someone on a blind date because you want to do a good deed and you realize it's going nowhere when your only sellable descriptor is, "He/she is so nice." What "nice" at its best really means is "nothing stands out" or "I don't have anything to say, but I want to be polite." At its worst, it means, "bor-ringgg."
Since you specifically asked about guys, there's another layer to this. There's an awful lot of chatter from frustrated men about women not appreciating a "nice guy," and these men believe it's because women don't appreciate a "good" man. There's a little more too it than that.
You see, the woman who held your interest but didn't return the favor likely didn't think you were "too nice." She was turned off by something else about you, but she was actually too nice to say it because she either didn't want to hurt your feelings or thought your ego wouldn't be able to handle it if she stated her qualms bluntly. In the same way that "nice" is a coverall for not knowing what else to say, it's also become a go-to for saying, "I'm just not that into you."
While we're on the subject, I also must address the entitlement issue of "nice" guys. There's the belief that because you are nice, you are somehow entitled to have the woman you desire return your interest. Nice is what you are supposed to be. A lot of people aren't, but it's one of those basics — like fathers who watch their own kids while Mom is out — that doesn't earn you any additional credit.
You want to "get the girl"? Nice is a great start, but you also need to be interesting, witty and, more than anything else, memorable if you want to have a better shot at "winning."
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.