Start Getting by Giving
There are many examples today of organisations that encourage participation. These are places and activities that offer opportunities to share skills, talents and knowledge, and gain friendship, support and self-worth in return. These are just a few:
- Men’s Shed: while this is a formal movement,there are also informal Men’s Shed activities based on the formal model but without affiliation. Each Men’s Shed has its own opening hours (typically 2 mornings a week), own venue and often a specific focus (e.g. Woodwork).
- Shed Night, or Shed Happens: These are monthly get togethers where blokes meet blokes and have a yarn over a great barbecue and listen to each other’s life stories.
- Sports, hobbies and special interest social groups: It can be daunting to arrive at one of these unknown and uninvited, but this need not be the case. Whatever your interest, whether it be photography, drones, martial arts, board games or anything in-between, a phone call to the secretary to find out details will almost always result in an invitation to the next meeting and meet other enthusiasts
In all these examples you will find yourself welcome if you ‘give before you get’. Offer to help where you see a need, and soon you will find that you have become accepted, even needed.
Acquaintances Becoming Friends
Applying the skills learned in week 1, and putting into practice Prioritizing Friends and Getting by Giving, will smooth the way for newly formed acquaintances to become close friends. Close friends are the men with whom one can be honest. They are the ones who can be trusted with what one is feeling. This doesn’t suggest we all go around pouring our heart out to everyone about the challenges we face. But what I am suggesting is that we stop acting like “it’s no big deal” or “I’m fine” when we know very well that this isn’t true.
Over the years we have all heard guys act as if they are handling a situation fine only to discover that their lives and psychological state are anything but “okay.” Unfortunately, many men have been socialized since youth to lie about what is going on internally in order to keep up appearance, keep the peace, or avoid conflict. But in the process, it not only leads men to seek out unhealthy ways of coping (e.g., alcoholism, pornography), but leads to further disconnection from the very people that could be of help. Loneliness and isolation increase, and problems get worse. It takes more courage to be honest about how one is feeling no matter how difficult, and social support is one of the best interventions available. So next time you are tempted to deflect a question of concern, consider being honest (and even vulnerable) about what is going on, and open to where the conversation may lead.
This is the value of true friendship, and with this depth of friendship men can happily say that they are no longer one of the ‘lonely men’.