Recently, I got together with a buddy that I hadn’t seen in awhile over coffee. I began the hang-out sesh by asking him how he was doing. For the first few minutes I listened intently to his answer. But as time stretched on, and he continued to talk, my mind began to drift. It took him twenty minutes before I got a word into the conversation.
Now, this friend (I’m going to call him Joe) is someone I have a great affinity for. He is a good friend. But he must have been eating paint chips on his way to meet me, because he forgot the rules. What rules? THE UNSPO- KEN BRO CONVO RULES of course. Here they are, lest ye forget:
1. There is a time limit on monologues. No matter how interesting your point, how colorful your language, how well- developed your story, or how deep your need to be heard, you ONLY GET FOUR MINUTES TO SPEAK AT A TIME. If you violate this rule, an invisible hook will appear out of the ground and pull you into the sewers, where you must dwell until the end of the age. And for every increment of fifteen seconds you go over this time limit, you have to pay it back in attentiveness to the next speaker in the conversation. The extra time listening is your penance for violating rule number one.
2. Puff, puff, give. Unlike females, guys don’t speak just to vent. We speak for the volley, the back-and-forth of trash talk and debate, the entertainment of pontification, and the shared laughter at movie quotes. Conversation isn’t about expressing feelings, it’s about getting to the point so the next dude can take a turn.
3. When we ask, “how are you?” we don’t mean it literally. Don’t ever be the guy who actually answers this question. It will take you from bro status to awkward guy status in the blink of an eye. Acceptable answers include, “Not bad,” “Meh,” “Eh,” “Solid,” “Strikes and gutters,” and “Stupid Ford broke down again.” Unacceptable answers are any which include the words, “Depressed,” “Sad,” “Lonely,” “Heartbroken,” “Fragile,” or any other emotionally-charged phrase which implies that you are anything but awesome.
4. Eye contact is a general no-no. Do not make too much eye contact, lest you glare into a man’s soul. No man wants his soul glared upon, for you may be repulsed at what you find! It’s the exact same principle as when you are in the men’s room, or when you are hanging out with Prince. With the former, everyone knows the urinals are a no-look zone. And with the latter, well, Prince will fine you if you meet his glance, or at least his bodyguard will.
Everyone knows guys can have a perfectly decent conversa- tion while watching a ball game or observing “scenery” together, and we do not need eye contact for adequate communication.
5. Whatever you do, don’t cry. Sure, all guys feel like crying at one point or another. But that doesn’t mean you actually do it, especially in front of other guys. If you cry, no matter how much your bro acts like he is there for you and supportive and empathetic, what he is really thinking is, man, get me
Somehow, I made it through Joe’s fifteen-minute diatribe on various existential dilemmas, waiting for my turn. Then, when I could barely stand it any longer, he asked, “So how are you, man?”
Stoked, I started to tell my “story,” thinking I was going to be able to have the benefit of his equally attentive ear. But not one minute into my speech, he began gazing around the coffee shop, growing restless. He checked his phone, texted, yawned, and made it abundantly clear that he was over it. Then, his phone rang and he put up his finger, cutting me off, and took the call. He walked out of the coffee shop and after several minutes past, stuck his head in the door, and said, ”I have to run, dude. Let’s catch up again, later! Great talk!”
My gut reaction was to get bummed. And then I remembered one of the few universal constants in this world: guys, males, men don’t naturally listen very well. And we certainly don’t know how to empathize very well with our fellow bros. This indisputable fact is comical, at least on the surface (hence, the list above). But the reality is that our lack of listening prowess betrays our inability to display the fruit of patience.
Patience is more than a virtue, it is the ability to be longsuffering, to bear with others, and to give of ourselves emotionally.
The “Bro Code” of conversation has dominated the way we relate to one another. We are a culture of men who don’t listen, who don’t care deeply for others. But we are also a culture of men who feel we are not heard. This is not an accident, as the two concepts are eternally linked. We have to learn to listen, to become invested in the state of one another’s hearts, and become true confidantes. In so doing, we will change the way we relate to one another. Then, when we first give an ear, we will receive one in return. This is how fellowship is fostered.
We need this, and badly, as a generation of men who feel alone and isolated.
I realized, after hanging out with Joe, that we are similar. I need someone to listen to me, too. That’s why I got so bummed when he bailed before I had a chance to speak. But like Joe, I truly suck at caring, listening, and being patient. I suck at empathy.
That’s why I need more of God’s spirit in my life to change me.
In so doing, I become more available. I become more willing to be a candid confidante, instead of just a “Bro.” I become the type of person who is known for caring.
In this, you will find there is limitless purpose in life. If you can find patience, you can become a healer. You can be the man that so many of us need…someone who is there, who understands. A good listener is of more value than gold.
This is an excerpt of my book The tin Soldiers. It’s a book for guys, men, dudes. If you liked what you read, please grab a copy of the book and Study Guide in print or as an ebook here, or wherever ebooks are sold.