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Mas­culin­i­ty and Social­iza­tion: Tips for Build­ing Adult Relationships

Rebecca O

Rebecca joined KYC's Team in July 2017 as an Adult Therapist supporting individuals, couples, and families.

By, Rebe­caa Ogle, MSWLCSW

Over the past cou­ple of years, I’ve noticed a con­cern­ing trend amongst men in their 20’s and 30’s: Social isolation. 

Five to ten years after high school, many peo­ple have lost touch with their friends from school. There are few places to meet friends as an adult out­side of the work­place. Many folks with dis­abil­i­ties can’t work, so they don’t even have that has a poten­tial source of connection. 

Social con­nec­tion is essen­tial to our men­tal and phys­i­cal health. Research indi­cates that lone­li­ness can increase stress and depres­sion. A ten-year research review even indi­cat­ed that folks with low social sup­port have increased risk of poor prog­no­sis in heart conditions.

It’s true that it’s hard to meet peo­ple. Part­ly that’s envi­ron­men­tal, but part­ly, it’s emo­tion­al. It’s intim­i­dat­ing to approach some­one new, to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion and risk rejec­tion… espe­cial­ly for men. Start­ing in child­hood, men are taught that show­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty makes them a sis­sy.’ Even if you con­scious­ly dis­agree with that mes­sage, it’s dif­fi­cult to over­come when it’s so infused into our culture.

If you’re inter­est­ed in meet­ing new peo­ple, but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few tips:

  1. Fre­quent the same places. It’s less intim­i­dat­ing to chat with peo­ple who rec­og­nize you, and who you rec­og­nize. Try going to the library, the gym, the gro­cery, or a cof­fee shop; ide­al­ly, around the same days and times. Peo­ple are crea­tures of habit, and you’re more like­ly to see the same peo­ple if you get on a con­sis­tent schedule.
  2. Com­ment on the obvi­ous and neu­tral. How bout this weath­er?” or Wow, it’s hot/​cold/​busy/​quiet in here today!” are two good options. 
  3. Gauge the inter­est of the per­son you’ve made your open­ing com­ment to. If they make eye con­tact, smile, and talk back, they may be open to con­vers­ing. If they avoid your eyes or say very lit­tle in response, take it as a hint that they don’t want to talk.
  4. Try not to take rejec­tion per­son­al­ly. Some­times peo­ple are hav­ing a bad day, or are just not in the mood to talk. 
  5. Ask ques­tions. When a con­ver­sa­tion stalls, ask the oth­er per­son a ques­tion. Keep it sur­face lev­el at first – How’s your day going?” works well, because it allows peo­ple to share as much or as lit­tle as they want to. 
  6. LIS­TEN and stay curi­ous. Ask fol­low-up ques­tions about what the oth­er per­son said. For instance, if some­one men­tions walk­ing their dog, ask what the dog’s name is.

Mas­culin­i­ty is a broad spec­trum. Men absolute­ly have the abil­i­ty to forge strong, emo­tion­al con­nec­tions with oth­ers; they just need the moti­va­tion and skills to do so.

Does this arti­cle remind you of your­self, or some­one you know? The Men-Pow­ered ther­a­py group at Ken­neth Young is designed to help men in their 20’s, 30’s and above nav­i­gate social inter­ac­tions grace­ful­ly, and learn how to make and main­tain mean­ing­ful friend­ships. It will also empow­er them to accept them­selves and oth­ers as they are.

If you’re inter­est­ed in join­ing this group, please e‑mail me: rebeccao@​kennethyoung.​org.

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