Bottom Line Up Front: Be deliberate about building healthy friendships with strong men. Learn from men better than yourself. Learn the three parts of masculine friendship: Respect, Openness and Help. It’s simple, not easy, to develop these parts to start or strengthen friendships with men.

Interlocking Part 1, Respect

“I respect you.”

There are two extremes to how men approach friendship. At one extreme is approaching friendships in a spirit of criticism. It’s like we approach a man with a knife, thinking, “If I could cut this piece out and this piece out and this piece out of you, you’d be a great friend.” The other extreme is approaching other men respectfully. If you respect a man you don’t try to change him, but see what is good in him. It’s been said men value respect more than almost any other quality. To pave a smooth way to a discussion with a man you admire, simply say, “I respect your opinion,” “I respect what you have accomplished,” or “I respect you as a man.” It’s a powerful, humble acknowledgement of another man’s value. Another great way to open a friendship with a man you respect is, “I’d like your advice.”

That simple phrase will earn his complete attention.


Interlocking Part 2, Openness

“You’re only as sick as your secret.”

In the internet age infomration may travel at the speed of light, but decisions travel at the speed of trust (click here for Steven Covey’s excellent book, The Speed of Trust  ). Trust is the glue that binds society together. It’s the oil that makes difficult problems easy to solve. Opening ourselves up opens up the possibility of greater trust.

When we pretend to be invulnerable and keep our weaknesses a secret, we isolate ourselves. Ironically, when we isolate ourselves we are actually increasing our weakness, becoming vulnerable and incapable of defending ourselves. None of us is perfect and can be strong in all areas. We each need the assistance of other men who can cover our blind spots. A man came to me once and confided that he loved his wife but she had stopped being affectionate at home. He told me he was tempted to have an affair at the office. That was tough for him to tell me, but doing so made it possible for us to become closer friends. I was able to offer a perspective I hope helped him. He took the courageous first step of telling me his secret. That helped us work together to solve a problem he faced.


Interlocking Part 3, Help

“You can trust me as a man.”

I read once of a firefighter in New York who was talking a man off a building ledge. The man was about to commit suicide. Nothing anyone could say persuaded the man to move closer to those who could help him until a firefighter said, “You can trust me as a man.” Those seven words convinced the man to let the firefighter help him. Help is like a gift—it requires a giver and a willing receiver. Something in that simple statement appealed to a man about to jump off a ledge to end his life. Those words were that powerful in that moment.

Mutual help is probably the easiest part of friendship for men. When a problem is straightforward and practical, like having a flat tire on the side of the road, the solution is straightforward and easy; stop to help the guy with the flat. When the problem is more complicated, less obvious, solving it gets trickier. The challenge men face is being open enough to admit we need help. Admitting we need help takes self-awareness, confidence and humility.

Or desperation. For a great video on how desperation can motivate you to change your life, watch Jim Rohn’s funny and insightful video, “The Day That Turns Your Life Around. ( )”

Call to Action: Evaluate in writing the friendships you have with men. Evaluate in writing the friendships you would like to have with men. Ask yourself, 1. On a scale of 1-10 how much do I demonstrate to this man that I respect him? 2. On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable am I confiding to him my own shortcoming in an important part of my life? 3. On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable am I asking him for help? Use that information to build friendships, add value to others and enjoy the value they bring to your life.