Gender differences can play a big role in friendships. If you're more used to friendships with women, learning how to be a better friend to some of the men in your life may mean re-examining much of what you know about how friendships work. Examine the role that gender plays in your understanding of bonding and friends in order to build stronger bonds between you and your male friends.
1. Gender and Friendships
Men and women are strongly socialized by gender to conduct friendships and friend activities in certain ways. While there's plenty of variance and complex differences, chances are you've received many messages growing up about the kinds of friendships you're supposed to have based on your gender and the gender of the people you want to be friends with. Start the process of becoming a better friend to the men in your life by looking at your own patterns and upbringing and what it's taught you about platonic relationships with men. Look at both the messages you've received directly and the experiences you've had in your male friendships. Decide how these experiences have likely affected you and think about how you can leave some of the more negative or inflexible conditioning behind.
If you're more used to the friendship patterns of women, adjusting to typical male friendship patterns is a challenge. According to an oft-cited study by the Center on Human Policy in the 1980s, male friendships tend to center less on emotional bonding and more on specific interests and activities. This means that shared activities and subject areas may be a good way to start male friendships or to keep them healthy. Bear in mind that men may not know how to conduct themselves in friendships that are more openly based on emotional bonding activities or spending time together without a set objective.
3. Learning From Others
Look to his circle of friends for clues about what he's used to in friendship bonding and interaction. This might mean first-hand observation or just listening to him talk about his friendships. Ask yourself who his best friends are and why those friendships mean so much to him. Look for ways that you can mimic the interactions and activities of his best friends while still being true to what you want from this friendship.
4. Overcoming Tendencies
Sometimes being a good friend to a man might mean pushing him out of the gender norm a bit. If you're more used to friendships with women, his friendship with you may mean that he wants companionship with greater emotional bonding and support. Try to strike a balance between male and female friendship patterns by switching up which one of you takes the reins in planning your time together. If the clash between patterns becomes an issue, initiate a light-hearted talk about the differences in your friendship patterns and how you can get past those tendencies to just learn to be yourselves.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images