–Jerry Hancock

Why do men have so much trouble getting close to other men?

What seemed to have happened:

Example: Joe approaches Ben at church with a handshake. Ben instinctively reaches out to hug instead, putting Joe in an obviously uncomfortable position. Joe is not a hugger, he says, so why is Ben always so friendly and invading my space?

The suggested approach:

OK, who has the problem here, Ben or Joe? Clearly Joe is not as comfortable with male expression of closeness. Ben, on the other hand, comes from a long line of huggers (including most men in his family) and assumes this is fine with anyone–or should be.

The Language to use:

Since this is such a personal matter, it probably requires some discussion. Surely Ben can see Joe is uncomfortable with this, so why does he persist? And should Joe risk damaging the relationship by making an issue of it? Yes. But probably not with the “in your face” style he is thinking about using. Simply saying,”Ben I’m not much of a hugger, so if you don’t mind, I’d rather just have a handshake from you. I hope that’s OK with you.”

The skinny (what’s really going on here):

Joe may feel Ben is deliberately pushing this greeting on him and therein lies the issue. Might it be a matter of control?

It is also possible Ben feels it is his duty to loosen up the men he meets, make them more expressive. Both are misguided in their thinking.

Attributing a motive to Ben is certainly not good, but neither is failing to speak up about this if Joe is uncomfortable. Still, Joe should probably ask himself whether he is missing out on some real male closeness by mis-characterizing Ben’s hug. Ironically most men feel OK hugging in a sports environment (even patting each other on the fanny!) but not OK with a hug in public.

Unless there is some cultural taboo, Joe would do well to talk it over with his wife or another understanding man and decide why he feels the way he does. He might decide to change his view–especially if he has a young son and wants his son to be able to express his affection openly with other males.

What to work on this week:

Pay attention to people’s greetings. The styles are numerous. Think about how you like to be greeted, but don’t force that on everyone else. Also, talk to other men about this and see how they feel. Then decide for yourself how to react based on some thoughtful reflection and not a knee-jerk reaction.


Jerry Hancock, Executive Director Of Men In Balance, Inc.