When You're A Guy Who Has Trouble Relating To Other Guys
This article is obviously directed toward men, though some of its more general concepts may also carry over to women who feel like they have trouble getting along with other women.
A social issue some men have is that they feel a bit ill at ease around other guys. They typically don't feel uncomfortable or disconnected around all men, mainly the ones who act the most stereotypically masculine - "guy's guys", "manly men", "bros", and so on. A man who feels this way may be socially awkward in general, and this is one issue of many he wants to work on, or he could be comfortable with people overall, but it's always nagged him that he never clicked with other dudes.
The problem is that in most areas these typical guys seem to make up a good chunk of the men you'll run into. If a guy doesn't connect with them he may feel lonely, alienated, or somehow flawed for frequently meeting people he can't relate to. Even worse, he may be actively rejected or avoided at times, because some people think something is inherently wrong with men who don't fit into the typical male mold. They think it's lame or suspicious if a guy mostly has female friends, or isn't into football, or doesn't have a "manly" enough personality.
This article will cover the traits of these so-called guy's guys, reasons a man may not feel he clicks with them, some of the complicated reasons he may want to learn how to get along with them better, and suggestions on how to do that.
Traits of guy's guys
There are different flavors of guy's guys depending on the subculture you look at. Also, some men have more of these traits than others. It's a continuum, not a hard line, that separates the sensitive artists from the bros. The following list paints a bit of an exaggerated picture, but in general guy's guys have features such as:
- They're into stereotypically male interests like sports, cars, drinking, partying, trying to get laid, being outdoors, video games (primarily sports titles or multiplayer shooters), guns, gambling, making money, BBQ'ing, and fighting.
- They use stereotypically male communication styles. Their conversations usually stay on a surface level. When you hang out with them you'll mainly be joking around or exchanging facts and opinions about outside topics (e.g., what you think of some team signing a particular player, that player's stats). Some are your archetypal men of few words. They aren't very emotionally expressive or introspective. If you have a problem they're going to give advice, not listen supportively.
- They tease each other a lot. Some people like to think of guy's guys as kind of dopey, but many of them are very funny and quick witted. Their sense of humor can sometimes be a bit harsh and cutting. They sometimes use it to put people in their place.
- They mainly hang out in big groups with other guys. Often the members have known each other for quite a while.
- They subscribe to stereotypical gender roles and tend to look down on any guy who doesn't act like a man "should". They tend to unconsciously enforce these gender roles, being quick to label a guy who doesn't act like a typical male as "not a real man" or a pussy or gay (i.e., they can be sexist and homophobic in that they see anything that's feminine or "gay" as a negative).
- Hanging around them you get the feeling that they're always competing for status under the surface. Who can be the funniest? Who's the best at some trivial skill? Who can one up the other person's story? Similarly, they can be very touchy about their status being lowered. They'll react badly if they feel another guy has disrespected them somehow, and will do what they can to save face. The jerks among them will sometimes put another guy down to assert his higher rank.
- They're much quicker to turn to physical fighting, or the threat of having to scuffle, as a way to resolve their disputes. Being seen as tough is important to them.
Now the list above is pretty much true in spirit, but it can give the impression that guy's guys are more aggressive and mean-spirited than they often are. Picture a bunch of goofy college students having some beers and talking smack to each other as they play video games. Most of the time they're good natured and get along with everyone fine. Many of their traits aren't inherently negative, they're just one style of living in the world (some are hard to defend though). Even if they have certain values about how a male should act or whatnot, they often don't hold these views with any evil intentions.
Reasons a guy may not feel comfortable around guy's guys
There are several, often connected, reasons a man may feel off-balance around guy's guys. Often they go back to childhood:
- He may have been picked on or rejected by more stereotypically male kids while growing up, most likely for one of the other points on this list.
- He was never that interested in typical male passions like sports or cars. He always felt bored and on the periphery when other guys spent hours obsessing over their town's basketball team. The things he was interested in may have been neutral (e.g., drawing) or negative (e.g., fashion) from a regular man's point of view.
- He always had a personality that didn't fit the stereotypical male (e.g., he was more emotionally sensitive than what his peers considered acceptable).
- He's always seen typical male behavior as vaguely ignorant and ridiculous. He never had any desire to compete with other dudes in chest thumping competitions to become the pack leader. He may be turned off by other aspects of bro culture, like their emotional cluelessness or anti-intellectualism.
- He was skinny, overweight, or physically uncoordinated growing up, which led to him getting picked on, or just not being able to keep up with other guys in the areas that were important to them, like playing sports or being tough.
- He was a bit wimpy and unassertive as a kid, leading to the same problems as in the point above.
- While growing up he had a difficult relationship with an adult who was a typical man's man. For example, a guy's macho father may have always been disappointed that he was more interested in reading than going hunting. To add some salt to that wound, he may have then been negatively compared to a brother who was the epitome of a typical male.
- Somewhat opposite to the point above, he may have not have had a lot of exposure to stereotypical males growing up, and so tends to see them as unpredictable and alien as an adult. For example, he may have grown up with a single mother and two sisters. (This isn't to say I think all men raised mainly by women will have their masculinity compromised. I think it's more that if a boy is wary of guy culture to begin with, then growing up mostly around women can amplify it.)
The complicated, conflicting reasons a guy may want to learn how to get along with guy's guys better
Some men never felt much of a connection to guy's guys, and they don't care one bit or consider it a problem. They just don't hang around those types, and instead make friends with non-broish guys who are similar to them, or have more women in their social circle. The worst that happens to them is they occasionally get mildly irritated when someone judges them for not being "male" enough, or they get exposed to the kind of masculine behavior that makes them roll their eyes.
I think if someone doesn't want to hang out with guy's guys that's totally fine. It's a common choice to make in this situation. There's no one right way of dealing with a feeling of not getting along with typical males. The one thing I'd caution if you go this route is to watch for false feelings of superiority. Just because someone doesn't relate to guy's guys, it doesn't mean he's better than them in every way. This is especially true if they're using that sense of superiority to protect their ego, where on some level they want to get along with other men better, but have decided it will never work, and do the sour grapes thing. Sure, guy's guys aren't perfect, but every subculture has its flaws.
Other guys do want to be able to get along with typical males better. If that's the case I think this is one area where they really have to be aware of what their motivations are. Since a lot of men who don't click with other guys had problems with them growing up, they sometimes have very conflicted Love-Hate feelings.
I think relatively healthy motivations for wanting to get along with other guys are:
- You've got some guy's guy traits and interests yourself, though maybe not to the same degree as some males, and want to be able to get along with other men better so you can share those things with them.
- Guy's guys can be really enjoyable to hang out with, especially if you don't take them too seriously, and your mind is in "fun mode". They can also be very loyal, supportive friends once you grow closer to them. Like I said earlier, the way this article talks, it can portray guy's guys as more evil than they are. They're mostly good people, even if some of their beliefs are questionable.
- Even if guy's guys aren't really your style, you may still want to be able to get along with them when you meet them, because they are everywhere. It's for the same reasons you'd want to be able to get along with any type of person.
- You used to not be a guy's guy at all, but recently you've been acquiring more of those traits, and want to be able to join their group at times.
- Though you may never be a full-out bro, you're tired of feeling uncomfortable around those types and want to be able hang out with them without feeling so out of your element. Again, it's for the same reasons you may want to work past your discomfort with any group.
- This one is a little more self-focused, but you may have noticed that many guy's guys tend to do pretty well socially and on the dating scene, and you want be able to hang around them so you can absorb some of their more positive or attractive features.
Some more-conflicted reasons may be:
- It's human nature to sometimes seek approval from people or groups who have rejected you. Sometimes we'll do this even when we logically don't value a group's views or want anything they have to offer. A guy who's never clicked with other dudes may want to be able to get along with them just to "even out" being ostracized by them in the past.
- Society often sends the message that thinking and behaving like a stereotypical male is the right way to be. A guy who doesn't fit this norm may subconsciously be acting on an idea that he's not good enough the way he is, and should change to become more acceptable.
- People who are socially awkward are sometimes really emotionally invested in getting past their issues and being able to see themselves as well-adjusted and normal. Since they had trouble with it in the past, they may see being able to get along with guys as a big test to prove to the world that they're fixed now.
How to get along with guy's guys
If you've decided you want to be able to get along with guy's guys better here are some practical tips on how to do it. I realize some of these points come off as a bit exaggerated. I'm really not trying to paint guy's guys as simplistic robots though.
Realize not every guy who looks like a bro is exactly the same
If you've always kept your distance from this group it's easy to assume that every man who comes off as a guy's guy at first glance is exactly the same. That's the farthest thing from the truth. Many men default into dressing and acting in a standard guy manner on the surface, which can hide a lot of the variation among them. One guy wearing a bro uniform could be a walking embodiment of everything that repels you about them. His friend, who has similar clothes and mannerisms, could be into science fiction and spirituality.
Like everyone else, guy's guys also have their own personalities beyond what social category they fall into. You may meet two bros who have similar interests, but you find one is just kind of a douche, and the other is laid back and friendly, even if you don't like golf and cars as much as he does. Give everyone a chance as an individual, and realize you don't have to like or hit it off with every single person who falls into the overly broad guy's guy category. It's just like how you don't automatically love every member of your own subculture.
The other thing to realize if you got picked on by guy's guys as a kid is that not every stereotypical male you'll ever meet is guilty, or the exact same as the jerks who gave you a hard time in school. It's easier said than done to get past this baggage sometimes, but it can help to acknowledge this point, rather than operating in a way where you have a knee jerk negative reaction to everyone in the same broad group.
Don't let yourself get too psyched out by the fact that someone is a guy's guy
I think some men get so hung up about the fact that they don't get along with typical guys that whenever they meet one it messes with them mentally and they get nervous and inhibited. They see a guy's guy as if he's some imposing creature from another planet. They're just regular people who have slightly different interests and an outlook on life than you do. Like the point above mentioned, he may even be very similar to you underneath his superficial appearance and the fact that he likes baseball. Just try talking to him like you would any other person.
Another thing to do is not give guy's guys an unrealistic amount of credit. They're not the ultimate arbiters of your worthiness as a social being or as a man. They're not flawless. Sometimes they are really are overly macho, immature, and shallow.
Have a thick skin
Guys bust each other's balls a lot. Mostly it's just to be entertaining, but it can also be a way to keep people's behavior in line. For example, if someone's being full of themselves their friends will tease them to bring them back down to earth, as opposed to having a serious confrontation about it. Their humor can be cutting at times, though they usually don't mean any real ill will by it. If you're overly sensitive or take it too personally you won't be able to hang in there. You've got to be able to laugh it off and then counter with a funny line of your own.
Another thing to not take too seriously are their occasional, often semi-absurd, comments about how someone's behavior is a sign they're not a "real man" ("You're drinking an appletini? That's a girl drink"). Just let these remarks slide off your back. Some guy's guys don't know any better and can't help talking like this. Don't put too much stock in what any one dude says, because depending on who you ask pretty much any emotion, behavior, or opinion could or could not be taken as a sign that someone is a real man (e.g., "real man aren't afraid to cry", "real men never cry").
Be knowledgeable about the stuff they're interested in, and be able to take part in things they like
Guy's guys can be really easy to get along with in the sense that if you know a lot about the same sport, or whatever, that they're interested in you can instantly have a two-hour conversation, and often form a kind of bond with them over it. It's not guaranteed to make every last male like you, but it goes a long way. The same goes for social activities. Being able to take part in certain things can very quickly move you from being on the outside to one of the crew. As simplistic as it seems, some men's criteria for judging whether someone seems like a good fella is just something like, "Can we have a few beers and talk about hockey?"
I talk about the pragmatic usefulness of having a passing knowledge of things people care about elsewhere on the site. More than for many types of people it really applies to guy's guys. If you're into the same stuff as they are it's pretty easy to click with them. Of course, getting into something you don't care about isn't the easiest task. Sometimes it's just not possible, and I'm not advising you to pretend to love something that bores you to death just to get some men's approval. However, at times you may originally try learning about something for mainly practical reasons, then find you genuinely enjoy it. In that case, take your new found interest and use it hit it off with the bros.
Adapt to their communication style
Like all stereotypes this isn't entirely true, but in general guy's guys communicate on a more surface level. Like I described above, they exchange opinions and information about outside topics, and they kid around a lot. They don't talk about their feelings or vulnerabilities a ton, especially with anyone who isn't a close friend. A lot of the time this isn't necessarily bad, since we don't always need to have three-hour conversations where we dissect the influence our parents had on our beliefs about whether we deserve to be happy. When you're around the bros keep things on that breezy level. As the point above mentions, if you can converse about the same interests as them, then this is fairly simple.
Having to chat to guys who aren't very talkative
One fear some guys have is having to talk with another man who's the so-called strong silent type. They worry about the conversation being awkward and full of uncomfortable pauses. The main thing to keep in mind here is that you are not completely responsible for how well any one social interaction goes. Of course, when people identify as socially awkward they tend to put all the blame on themselves if a conversation hits some snags. Odds are many people who talk to an uncommunicative guy find him difficult to engage. Like he may have a girlfriend who's always frustrated that she can't get more than three words out of him at a time.
Basically, do your best to chat with an untalkative, unexpressive guy, but if you can't get a conversation going realize it's more about him than it is about you. Also, realize that with an unchatty guy that you don't have to be talking every second. He likely appreciates the silences and doesn't feel your relationship is falling apart if you aren't constantly jabbering. Another thing is that while you may look at a laconic guy and think, "Wow, what a powerful, self-possessed man of few words", he may very well think of himself as someone who just sucks at talking to people, and wishes he was better at thinking of things to say. It's just that his particular type of awkwardness has a built-in cover story.
If you're a bit physically wimpy or afraid of the world, get in shape and learn to defend yourself
Some guys were never that tough or assertive growing up, and around guy's guys they're always slightly on edge because they're overly intimidated by the fact that these men have the potential to get physical. They may even flinch away every time a dude gets loud or starts gesturing too wildly. Never mind that brawls are pretty rare, they're still a little afraid of the idea of it. This isn't an overnight solution, but one thing that helps is to take some classes and learn at least a bit about fighting. Also, start lifting weights and gain some strength. The goal isn't to become an aggressive, over-confident meathead or an elite MMA warrior, but to just get to a mental space where the possibility of getting into a dust up isn't this terrifying abstract concept. You'll feel much more at ease when you have the mindset that you don't want to fight, but if you had to you'd have at least some idea of what to do (even if that's to hold your ground for a moment before you spot a chance to get away).
Just spend more time around guy's guys
This suggestion is about basic exposure to become more comfortable with something that currently makes you feel nervous. If you hang out with guy's guys more, at first you'll likely feel unsteady around them. Before long you'll realize they're nothing special. You'll start to pick up on their interaction style and adjust accordingly.
Possibly work through any upsetting childhood memories that skew how you see guy's guys
When people go through a difficult, stressful experience and don't work through it at the time, the upsetting emotions and beliefs around that incident can get "frozen" in their mind, and pop up again years later when they're in a new situation that reminds them of the old one. Basically, if you were bullied or rejected by bros or jocks as a kid, being around guy's guys as an adult can dredge up all your old fear and resentment. On one level you may know you're in a different setting now, but an unconscious or half-conscious part of your mind still thinks you're a thirteen-year-old in danger of being beat up by cruel middle school thugs. You can process these painful memories and remove that old emotional charge from them. Once that's done you may still not love or click with every bro you come across, but you can at least see them through clear eyes, and not have your perception of the interaction be taken over by wounds from the past.
Some of the social problems you have around guys may be related to other weaknesses
I mentioned that guy's guys often hang out in big groups that have known each other for a long time. If you feel uncomfortable hanging around a ton of old high school buddies, the issue may partially be that you feel weird around guy's guys, but it could also be that you're just not used to hanging out with new groups of people who all know each other. Or maybe you're not good at dealing with loud, rowdy conversations. If you suspect there's a broader social issue you struggle with, and it comes up around guy's guys, look into addressing it.