The Forgotten Art of Finding Brotherhood
9:30 AM on a Tuesday. It’s been in my calendar for over four years. It’s an hour blocked off, sacrosanct. It’s something I can point to every week, something I look forward to and it’s something that keeps me very grounded.
A balm for my soul.
For over four years, my friend Tom and I have met for coffee. We don’t make every week happen. Tom has a bit of cancer that causes him some problems, so he gets a pass when he has to cancel. We occasionally go through a book on leadership or development, a passion of ours, but mainly we sit and talk about our lives. The struggles and the joys, the laughs and the bumps that come when we are in our 40s.
Every time we meet for coffee it isn’t this inspirational moment; you wouldn’t use it in a clip at a TED talk. But it’s valuable and at times, crucial.
And when I talk to other men in their 30s and 40s, they look at me as if I’m speaking Swahili. They are stunned into silence because male friendship isn’t something we talk about much.
If we mention it, we are found to be soft and weak. If we utter it’s name, we might get a strange stare or even worse a critical laugh.
So we stay silent about it and in our refusal to own up to the problem it’s not our bodies that suffer; it isn’t our cholesterol or our blood pressure.
Instead it is our very soul that suffers.
Men are more lonely now than ever. If you ask a man in his mid 20s to his 40s, “How many friends do you have?” he will scratch his head and answer, “Like real friends? It’s . . . .it’s been awhile.”
Rarely do we have men in our lives to do something with—have coffee, throw a ball around or even help us fix the garage.
We have bought into this myth that men do things on their own. Asking for help equates to be called a five-letter word that starts with “p”. We’d rather watch a game with a guy, but not have a conversation about the struggles we are having like connecting with our spouse or kids, our job that seems pointless or simply just why we can’t seem to figure out the sprinkler system.
We go at it alone hoping people marvel at our independence.
We hope for applause while we die inside.
If we want to have actual friends, how do we do it? How can we find other men in our lives that become our friends?
Honestly, there isn’t a system for it. Online dating? Sure. A billion apps. Online brotherhood?
Nope. Not one.
Here are the ways I’ve found to find friends and find someone authentic to connect with.
- Ask Your Spouse: Ask if there are any husbands out there that you have something in common with. It doesn’t have to be this laundry list of options, but if they like baseball and you do too, great.
- Ask Your Religious Leader: If you attend a church, synagogue or mosque, ask your religious leader, “Hey, I’m trying to find some more male friends here. If you think of anyone I could connect with, let me know.”
- Flip the Script: If your wife is having an “all girls night” turn that into an opportunity to have all the husbands over to BBQ, watch a movie and hang out. If kids are involved, have a babysitter (or two?) watch the gaggle of children. See who you connect with.
- How do you make the first move?
- `There’s this weirdness that comes from asking another guy, “Hey, wanna hang out?” It stems from never seeing it happen to, well, homophobia, (being perceived and feared as gay). But here are some ways to make it way more comfortable and natural to hang out with a new friend.
- Coffee. Coffee, while being the 2nd greatest elixir on the planet, is a natural way of getting to know someone. If there is someone I want to connect with, a potential friend, I’ll ask, “Hey, I’m having coffee at Starbucks while catching up on my (reading, work, fly fishing collection) and was wondering if you wanted to join me.” You are going to be there anyway—might as well have some company. This way there is no pressure.
- Help. Need some help over here. If you know the person has a certain skill that you could use some advice on, use that as a way to invite them over. “I hear you are skilled at barbecuing—could you show me tips?” Invite him over for lunch or dinner.
- Poker night. This is the way I’ve made a ton of friends in my 30s. I hosted a poker night at my place. Nine was the maximum amount of people, but friends could always bring friends. I got to meet a variety of people, follow up with hanging out for coffee later, and since I was a great poker player, I could make a little bit of money while I was at it.
- Serving. I had a local food bank down the street from my house and I would ask guys if they wanted to help out for an hour. We got to hang out, chat, and all the while we organized tomato cans. (We got a lot of tomatoes at that food bank.)
- Go all out. If you want to be the Braveheart of making this happen, you can simply ask, “Look. I’m looking for someone to hang out with, bounce ideas off of and go with to see a Guy movie every once in awhile. You in?”
If they say “Nah, I got a lot of family stuff.” Move on. It’s not personal.
But they might look at you with the relief of an exhausted man who finally got to sit down. That’s what I did with Tom; I simply asked him, “Want to grab coffee?” He said yes. And it has truly made all the difference—I have a brother now, a comrade to weather the storms with.
Find other men to meet, walk and share with—and you will find this journey you are on that much better.
Ryan McRae is an author and the creator of The ADHD Nerd , a blog designed to help the terminally distracted become greatly successful. If you want his free book on this topic, you can grab it here for FREE.