thoughts on being a man

Thoughts on Being a Man

I was at a wedding recently and watched a friend of mine walk his daughter down the aisle. One of the most touching moments was the father-daughter dance at the reception. I thought to myself “What a great guy, and what an impressive example of how to be a man”. I wrote recently about respect being a key to a great relationship, and I started thinking about what it takes to be a man today. Here are a few of the things that come to mind, when I reflect on the guys I know and respect.

Be Respectful

Every man I know who I admire presents respect for those they encounter. In every act, they demonstrate that they value the other person. Whether that is their spouse, child, friend or a stranger. Speak directly, without any hint of condescension. Consider the day the other person is having, and attempt to put yourself in their shoes.

Being manly does not mean you need to be a dick to others. Quite the reverse. First, you need to respect yourself; then you can fully respect others.

Be Humble

Nothing is more of a turn-off to another person than to be confronted with someone who comes off as superior. Ask yourself if you do any of these things:

  • Talk a lot without being prompted
  • Complain about stuff on social media
  • Never ask how the other person is doing
  • Display strong opinions on any subject, regardless of your familiarity with it
  • Constantly talk about your accomplishments and future plans
  • Refuse to enter a conversation with a person who does not share your views

If you do, you may need to examine how you perceive others, you may be looking at others as an audience, rather than equal participants in life.  Take a breath. Try and have a conversation, rather than preach. Ask opinions.

Be Strong

Being decisive is one way to be strong. Offer an opinion, but be willing to change it if logic or circumstances make it more desirable. Don’t be afraid to argue a point, healthy debate is part of learning and growing.

More importantly, being strong means being there for others. Be “The Rock” for them! (As much as I admire Dwayne Johnson, you can be a strong guy without rocking those pipes!). Sit on the floor and hug your spouse when they cry. Hold someone’s hand. Give a firm handshake.

Have Fun

The worst thing any man can do is take himself too seriously. The ability to laugh at life and yourself gives you a chance to step back and appreciate just how much of a gift your life is, and the lives of others. Having a sense of humor lets you free your soul occasionally. Nothing is as healthy as a great laugh. 

Spend time with the people you love – even if it is a morning cup of coffee with your partner. Tell jokes, bad puns, and tell stories.

Be Open

The most critical trait of being a modern “real” man is to be emotionally open. If you are angry, accept it and don’t make it personal. If you love someone, you’d better let them know! You don’t need to wander around with Kleenex stuck up your sleeve – it is more about being open to experiencing all emotions. The days of the clichéd “man as stoic” not showing any emotion are over. You are allowed to smile, frown, laugh, cry –  pretty much anything goes (as long as you don’t go too over the top).

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on what it takes to be a man these days!

Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash

UPDATED: I originally referred to men who put themselves first and don’t have a sense of humor in a negative fashion. I fell into the trap of categorizing people, which I appreciate is the opposite viewpoint of what I am talking about here. I’ve removed that categorization.


To learn more about being open, check out the post on emotional vocabulary.


Respect is The Key To Love

I tell my partner every day that I love her. That may sound old fashioned, but it makes me feel great to do it. We have been together for over 24 years. When people ask how we’ve managed to create that relationship, we point to one thing: respect. It isn’t as romantic to tell someone “I respect you” every day, but is critical that you feel that way.
Love is a word that gets bandied about too much. We use it on objects, food, outfits, whatever. What does NOT get bandied about is the word respect.
When someone says “I respect you” it forms the basis for an actual relationship. Respect is the glue that holds people together. People can fall in and out of love, and that love can vary in its intensity and depth as a relationship progresses. But respect for each other is far more binary in nature. It is either on or off.
Once you’ve lost respect for someone, it can be impossible to retrieve. And that can be the death knell of love. But if you can hold onto that respect, it can forge a bond deeper than anything else in your life.
We watch Seinfeld a LOT in our house. In one of our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Engagement), Jerry and George decide that they need to grow up and form a mature relationship with someone. Jerry confides in Kramer about their thoughts:

Jerry: We were talking about our lives and we both kind of realized we’re kids. We’re not men.

Kramer: So, then you asked yourselves, “Isn’t there something more to life?”

Jerry: Yes. We did.

Kramer: Yeah, well, let me clue you in on something. There isn’t.

Jerry: There isn’t?

Kramer: Absolutely not. I mean, what are you thinking about, Jerry:? Marriage? Family?

Jerry: Well…

Kramer: They’re prisons. Man made prisons. You’re doing time. You get up in the morning. She’s there. You go to sleep at night. She’s there. It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?

Jerry: Really?

Kramer: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you’re eating.

Jerry: I can?

Kramer: Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it’s dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?

Jerry: What?

Kramer: You talk about your day. How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it? Well, I don’t know. How about you? How was your day?

Jerry: Boy.

Kramer: It’s sad , Jerry. It’s a sad state of affairs..

Jerry: I’m glad we had this talk.

Kramer: Oh, you have no idea!

It’s hysterical, and we actually quote it on a nearly daily basis as an inside joke. But it points to one of the most misunderstood parts of a great relationship: respectful communication.
When you respect another person, it is natural to want to get their point of view. In all my years of extensive (100,000 miles per year) travel, I made a rule out of speaking to her each night. We still make time each evening to have a conversation before bed. It can be about something as menial as what we’re doing the next day, or as important as where one of our girls is at in their life.
I value my wife’s ideas, desires, and feelings, as much as my own. Our relationship is based on building each other up. We create opportunities to support each other against what the world is throwing at us every day. And we do that by communicating with each other.
In business, my most important task was creating a strong team. That meant fostering an atmosphere of respect in the workplace and between team members. Central to that was the role of open communication, encouraging feedback, and making sure people respected each otherI like to think that team building was one of my strongest contributions to the success of my company, and it was all based on ensuring mutual respect. I’ll be writing about team building a lot in the future.
We may not always agree on a course of action, but we must respect each other’s contribution to the discussion.
When you think of ways to great strong bonds with people, make sure you take steps to ensure that the importance of mutual respect is never trivialized. It is critical to success in every part of your life.
And while I will still always tell my wife I love her every day, what I’m also saying is that I respect her.
Comments and thoughts are welcome, as always!