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What Makes Me… a Nice Guy?

According to a bounty hunter, a professional Santa Claus and 5 other experts in their fields

In this installment of our “What Makes Me a…” column, we asked seven people what they really mean when they call you a “nice guy.”

Rob Dick, Bounty Hunter School instructor: In my world, a “nice guy” is someone that treats the fugitive like a human being. If it’s a long way to the jail and we need to stop and eat, the fugitive is going to eat. I don’t smoke, but the fugitive who smokes will get a chance to have a cigarette just before he goes into the jail. Now, I’m not going to sit in the back with the fugitive and talk about his childhood, but if the fugitive is going to jail with no money, I might put $100 in their pocket to help them buy some commissary. After all, I just made $20,000 playing hide-and-seek with them, and hey, I’m a nice guy.

Gregory Cook, professional Santa Claus: Everyone thinks they’re nice. I certainly do. I care about other people. I try to listen more than I talk. I hold doors open for people if they’re not too far away. I donate some of my time to charity in December, and during the year, I raise money for the American Cancer Society. I’m generally a happy guy and I try to share that with everyone.

Cole Benedetti, server at the Griffin Club: A “nice guy” customer always says something like, “Whenever you have a chance…” and “Thank you so much” when they ask for something. They understand that they’re not the only customer in the restaurant, and they don’t expect to be treated as such. There’s also something thoughtful and genuine about nice guys — they have a contagious smile.

Allison Goldberg, co-creator of Blogologues and How to Break Up by Text: People are nice when they don’t say, “Let me know how I can help!” because that’s putting the burden on the person who needs something to ask for it. Those people think they’re nice, but they’re just making themselves feel good for offering. Nice people preempt your needs and follow through: “I’m bringing soup because you’re sick!” “I’m bringing wine because I know you’re stressed out!” “I’m bringing condoms because I don’t want you to have unprotected sex with a stripper again!” Those are your real friends — especially that last guy, he’s a real gem.

Denise Wiesner, sexologist and founder of Natural Healing Acupuncture: The nice people that come to see me for treatment are friendly, respectful, on time and value the connection. They’re truthful in discussing their issues and want to improve their lives. They have appropriate boundaries with myself and my front desk and are happy to pay for services.

Van Hillard, bartender at Safari Lounge: A “nice” patron isn’t too snarky, bellicose or troublesome; they’re also well-mannered. On the flip side, I fear that many bartenders in Washington D.C. (where I work) are either rude, inept, oblivious or straight-up mean; as a result, many customers are taken aback when I’m actually congenial to them.

Jen Jamula, performer, co-creator of Blogologues and How to Break Up by Text: “Nice guy” is a tricky term. If you think you’re a “nice guy,” you’re probably not — it’s a classic way that cads offset their naughty behavior. But then, if other people think you’re “nice,” it means they secretly think you’re vanilla. For me, the problem is that “nice” is an infuriatingly bland word, like “good” or “interesting,” that tells me nothing about you.

I’d encourage you to break it down for yourself: Are you charming, entertaining, selfless, compassionate, agreeable, moral or just plain friendly? Start talking about yourself in those terms. I’d personally never call someone a “nice guy” unless, honestly, I was writing them off the teeniest bit.