My next post in this series, New Year; New Types of Friends describes how much time it takes for men to make friends as an adult. I will reference a study about the amount of time needed to make a casual friend and how long it takes to move through the deepening stages of friendship. I also explain some differences between male and female friendships and provide guidelines for how to get started.
You can catch up on my earlier posts in this series at these links:
- The Philosophy of Friendship about how brotherly love (philia) adds emotional depth to your friendships, which makes it a “friendship for the good.”
- The History of Friendship explains that friends served utilitarian, companionship, erotic, and spiritual purposes over time. Knowing these differences helps you determine the value of a small group of deeper, authentic friendships.
- The Psychology of Friendship describes why many men lack intimacy, especially in their male-to-male relationships. This usually comes from their reluctance to open up emotionally, homophobia, or the beliefs and actions during their childhood.
- The Physiology of Friendship covers the benefits of physical activity with a friend. I also explain the paradox of testosterone, which adds risks to our relationships. I suggest that men must protect their mind and heart against sexual attraction.
- The Friendships Throughout a Man’s Life describes the various friendships throughout a man’s life and circumstances that cause many guys to avoid deeper, more authentic friendships.
These and the remaining posts in this series will help you understand the barriers to closer male friendships and why I believe every man needs a small group of GodBuddies to help them live out their best life.
“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”—Aristotle
Is Time Man’s Greatest Barrier?
Ask any man, and he will likely say “lack of time” is the most common reason why he finds it hard to make friends. This shouldn’t surprise us. We have demanding work schedules and a very involved family life. Our we move into adulthood, we have more responsibility at work and at home. As our free time drops, we no longer make it a priority to carve out time to invest in new relationships.
Some even suggest another issue is our fear of commitment. We don’t want to be strapped down with one more thing to do. Nor do we want to get hurt. Men need time to become accustomed to another person and immediately ask: what do they want from me? Or we wonder, how much time can I invest in this potential friend or what can I get out of it?
The lack of trust is another major reason why men don’t do friendships well in adulthood. Men generally find it harder to put their trust in someone until they develop a greater self-awareness than when they were children. While this awareness is positive, it also means we’re more concerned about the risks of being judged by others, not being liked, being rejected, or being hurt. Additionally, whenever we’ve had previous rejections or suffered a breach of trust, we don’t want to open ourselves up and be vulnerable.
Trust takes a long time to build but is also lost very quickly.
Although there is likely a minimum standard for calling someone a friend, man friends are not all equal. Nor are male and female friendships. We just do friendships differently.
Let’s explore some differences.
Men and Women Do Friends Differently
It’s a bit cliche that men are notoriously bad at making friends and women are natural social butterflies.
Although there are a lot of similarities, experts have observed that men prefer side-by-side relationships whereas women do friendships face-to-face.
Women also make large groups of friends more easily in playgroups, among neighbors, in PTA, or via their kid’s social connections. Women tend to bond over sharing intimacies and secrets.
Mostly though, it takes more time for men to make new friends. We also have fewer friends.
Men make friends at work or on a sports team. We bond over a shared activity — watching sports, for instance. For this reason, male friendships might be more durable since they demand less from the other person than female friendships do.
If men have any friends at all – and many do not, they tend to spend time only with a very small circle of guys. Men also rarely open up and become as vulnerable to each other as easily as women.
Men and women also go through the various life stages differently. Again, this is not always true by gender, but men tend to deal with their stress as adults as a “lone wolf” whereas women easily talk through life’s problems with others. Men also struggle more later in life with friendships.
Assuming these gender differences are real, are they a result of biology or social conditioning?
Male Friendships Need Time
In a 2018 report published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Jeffrey Hall found that it takes roughly 50 hours of time to move a mere acquaintance to a casual friend and 90 hours to go from that stage to simple “friend” status. But it takes more than 200 hours over many weeks to become good, even best friends!
While proximity to other guys and occasional opportunities for contact can set the stage for friendship, those situations do not guarantee anyone will become friends.
Hall’s study found that hours spent working together just don’t count as much. We need to spend time hanging out, joking around, playing video games, or watching the big game. I also suggest that doing recreation or service projects together is even more valuable.
Professor Hall’s study shows there is usually a relatively rapid assessment of the desirability and likability in a potential friend before we elect to spend time more together. He says friendship development can occur usually within 3–9 weeks after an initial meeting if enough hours are then spent together.
However, the amount of time by itself is not the sole factor.
It Must Be Quality Time!
The bottom line is it takes quality time for men to make friends. Not just minutes, hours, or days together but making sure the time together is valuable. Maybe we are too practical but if we are not happy with life in general, we do not put our priorities in proper order.
As I wrote in Men and Their Emotions: Happiness, other research shows that having friends is an important predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. Contrary to popular belief, friendship is very critical to a man’s life. But it also requires more than useless hours together working or playing video games.
Professor Hall’s study also states that although you may know someone for years, you may never develop a real friendship. He says that you can also know someone for just a few weeks and become best friends. The difference is the amount of quality time; not just more hours together.
For example, you may well put in many hours alongside work colleagues, yet those professional interactions don’t count for much in the relational depth chart. These casual relationships often spend a lot of time together but rarely lead to conversations beyond catching up, checking in, and joking around. Frequency can lead to finding a personal connection.
But the relationship needs more.
As I wrote in the post, Traits of a GB Relationship: Finding Commonality, men need commonality and chemistry to move from a casual friendship to a good friendship. I also suggest that their friendship will go even deeper when they add the common pursuit of living to God’s standards to the equation. This third factor adds the relationship depth that takes the relationship to the GodBuddy level.
God Buddy Focus
My recent book, Get Out of Your Man Cave: The Crisis of Male Friendship includes several practical ways to develop deeper, more authentic friendships. But while there is a perfect path to making friends, I have seen that as men spend more time together it helps the quality of their friendship.
Find out more in the book by clicking on the link above to buy one from Amazon or contact me directly for a signed copy.
In the meantime, until your copy arrives, here are a few things you can do:
- Build friendships in just ten minutes a day
You don’t have to climb mountains or bond intensely for hours over a shared hobby but you can solidify a new friendship in less than ten minutes a day. Send a text, forward a meme, add to the group chat or give him a quick call. Don’t get bogged down by how much effort, energy, or the number of minutes you need. Ten minutes a day may be all you need.
- Make it quality time
When you do get to spend time with a friend or new acquaintance, make the most of it. Avoid distractions if possible. Keep your phone on silent whenever you meet. Be 100% present with your new friend to ensure your time together is valuable.
- Lean into your vulnerability
Most men are scared by the idea of being vulnerable. Embrace it. Remember you are in control of how much you open up. Learn to build trust. Consider sharing personal information slowly, rather than all at once. Yes, there is a risk in all new relationships. But there is also the potential to connect on a meaningful level with someone who can become a very good friend: your GodBuddy!
Get started this week:
- Reach out via text or call to another guy you admire. Ask if you can buy him a cup of coffee. Make your first meeting very casual with no hidden agenda.
- Set-up meeting with a few other guys. Change up how you get together to see what works best. Go out for a drink or have lunch. Again, keep it casual with no agenda.
- Based on how those interactions go, set up another get together with one of the guys. Say you admire him and would like to get to know him better and learn from him. Take the risk and invest some time in your new friendship.
My next post will begin the examples of real-life (and some not-so-real-life) friendships.
Feel free to make any comments below.