It is the thrill of the "bromance"—finding another guy with whom you connect in a meaningful but platonic way. Let’s face it; as kids, it was easier to make friends. But as men, we lose that ability to connect.
According to Psychologist Niobe Way, males undergo a natural “defriending” process at some point in their lives. It can begin as early as 15, and it’s quite a lonely situation to find yourself in. It is so common that according to AARP, there are around 48 million men over 45 suffering from chronic loneliness.
Although many men accept dwindling friendships as their fate, loneliness has negative effects on the mind and body. A study by Brigham Young University found the risk for premature death can increase by 26% to 32% due to loneliness. That makes friendships very important to your health.
If loneliness has become part of your life, there is hope even if you are shy or introverted. Here are some tips on how you can make new acquaintances and create meaningful friendships.
The Difficulty of Friendship
We are social beings, even though some of us are more introverted than others. As we age, making friends becomes harder for a number of reasons.
First, the structured school setting in our youth throws us into a group of guys who are the same age, which makes friendship almost inevitable.
Second, as we age, most of us have families, which are a priority in our lives.
Finally, our jobs come into play, which means the hours when we aren’t home with our families, we are working. But here’s the good news, your work and your family both offer excellent ways to make friends.
Leverage Existing Connections
For many men, one of their strongest connections is with their partner. How often does your partner encourage you to engage in social activities? Do you resist these social activities and remain reserved when you’re forced to attend them anyway? If yes, instead of being stubborn, learn to look forward to participating more. You might discover that you have more in common with the group than you think. These people know you, even if indirectly, and may offer suggestions for ways you can make new friends. They may even know about local events where you can meet like-minded people.
Don’t forget about “dad friends.” Your kids have friends, and their dads might make great friends for you. You already share something very important in common – your kids. Use those conversations at sporting or school events to forge a stronger connection.
Strike Up a Conversation
Consider talking to men you see on a regular basis, such as co-workers, guys who live in your building, or someone at the gym. You may have conversations with these people every day, but never think to take it one step further. Consider ways to engage in more meaningful conversation to help you get to know them better. From there, you might find you have something in common, and you can build on that to develop a friendship.
Many lonely people miss opportunities. Someone strikes up a conversation about golf, and you find you share a passion. The other guy suggests, “We should play a round sometime,” and you nod in agreement but don’t pursue it. Taking advantage of such offers requires gumption. But remember, most people don’t suggest things they don’t want to do.
When someone offers up a social invitation, immediately respond. Consider saying: “That sounds great! Let me get your contact info,” or “I’d love to. When are you free?” Then follow up with a text to plan a time to take them up on their offer. In fact, if you change your mindset, you can be the one making the suggestion and following through to set up the “man date.”
Change Your Mindset
The most important step is changing your mindset and feeling confident that you have something to offer as a friend. Overcome your fear of rejection and try to understand why you are not able to be more outgoing.
Don’t assume everyone already has friends. That is a common reason men don’t try to fit in with a new group. Introduce yourself to people when you get the chance. Stay friendly and casual to allow yourself to get to know people. Worrying about stereotypes that men are not emotional, or that they can’t express themselves, can prevent you from building meaningful male friendships.
Make New Connections
Knowing that most male adults are in the same boat is comforting. It can provide you with the courage to pursue new friendships. There are two solid ways to approach this:
Join Organizations: As mentioned, the structure of school made it easier to make friends. Organizations offer a similar structure by introducing a commonality. They can range from sports leagues to hobby groups to business networks.
- Find New Activities: Socializing in a more relaxed setting is another way to interact with men who share your interests. Activities offer common ground to strike up conversations. Attend an outing on the craft beer circuit, take in a game of golf, or attend events of interest like Comic-Con. Apps like Meetup provide information on such events, and you can look for the ones suited to your interests.
Use Social Media
Social media is the perfect way to reconnect with old friends. Remember the guys you were so chummy with in high school and college? Maybe you have a cousin or neighbor you grew up with that you never see any more. Reconnecting with old friends can work very well, as in most cases, people are flattered to hear from you. Also, you already have so much in common. The worst thing that could happen is they ignore your request; no harm, no foul.
Once you make new connections, follow through. Text to set up hangouts, text after the hangout and continue to keep things going. Standing dates are great, especially for people with busy schedules. Play a round of golf every Sunday morning, watch your favorite sports team at the local bar on Saturday nights, or go for a jog after dinner twice a week. Friendships need nurturing and only become long lasting when you make an effort to show you are invested in the relationship.