You are here: Home>Collections

No more Mr. Nice Guy?

Agreeable dudes lag behind their jerkier peers, studies say

December 27, 2011|By Emily Van Zandt, RedEye

"You're such a nice guy."

She says as she breaks up with him. As he overlooks him for a promotion. As they borrow an extra $100.

"You're such a nice guy."

Turns out, being a nice guy may not be all "The Office's" Jim Halpert has cracked it up to be. Nice guys—wait for it—may truly finish last.

Recent studies have shown that men who describe themselves as having an agreeable personality may have worse credit scores than the grumps of the world, men who smile more may be striking out with the ladies, and cooperative men in the workplace may earn up to 18 percent less than their more aggressive co-workers. But nice guys shouldn't go trading in their cardigans for a leather bomber quite yet—despite the numbers, Chicagoans aren't convinced that it's time to retire Mr. Nice Guy.

Jonny Imerman doesn't plan on turning in his trademark positivity any time soon. Imerman, 36, of Streeterville is the kind of guy who will greet you with a hug the first time he meets you. He'll remember your name. He'll maintain eye contact and smile as he talks—even as he recounts being diagnosed with testicular cancer 10 years ago. After surviving two battles with cancer, Imerman founded Imerman Angels, a one-to-one cancer support organization.

He found that after his diagnosis and recovery, he was hit with a newfound humility and now works to exude kindness, compassion and gentleness. His last girlfriend got a little tired of his constant dedication to his cause (he wears an Imerman Angels T-shirt nearly every day), but Imerman can't imagine changing his demeanor.

"I'd be terrified to run a company where I'd be having to go around firing people," Imerman said. "I get to be nice to everybody, to help everybody—it's just my personality."

Imerman's work with his foundation allows him to use his "nice guy" status to his advantage, but not all men may find themselves so lucky on the job.

Chicago-based executive coach Julie Colbrese wasn't surprised when she read a September study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that found that moderately disagreeable men earned around 18 percent more than their moderately agreeable peers. Many clients of Colbrese's company, Hot Coffee Coaching, struggle to find a successful balance between nice and aggressive at work.

"A lot of the conversations are about having fierce conversation—that doesn't meant nasty. It means being strong and clear about expectations," Colbrese says.

Similarly passive men also may find their credit scores paying the price. Researchers at Louisiana State University in November announced they had discovered a tie between personality and credit scores, suggesting that disagreeable people have better credit scores than those who are more easygoing.

The findings suggest that "agreeable individuals might get themselves in trouble by co-signing loans for friends or family or taking out additional credit cards at the suggestion of store clerks," Jeremy Bernerth, assistant professor at LSU's College of Business, said in a news release.

While nice guys (or any guy) might want to think twice before they open that Gap credit card, Colbrese says being a kind person doesn't mean you won't be successful in business. The key is to find a balance.

But can nice guys get what they want when it comes to getting the girl?

In June, a study published by the American Psychological Association found that men who were smiling in photos shown to women were found to be less attractive than men who appeared more serious or brooding—perhaps a nod to the concept that bad boys tend to be more sexually appealing.

For Melissa Malka, 25, of River North, it's a concept that has been in play for thousands of years.

"There's a biological, evolutionary component to it," says Malka, who works as the owner and matchmaker of Chicago dating service Just a Little Black Card.

Self-proclaimed nice guy Marc Rochman, 36, of River North, has never found smiling to be unattractive to women in the bar scene.

"Sure, in a photo of a male model, he won't be smiling … but out at a bar, in real life, women are attracted to the people who are smiling and having a good time."

And what about the guy who seems too eager to open the door or who text messages right away after a first date? Maybe he just needs to add a little more mystery.

"Women aren't responding to the 'bad guy,' but that he's brooding and there's a story behind it," says Lakshmi Rengarajan, founder of Chicago dating events service Me So Far.

When nice guys do show that there is more to their story than just a kind face, Malka believes they can make for some of the best relationships.

"I find comfort in a nice guy," she says. " There's something very comforting about a guy who my friends would feel comfortable calling. Maybe there isn't an instant attraction, but it's under the surface. They can be an A+." | @metromixchi

RedEye Chicago Articles