How to get communicate with other guys
April 2, 2005 5:03 AM   Subscribe

I am your stereotypical sensitive-male who has far more female than male friends. Communicating with women is absolutely no problem for me (and neither is romance). However I am and always have been rather inept at communicating with other men. I interpret things they say incorrectly, and they interpret what I say incorrectly, and the problem has just exacerbated itself over the course of my life. However, I'm just shy of 30 years old and not willing to give up quite yet on changing the patterns in my life. How can I learn to interact normally with other guys?
posted by randomstriker to Human Relations (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
P.S. joke about it if you must, but I am absolutely sure I'm not gay.
posted by randomstriker at 5:07 AM on April 2, 2005

At risk of being completely stereotypical, it strikes me that guys really don't have nearly the degree of unspoken implications as women in things they say. There should be very little 'interpreting' going on when you're listening to a guy, and very little implying when you're talking to one; say what you mean, mean what you say.
(standard gross generalization caveats apply here, YMMV, etc.)
posted by willpie at 5:42 AM on April 2, 2005

krisjon, that's not helpful.

randomstriker, as a guy who has some similar problems, I recommend taking a look at Deborah Tannen's books, especially "You Just Don't Understand." Tannen is an anthropologist who studies men and women the way other anthropologists study pigmies in equatorial Africa. In other words, she treats men and women as cultures and describes the "rules" and habits of each culture.

her books are great guides for helping men communicate better with women and vice versa, but they also help non-standard men (and women) communicate better with their own gender.
posted by grumblebee at 5:44 AM on April 2, 2005

What krisjohn said. The average guy primarily wants to talk about bloody sport and bloody cars and bloody shagging. He wants to sit in sports bars drinking crappy bottled beer and gawping at a screen showing a bunch of other guys punting balls of various shapes and sizes around a field. He wants to go "Yeah!" occasionally. Oh, and he finds belching, farting and scratching his balls terrifically amusing. He also sits with his legs spread wide apart on the subway because he is, at core, an utter oaf, yahoo and scumwrench.

You're probably intelligent, that's the problem. This is why you prefer female company. BUT, I will now attempt to answer your question. Forget the average guy: they really are morons. Don't even think about the below-average guy as they're basically protozoa but with added violent tendencies. What you do is seek out the above-average guy. The smart, sensitive, imaginative ones. A good way to do this is to be yourself around guys. Let me say that again: be yourself.

What happens then is the good guys will like you and talk easily with you, and the average guys will dismiss you as a prat, a wanker, and very possibly, gay. This is a win-win situation.
posted by Decani at 5:44 AM on April 2, 2005

What are you having misunderstandings about? I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, except I happen to know a lot of non-average guys. I'm pretty interested in knowing about all topics, so I can still talk somewhat intelligently on cars, sports and "bloody shagging", but there are quite a few guys I know who aren't at all like that. Not surprisingly, I met most of them from back in the days of BBSes, and most come from non-standard backgrounds and weren't the most popular kids in high school, let's put it that way.

Anyhow, as krisjohn put it, why would you want to? Or in my interpretation, why force it? I've been going out with a woman who has no female friends, and she seems perfectly fine with it -- what do you think you're missing out on?
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 5:58 AM on April 2, 2005

Can you give any specific examples of things that they say that you misinterpret, or vice versa? Or is it a more general sense of miscommunication?
posted by chrismear at 6:02 AM on April 2, 2005

krisjohn, Decani: Is that helpful? Is dismissing communication with nearly half the world's population really an option? Why do you hate men so much? One could easily say similar things about the "average woman" with similar accuracy (that is, little, overall).

Back to the question, though. It's my guess that you're having trouble communicating with the "man's-man" type. Doesn't talk much, doesn't have much interest in what you'd consider small talk. In my experience, he uses language to communicate facts and not much else. If you confront him with a conversation about the abstract, you're going to get odd looks. He won't understand and he won't be interested. (I think willpie is right about certain men's transparency.)

But he's still a human. He still wants contact with others. Emotional connections with the "man's-man" come through shared experiences. A ballgame. A movie. A roller coaster. If he's telling a story, it's about an experience, and not about how that experience made him, or someone else, feel. Try to engage him outside that level, and you're likely to come off as a little odd to him.

That said, not every man is that way. I feel quite comfortable switching modes rapidly to communicate with different people. However, I am absolutely more comfortable communicating in this "man's-man" mode with other men. Why? It's just what I'm used to because it's what "most" men want.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:07 AM on April 2, 2005

Decani , your unfunny.

I work around a lot of "regular" dudes, and I've always had some trouble communicating because I don't like sports and such. This doesn't really matter when you won't be spending any time with a person. Are you talking about making small talk at parties, or about the people you work with? Because time is all it takes to establish a connection with someone that you have little in common with. Natural communication follows.

Some men just don't get me, and I've learned to be ok with that.
posted by recurve at 6:55 AM on April 2, 2005

Dude... essential to communicating with other guys is getting the friggin' handshakes right. Every single ethnic group... heck, every single group of guys everywhere... they've all got a different ritual when they depart.

Sure, you can try and follow what they're doing... but it won't be right. You go to bang knuckles, they're doing a standard shake. You extend your hand for a handshake, they're banging knuckles... it's crazy.

Anyway... that aside, I've learned a secret. Learn how to play videogames and you can hang with any guy anywhere, from 12 to 40 years old. From gang bangers to d&d nerds, it's the common bond that holds us all together.
posted by ph00dz at 6:57 AM on April 2, 2005

Good answer uncleozzy (and thanks for calling out krisjohn, Decani.)

You might be able to find some of those man's-man subjects more interesting than you think. Take sports for example. Lots of guys are interested in sports and (believe it or not) sports can be a framework for talking about a whole bunch of subjects other than "Your Team Sucks, Mine Rules." Moral dilemmas, business lessons, racism, sexism, religion, etc.--you can talk about all these subjects in the context of sports.

(For example, the other day I had a conversation about how the NHL lockout points to the move from businesses having a management/labor paradigm to one of management/talent.)
posted by sexymofo at 6:57 AM on April 2, 2005

The situation you describe is not unfamiliar to me. When I was younger I really disliked men and would chat with girls about what boofheads most men were.
As I grew older I guess the resentments started to recede of their own accord at least to the point of ambivalence which is where I've stayed. And that's certainly not to say that I feel overly comfortable breaking bread with the man's man. I still often don't. But the experience that comes from growing older just naturally make many of life's 'inconveniences' less taxing or intrusive or fearful IMHO.

(But I admire your interest in and willingness to address an issue that I always pushed aside)

If I was going to try for some active remedial work in this area, my tendency would be to start by listing the interests and talents I have which would likely overlap with those among the male majority.
It could be sport or woodwork or car building or boating or politics (not that these are exclusive domains for any one sex or personality type of course - but the odds would favour certain pastimes).
Then I would think about engaging in such a pursuit in the gentlest way possible - ie. a 'way in' that most protected me from hurt/shame/embarrassment but still facilitated being around Ychromosome-types. That would not include for instance rocking up to local footy games and trying to join in as a new convert - overdosing would scare me.

So I would look on the 'net and local paper etc for local activities centring around my interests. For me I'd probably choose to do some sort of carpentry course at a local technical college (or equivalent).

As for actively engaging with males - that's going to be the hard part obviously. But meeting through a shared interest gives a pretty solid foundation for conversation. Hopefully this way I could deal with the guys individually or in small groups. I would try to be myself while trying to stay within limits of say practicality - the facts and materials and problems and solutions. I'm imagining the exposure to conversation and interaction will, over time, help the situation to become more natural.
And it would of course be a 2-way street - just because a guy is a man's man doesn't mean he doesn't have deeper thoughts and feelings and I would expect that my own particular quirks and foibles, which would come out or rise up one way or another, would be accepted over time by these new found (hopefully) friends. You would arguably be doing the world a favour by rehardwiring some of the prominent browridge folk anyway.

If the interaction in a relatively closed environment were to succeed to any reasonable extent - then it could be test driven out in a less sheltered environment such as the pub or sports event.
But this is just what I would do.
posted by peacay at 7:08 AM on April 2, 2005

OK randomstriker, I know where you are coming from. You could follow some of the obnoxius advice in this thread, which is mostly surface structure, and torture yourself with 'how should I act', 'what's the right thing to say', etc. That's a bad premise, unfortunately, because it's derivative.

You want to successfully connect with all people, not just those you find easy to naturally relate to. Right? Let's leave the sex of the person out of it for now. Perhaps because it's so easy for you to relate to women and not to men, you might conclude that you are missing something. Well, you are not, at the fundamentals.

Most men would walk over hot coals to be able to have this ease with women. That is a huge strength that merely needs to broaden to people in general.

Please do not eyeroll on the following advice (I dare ya).
Immediately pick up the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. While you might not take to it as a prescriptive guide, its insights into our social behavior and needs is accessible, practical and enlightening. Sure it was written in 1937, but it's been lovingly updated over the years.

As to subjects to talk about...consider 'gender-free' knowledge that's very portable and highlights your own interests and intelligence. Some poor topics: bottlecap collections, technology (I'm a techie, my friend, it doesn't have legs), etc.

If you have a liking for business, follow it in Marketwatch, NYT business or the like. Keep up on economic data, which is delivered very predictably. Etc.
Other areas if business isn't to your liking: current events that you can take a deep dive into. Music. There are lots of other topics for you to think over.

A baseball nut will have every statistic in his/her head on the home team, or a basketball fanatic is wired into the NCAA March winnowing rtiual we refer to as 'March Madness' (what a bullshit moniker). That's no barrier. Accept and admit that you don't know this stuff. Recognize that someone's particular knowledge is something he or she is proud of and will gladly break it down for you. But only if it happens to interest you to hear about it. And always, always, actively listen and show you're getting it by asking questions.

A post like this usually ends with 'good luck!'. You don't need that. What you need to do is to discard this 'manly man code' nonsense advice. It's a waste of electrons. Revel in your natural talent at befriending the most complex beings in the universe. There's a lot to be said for that. Expand those talents to people in general. Not everyone is going to want to be your friend, and likewise, but is that really a newsflash?
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:09 AM on April 2, 2005

Is dismissing communication with nearly half the world's population really an option?

It definitely is not only an option but required for sanity. There are more people in your life than you can ever possibly be friends with. Pick and choose.

RS: Probably part of your problems come from the fact that you are not in competition with women but you are with men. You can even see a sort of dominance hierarchy being worked on here. Some guys are positioning themselves as superior males by pissing on others.
posted by srboisvert at 7:15 AM on April 2, 2005

It definitely is not only an option but required for sanity.


So if it's required for sanity but not an option, that means we're all doomed to be insane.
posted by grumblebee at 7:52 AM on April 2, 2005

I am gonna leave this alone because I don't really have any problem 'mode-switching.' From the "How's it hangin'?" guys to the more, err, thoughtful ones.

Learn how to play videogames and you can hang with any guy anywhere, from 12 to 40 years old. From gang bangers to d&d nerds, it's the common bond that holds us all together.

I'm glad that I'm 44, since I can't stand video games. What a ridiculous waste of time. I'll talk with you on any subject except your getting a power pill to get to the 7th level of Zorbert or some shit. Jeez.
posted by fixedgear at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2005

You can even see a sort of dominance hierarchy being worked on here. Some guys are positioning themselves as superior males by pissing on others.

srboisvert for the win!
posted by aramaic at 8:07 AM on April 2, 2005

If someone's pissing, it's on your shoes because he or she is a maladjusted douchebag. 'Dominance hierarchy' - sure sounds purty, but save it for the Leaning Annex.
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:32 AM on April 2, 2005

Garrrr! {Learning}
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:32 AM on April 2, 2005

I'm surprised by the number of people in here saying that man-to-man communication is "more straightforward" than woman-to-woman communication. It's only more straightforward if you're used to it. That's a little like saying that English is easy to speak, when it just happens to be your native language. For foreigners, English is tough, and for outsiders, male communication is a bitch to learn. I know — I'm a guy who grew up with female friends and I've been trying for years to master talking to guys. A few things I've picked up:

Among women, acting territorial means "you're a threat and I don't like you." With men, acting a little territorial can be a friendly gesture. Watch the guys around you and try to learn the difference between a serious fight and a play fight. Refusing to join in the play fights can make you look prissy or stuck up; stay out of the real ones, though.

Among women, it's good form to try to dig a little deeper when someone tells a story. Men don't do that unless they're very close. If a guy is complaining about something his wife did, the right response isn't "Are you okay?" or "Have you two been having problems?" — it's "Oh, god, let me tell you what my one friend's wife did last week..." or "Have you heard the one about the guy and his wife who...." The details can be tricky, but following a story with a related story is almost always good form. If you can, make it a little funny. If he really is upset about his wife and wants to talk, he'll laugh, feel relieved, and go back to talking about her.

The "chicks are crazy" conversation is the male equivalent of the "I feel so fat today" conversation — it's complete bullshit, and most guys know it, but it fills an important social purpose and lord help you if you try to cut it off. You don't have to join in, and if you do join in you don't have to be blatantly mysogynistic. Just don't set out to correct your friends or explain women to them. Odds are they understand women better than they're letting on, but the conversation is the sort of ritual it's best not to interrupt.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:45 AM on April 2, 2005

I would just like to warn randomstriker that this the worst, biases-and-maladjustments-on-display collection of answers I've ever seen in an Ask Metafilter thread. nj_subgenius gave an excellent response, but be careful choosing the rest of the advice here, assuming you can pick it out from the chat and bile, anyway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2005

Some great advice here, particularly nj_subgenius. I've been in the same boat for most of my life and have a couple of things to add.

1) Play sports or engage in other activities with men. Sure, you could start poring over the sports pages in the hopes of coming up with an interesting stat to throw around the next time you're chilling with the guys, but if you just aren't that into being a sports fan, than you can't really fake it. And that isn't really communication, either - real communication is built up around shared experiences and understandings, not macho attempts to one-up each other with arcane sports trivia. One of the best things that I did in this regard was start playing in a regular basketball game - I got to know some guys, some of whom I became close to, many of whom I continued to have superficial relationships with. But it was built on the foundation of a shared experience. (If you're not into sports, then find something else where you are in the company of men, ideally something that involves collaboratino as well as competition).

2) Take some risks. You're not the only man who feels awkward around other men. Men have a very difficult time expressing feelings and talking about personal subjects. Sometimes you will have to make the first move in this regard. It will be awkward, yes, but in some (certainly not all) cases it will be rewarding.

3) Examine your interactions with women as well as men. Your problem may not be as gender-based as you think. In my experience (30 years of it), "sensitive" men enjoy a sort of sensitivity dividend when it comes to women. If you present yourself in a non-threatening manner, then they will open up to you much more readily - not because you are particularly good at communicating, but because you are so different from most men that women will make a lot of assumptions about how good a communicator you are. You thus have to do a lot less work to get women to open up to you. since men don't assume these things, you will have to work harder to communicate well and overcome the awkwardness.
posted by googly at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2005

googly's #3 is an excellent point.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 AM on April 2, 2005

What's wrong with sport, cars and shagging? I love all three of those things. I also like going out drinking and gambling. Some of my favorite memories involve utterly indefensible behaviour.

But as uncleozzy said, I enjoyed these things because they're shared experiences.

Don't bag on people just because they like some things you don't like or understand. Doing so makes you an arrogant elitest, not a sensitive intellectual.

P.S. If you want to fake being a sports fan, put $50 on one of the teams. Works wonders.
posted by mosch at 9:28 AM on April 2, 2005

I'm of the female variety but I'll add to nebulawindphone's excellent observations with something I've both witnessed and that's partially based on a communications class I took with the aforementioned Tannen.

Guys insult each other for fun. If you come up with the funnier insult, you win temporarily but more importantly, it's an affirmation of the friendship. We like each other enough that we don't care if we get an insult here and there, that sort of thing. Plus it really is fun.
posted by lorrer at 9:32 AM on April 2, 2005

What Decani said. If you can't just be yourself around these people, why in hell would you care even the smallest shit about them?

Life is too short to waste on that sort of posing.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 AM on April 2, 2005

I think willpie has it pretty much dead on. Women's conversation is more subtle than the "average" guy. It just is. Why do I know this? I have problems communicating with women. It's not that I don't like chit-chat (because I do), but I'm a no-bullshit, tell-it-straight kinda person. I'm not particularly fond of talk of cars, sports or shagging, but I seem to be able to hold my own. I prefer to talk to "sensitive" men (my husband and oldest brother are wonderful conversationalists). Maybe "sensitive men" are enough of a hybrid to make me more at ease in conversation. Women, especially "girly" women confuse me.
posted by deborah at 9:46 AM on April 2, 2005

I like what nj_sub said, and also googly. I'm not particularly good at spending long periods of time with 'regular' guys because my interests don't overlap enough. Finding one that does is always really a plus. Asking questions that someone else knows the answer to is always a good way to go.

I have to say, for about the past 1.5 years I've been working out in a gym three or so days a week for the first time since I was in high school. I work out with basically the same group of guys everyday at lunch. Some are more friendly than others. These guys have been working out together for years and years, I think they would say they were good friends. They're by far the most 'regular' guys I know. They don't talk about anything. I mean it. Almost all their interactions are very surface, and that's clearly the way they want it. It's all light teasing, the occassional discussion about what they did over the weekend (some errand or other), very occassional talk about being swamped at work. When I take part, it's in that way, because there is no other mode. I really think that they work out together in order to just spend time with each other.
posted by OmieWise at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2005

My experience is similar to randomstriker's; my friends are, with a few wonderful exceptions, female. The minds of males and females are different, obviously, like two different cultures that behave and communicate in different ways. However, I have the following observation to offer: It's not the gender.

That is, there are "male" personalities among females, and there are "female" personalities among males. There are females I do not get along with, for various reasons. Some people simply seem uninteresting; a female's obsession with a soap opera series on TV is just as bad as a male's obsession with a certain type of sport.

The corollary is that you will find compatible and incompatible people of both genders.

My theory is that because I'm the "sensitive" type of guy, I tend to seek out the females, and I therefore either accidentally or subconsciously ignore potential males that could be good matches. There are probably more good male matches out there that I don't realize; in fact, I know it.

That said, as a softie I still find it easier to become close with females, because they're girls -- fair, soft and cuddly things who like closeness. I don't hug my male friends; we don't attend any sports events together where custom would permit us to throw our arms around each other to share the winning team's moment of triumph. As it is, handshakes, pats on the back and wisecracks is the way most guys get close.

Also, what Mayor Curley said.
posted by gentle at 9:57 AM on April 2, 2005

Absolutely check out Deborah Tannen's work, especially her first three books That's Not What I Meant, You Just Don't Understand, and Talking From 9 to 5. The first book is about differences in communication across cultures, religions, gender, etc.; the second is about the differences in how men and women tend to communicate, and the third is about differences in communication in the workplace.

I'm going to guess the reason why you have no trouble making friends with and talking to women yet have trouble relating to men is that you perhaps have a more indirect style than most men do. This is something she discusses; in USian society, men tend to communicate directly, women indirectly. She points out in her books that British and Japanese men also have trouble communicating with USian men because their styles tend to be more indirect.

Another reason you may be having trouble has to do with how typical men and women relate to other people, which is another big theme in her books. Men tend to relate in hierarchies, in which someone is always one-up and someone else is always one-down, and "real men" must avoid being the one-down. Women tend to relate laterally, evenly, trying to preserve the appearance of everyone on the same level. The classic example is "men don't ask for directions"; to do so frames them as one-down, a person needing help, and the direction-giver as one-up, a person with superior knowledge. Women tend not to perceive the hierarchical aspect; practically, if you're lost you should ask for help, and you'll make a mutual connection of them feeling good for helping you and you feeling good that you're getting the knowledge you need; it's nice for everyone.

Everyone is of course a blend of these styles, direct in some things, indirect in others; but most men tend to be more one way and most women tend to be more the other way. People that operate outside of these gender-divided tendencies will have trouble. So these books help in understanding why other people act/react the way they do, and helps you to better interpret and deal with them. I think if you read about it you will find this info very useful in understanding your own style too.
posted by Melinika at 10:13 AM on April 2, 2005

Another vote for grumblebee's recommendation of Deborah Tannen's books. She's a linguist, not literally an anthropologist, but yeah she's looking at us as essentially two cultures ("feminine style" and "masculine style", which she takes great pains to distinguish from male/female. We can be fluent in either style, and her books help increase fluency in both.) each of which has distinctive rules that unconsciously govern our communication--how things get said, as well as how words and actions get interpreted. By the way, her research shows clearly that "masculines" DO have subtext and interpretation aplenty. Just focused on a whole different set of cues than "feminines". *cough* that heirarchy competition...

Tannen show how miscommunication and conflicts rear up when we (a) don't realize that someone's working from the other culture's communication rules (b) lack the ability to adapt or reinterpret. By making those implicit cultural "rules" visible, and illustrating how we're being perceived by the "other" culture's standards, she helps you overcome both problems.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:22 AM on April 2, 2005

What I've observed among men communicating amongst each other is that they tend to talk a lot about facts and details -- record guys talk about the new records they got, where they got 'em, what kind of bargain they got, what band the new guitarist used to play with, etc.; baseball fans talk about statistics, why the Money Ball theory will (or won't) work for a particular team, who's got a shot at the penant, etc.; guys who work on their cars talk about the finer pros and cons of intalling a certain muffler or set of rims or whatever.

You get the idea -- conversations (tend to be) about stuff in a material sense, not about feelings, abstractions, hopes, etc. It's all pretty direct and fact-based. There really isn't much subtext to the language -- what subtext I've ever been able to make out between men (and then only if I squint) comes in the form of what some other people have mentioned above: body language (don't lean too far into another guy's personal space!), joking/insulting/play fights (although I know some guys who don't do this at all, and some who only do it with really close, long-term friends or their actual brothers), etc.
posted by scody at 10:30 AM on April 2, 2005

And oh yeah -- I echo what someone said upthread that guys tend not to ask questions (usually open-ended ones) that go deeper than the level of conversation that's already in place. That is, if Guy A is complaining about something his boss did that day at work, Guy B does not ask "why do you think he did that?" or "do you think you should go to HR?" or any of the other responses that would not be out of place in a conversation with a woman. Guy B instead simply says, 9 times out of 10, "that sucks" in such a way that allows Guy A to keep talking if he wants, or move on to another topic if he wants. Guy B might ask something more limited like "so what did you say next?" to keep the story going, but that (in my experience) is about the limit of the questioning. Guys (and again, this is in general, YMMV, etc.) say what they want to say, without much need for the verbal rituals (expressions of sympathy/empathy, drawing out the narrative, tangents etc.) that women tend to engage in.

Also, men don't want advice when they're complaining about a problem, unless it's an immediate, concrete solution to a specific problem (Guy A: "those new speakers I got for the car sound like crap" Guy B: "yeah, I've got the same ones -- you have to reconnect the widget to the whatsit") or can be boiled down to some version of "don't let it bug you, man." My hunch is that it's part of the one-up/one-down dynamic described above.
posted by scody at 10:55 AM on April 2, 2005

Ah, fivefreshfish; I love you for noticing that I did actually answer the question reasonably as well as having a bit of fun with it. Thank goodness someone was paying attention.
posted by Decani at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2005

'Dominance hierarchy' - sure sounds purty, but save it for the Learning Annex.

I have to say - if you are male, and haven't perceived primate dominance behavior in male-only social interactions, you are either at the top of the hierarchy, non-perceptive(/haven't thought at all about this), or both. In fact, your comment could be taken as exactly the kind of statement that is a move in the dominance game.
posted by advil at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2005

What nebulawindphone, googly (esp. point 3) and scody said. I knew you'd eyeroll, randomstriker :-)
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:14 PM on April 2, 2005

Er, advil, I pity you.
posted by inchoate at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2005

One thing that has worked for me in recent times is recanting my arrogance (at least superficially) in some cases. Instead of pretending I know all this crap about sports/cars/whatever, I will treat the other person like an expert and pump them for information. They will talk for ages about such and such, and though you may think you look like a doof, they will think you are great for thinking they are great (or pretending to? I love knowledge, so I don't have to pretend). I then store the information away so I have some data to use with the next guy I talk to on that topic. And the first guy will think you are great and may invite you to come learn more about so-and-so (watch the game at the bar, go to such-and-such concert, come out and play softball with the guys, etc), which is what you're looking for, right?

If you're truly curious and want to learn about things, then how is that duplicitous? All this talk of being yourself around people; how are you not yourself? You are always yourself, even when you think you're being fake. That fakeness is still you. That said, you can't be duplicitous because your real aim is communication and human bonding, which is what you're doing. Do it by playing to your strengths and you will be 100% true to yourself every time. Just don't fall into the trap of thinking they are worthless bohunks or pinheads or whatever. Everyone has their worth, and most people are an expert at something, often something fairly arcane or obscure. If you look for the good in everyone, you will not have to avoid certain social situations as a few people above suggested. You will be at home anywhere, and welcome by everyone, because everyone wants to feel special. You just do it differently with most guys than most girls.
posted by Eideteker at 9:53 PM on April 2, 2005

For reference, my original comment was that the average guy isn't worth the effort of trying to understand. (I used the word "moron").

After reading through all the comments I stick by my initial reaction.
posted by krisjohn at 1:49 AM on April 3, 2005

Be very careful not to appear like you think you are superior on an intellectual level. Do not try to one-up guys, they will just keep going and you will either end up being one-upped or making everyone else pissed off. Tone down the big words and stuff like that... not because the average guy is that stupid, but because they just do not talk like that and it will single you out as an instant target for suspicion. If there is an activity going on, always try to join in. Especially if it is physical. Nothing makes you look and feel more out of place than being the one guy on the sidelines with the girls. Even if you fear it will be horribly embarrasing, just give it a shot. Even if you are no good, nobody really cares. They expect to beat the "new guy" and you winning will often only piss them off, although making a good show will earn you some respect.

A single guy coming into a group of guys who already knows each other is always going to be awkward. They will have a large ground of common vocabulary, jokes, handshakes etc. that you may not be familiar with. They may see you as a threat (to their girlfriends, their territory, their intellect, whatever) or as a weakling and easy amusement. They are going to think to themselves "Why is this guy here? For my girl? Doesn't he have his own friends? If so, where are they...?" Stop overanalyzing the situation when it happens. When you feel like you have made a bad mistake and misinterpreted something or vice versa, just laugh it off. Do not brood, withdraw, detach from the group, become overanxious etc. Just act like you really don't give a fuck one way or the other.

Among guys that I know at least, put-downs are the sincerest form of compliments. Not to be used too early in the relationship, but once you have laid that basic groundwork, a friendly zinger at the right time can really cement the friendship.
posted by sophist at 4:32 AM on April 3, 2005

Decani writes "I did actually answer the question reasonably as well as having a bit of fun with it. Thank goodness someone was paying attention."

Give me a break. Your advice (which is hard to spot amongst the bile) was to simply avoid talking to the majority of men. That's terrible terrible terrible advice, 50% of the people on this planet are men, and not being able to communicate with them would make your life difficult in many many situations. I have the opposite problem to randomstriker, but if I'd asked a similar question and got the response "Well just don't speak to them fucking bitches" I'd feel pretty disappointed.
posted by chill at 6:39 AM on April 3, 2005

For reference, my original comment was that the average guy isn't worth the effort of trying to understand. (I used the word "moron").

After reading through all the comments I stick by my initial reaction.

krisjon, I was the first person who called you out. I didn't do so because I disagreed with you. Yes, the average guy is a moron -- so is the average woman. I'm a misanthrope, so of course I feel this way.

I called you out, because you didn't answer the posted question. You weren't asked for your opinion about men. You were asked how to communicate with men. If you don't know how, then don't reply.

Your answers was similar to those "get a Mac" answers to PC questions.
posted by grumblebee at 8:17 AM on April 3, 2005

For the record, I believe that beneath all the inane rituals, charades, protocol and obfuscation is usually a person worth befriending. So far I have been ill-equpped to do so, but I believe it is worth a try. On reflection googly's third point was closest to the mark -- perhaps indeed I am a poor communicator in general and women are simply more accommodating of my particular shortcomings.

Those of you who who've encouraged me and provided constructive advice, thank you and I look forward to applying your insights. To the cynical minority who hold only contempt for the "average guy", I respectfully disagree with your attitude.
posted by randomstriker at 3:56 PM on April 3, 2005

I only hold contempt for those who require I change myself. I'm perfectly happy with my relationships with my wife, best friends, and a number of acquaintances. I am not likely to make much of an effort to become someone else just to befriend another person.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:47 PM on April 3, 2005

The average guy primarily wants to talk about bloody sport and bloody cars and bloody shagging. He wants to sit in sports bars drinking crappy bottled beer and gawping at a screen showing a bunch of other guys punting balls of various shapes and sizes around a field. He wants to go "Yeah!" occasionally. Oh, and he finds belching, farting and scratching his balls terrifically amusing. He also sits with his legs spread wide apart on the subway because he is, at core, an utter oaf, yahoo and scumwrench.

It's beyond your comprehension that an intelligent man might enjoy all of the above on occasion, isn't it?

And unless you're British, stop saying "bloody," and "sport," thank you.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on April 3, 2005

fff: I guess you are against self-improvement in any fashion. We are adaptive and adapted creatures; we came about by a process of change. Unless you're a shark, to stop changing is to die out. And even a shark has to keep moving to stay alive (otherwise they drown).

Again, how are you not yourself? Even after major reconstructive surgery or implantation in a witness protection plan, individuals remain fundamentally themselves. I've never seen someone change who they are, only improve.
posted by Eideteker at 4:29 AM on April 4, 2005

Give me a break. Your advice (which is hard to spot amongst the bile) was to simply avoid talking to the majority of men.

Correct, chill. Well spotted.

That's terrible terrible terrible advice,

A matter of opinion, chill. You have given yours: I gave mine.

50% of the people on this planet are men,

True. And does that fact imply that most of them are not also arseholes?

and not being able to communicate with them would make your life difficult in many many situations.

In many situations, yes. In others, no. My advice was to try to seek those situations in which not talking to them would not, in fact, make life difficult. I've managed it, and I'd like to take that success as an illustration that it is possible; and to suggest that it is a worthy goal. You may not agree. Hey ho. Isn't variety of opinion fun?

I have the opposite problem to randomstriker, but if I'd asked a similar question and got the response "Well just don't speak to them fucking bitches" I'd feel pretty disappointed

And perhaps randomstriker does too. Or perhaps not. Oh... I'm sorry! Should I have checked with you first and known in advance that randomstriker would feel exactly as you do about my advice? I do apologise for my presumption in assuming he could make his own mind up about it.
posted by Decani at 6:37 PM on April 7, 2005

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