Talking to Men in 2020: Secrets Men’s Groups Use To Get Guys To Open Up
Men are conditioned to avoid showing vulnerability at all costs, so how can you get guys into a meaningful conversation?
So there you are, sitting with a group of guys and the conversation is struggling. What can you do to get the guys talking? How can you get them to open up a little?
Believe me, I know the feeling. I’ve run men’s groups for a living for the last decade.
I’ve watched guys who share similar careers, hobbies and backgrounds struggle to get a conversation going. With everything in the world to talk about it quickly became awkward, even cringeworthy.
Getting men into conversation is often challenging. We men have been brainwashed to avoid communicating anything vulnerable from the day we were born. We’ve had the principles of toxic masclinity beaten into us. We feel that we need to be tough and fear being seen as weak — especially in front of other males.
If you’re looking for strategies to get a group of men into conversation you’ve come to the right place. In this quick post I’ll share the simple strategies that we use to get guys gabbing in men’s groups.
Most Guys Secretly Want Meaningful Conversations
Whether they admit it or not, every human being that walks the planet craves connection. We are hardwired to be close to others and to share the intimate details of our lives. This includes males.
Most guys would tell you the opposite; that they don’t need to have intimate conversations and relationships with others. They’ll tell you that sharing your experiences and feelings is a sign of weakness. Yet deep down they crave it.
Even the hardest dudes just want to feel close to others. I’ve seen first hand that even the hardest guys will open up and be vulnerable if they are given the chance in the right setting.
The success of men’s groups in prisons throughout North America has proven this to be true.
It’s More About Setting Than Topics
Everyone wants to know about the best men’s group topics. What I’ve observed is that topics don’t matter if there is an environment within the group of guys that discourages sharing.
I’ve held a men’s group in a setting conducive for sharing and watched the conversation flourish. The next meeting I watched the same men’s group struggle to get a discussion started because the environment didn’t enocurage the guys to open up.
It’s all about setting and the example you set.
Here are some things we do with a group of guys to encourage a menaingufl conversation:
- Lead with vulnerability: If a man sees another man speaking vulnerably without ridicule, he will feel a lot more safe to open up as well.
- Start the conversations with someone who shares more than the average man: Again watching another man express himself without being judged as weak will help other men do the same. Start with someone who is more likely to share.
- 100% confidential: Men will do anything to avoid looking weak. Accordingly you must ensure that you are in a private space and that nothing is shared outside of the group. Without this a man will not share.
- Talk about going deeper in a cool way: Words like “vulnerability” and “sharing” actually scare men due to our conditioning and fear of judgement. Instead make it more approachable and casual. Instead of “It’s time to share vulnerably” you could try “Okay. Let’s talk about the real stuff!”
- Laughter: Guys don’t want a conversation that is 100% serious and heavy. It needs to feel fun too. Get them laughing! Bring lightness to their challenging situations and they’ll want to talk more.
- Exercise empathy: Everyone wants to have their experiences and feelings acknowledged and validated. So after a man shares you could say “That sounds difficult” or “I’m sorry you had to go through that”.
- Ask a lot of questions: Sometime you’ll need to drag a discussion out of a guy. Respond to his words with questions like “tell me more about that” or “what was the worst part for you?” to get them to open up further.
These key men’s group elements will help get the guys in your men’s group to start chatting!
Create Conversational Momentum
To get a group of guys chatting is hard, but to get a group of guys to stop chatting is even harder!
To start our meetings, we encourage casual banter on surface level topics such as:
- The weather
- World events
- Health stuff
- Local news
Shooting the breeze like this will build a little familiarity and trust before you get into the sensitive stuff. This will get things going and you can take it deeper from there.
The Easiest Way To Get Guys Into “Real-Talk”
The reality is that launching into a heavier men’s group topics will just feel uncalibrated and forced.
Instead, a much more sneaky way to do it is to get the guys to share about their lives over the last two weeks. The key is individual updates.
The guys will go around the circle and share the highs and lows from a few key categories of their lives.
Typically guys will share from a few specific life-categories:
- Or a specific ongoing challenge they are facing such as a divorce
The context of casually sharing life updates — both giving his own update and listening to others — will remind a guy of what happened since the last men’s group meeting and he will be more likely to bring it up in conversation.
Ask Better Questions
Updates are by far the best way to get guys into conversations in a group of men, but good questions are a good fallback.
Here are some examples of good questions you could ask in group of men:
- “Why did you get into XYZ?”
- “What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?”
- “What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the last few years?”
- “Thanks for sharing man. Tell me more about that!”
- “What was the best/hardest part of that?”
- “Can anyone else relate to that?”
And if you’re stuck on questions in a men’s group situation, you can always use a list of topics.
What Are The Best Men’s Group Topics?
Even though it feels unnatural to present a specific topic to a group of guys, it can kick off a great conversation. What are the best men’s group topics?
Over the years of facilitating men’s groups, I’ve seen the same topics come up over and over again:
- Communication In Relationships: Every man struggles with this at times.
- Family Drama: Everyone has family and finds it challenging to manage it.
- Emotional Intelligence: Most men were never taught about their emotions so they need to talk through it with others.
- Work & Purpose: Lots of guys face challenges with work and life-purpose.
- Personal finance: Everyone likes talking about money!
- Vices & addictions: Porn, junk food, drugs, sex, booze, overworking and more.
- Health: Nutrition, exercise, health challenges and more!
Since these topics organically come up in groups of men most frequently, I’d wager they are the most likely topics to get an impactful conversation started.
A Summary To Help You Get Started
There may be a lot to consider when it comes to encouraging conversation between men. That being said all of the above really boils down to the following four points:
- Guys want to talk and share. We’re hardwired for it.
- You must create the right environment for guys to openly share.
- Go around the circle giving updates to get things started.
- Then if nothing comes from the updates, feel free to suggest the most common men’s group topics from our list.
We hope you found this helpful and we wish you the best of luck with getting your group of men into conversation.