Be prepared: you might feel uncomfortable at first, and you can’t guarantee they’ll come down. That said, in Lioi’s experience, getting “no” rejections is much less common than you might think: “People are often very open, or more open than you think,” he adds. Either way, remember this whole thing is a process: Just as you wouldn’t expect to lift weights once or twice and see results, investing in a friendship takes some effort and patience.
3. Try to look at each other occasionally.
When men bond, it often takes the form of side-by-side activities, such as hiking or going to a game or movie together. But to foster a friendship, you need to sometimes turn your head and sit face-to-face, says Dr. Ehrenberg, which gives you the chance to have a more substantial conversation (and a deeper laugh). This can include gatherings, like having dinner, going out for coffee, and even video chatting from time to time — as long as you’re talking face-to-face, it’s important.
“Friendship is based on connection, and connection is based on authenticity,” says Dr. Ehrenberg. “Stiff” masculinity, as he puts it, often begs men to be emotionally silent. But when it comes to healthy friendships, openness is a requirement, certainly not a weakness, he said.
Again, you can start with low-stakes conversations. “By spending time together talking about everyday topics, every hangout reveals more,” says Dr. Rabinowitz. He recommends starting with the interests that bring the two of you together—your running club, your jobs, your Time in college—and then find other commonalities: mutual friends, shared hobbies, parenting.
As time goes on, you will naturally start talking more about what’s going on in your head (maybe you’ve been anxious lately, or you’re trying to make a big decision), overall You will also feel more at ease with this person. You don’t have to go all the way, but knowing that you can be yourself, no matter how it looks at any given moment, is part of a strong friendship.
4. Willingness to break out of old patterns.
According to Lioi, part of the reason some men have problems with friendship is that they repeat patterns that model them, whether in real life (by older brothers or fathers, such as ) or mass media. For example, he said that growing up, he never heard any man he knew openly discuss the challenges they faced in life, in relationships or in fatherhood. “When they gather around me, what I hear is not the way they speak,” Lioi said.
According to Lioi, much of this struggle with expressing affection can be traced back to early messages about masculinity that many men are taught at a young age, including being told to repress own emotions. As boys age and absorb these lessons, this affects their friendships. “[Young boys’ friendships] are usually very close, and then at some point it’s not cool to let them know,” Lioi said. “You should be independent and strong, not vulnerable – it alienates men from each other.”