5 Tips For Staying “Just Friends” With A Man

How to keep men as friends, without benefits.

When my friend Chris asked me to go to Cape Cod for the weekend, I was so eager to get out of the city that I ignored my own nagging question about his intentions and said yes. After spending the weekend holing up early every night with “a cold,” I realized I needed a serious re-think on how I was approaching friendships with the men in my life. If there was one thing I’d learned from my divorce, it was that I liked having a male presence in my life. If there was one other thing I’d learned from my divorce, it was that I liked many more men than I wanted to sleep with. How could I get the best of both worlds?

1. Name those un-named expectations.

Not long after we returned from the Cape, Chris called and asked if I could go out to dinner. He gave me two choices: Thursday and Saturday. This was probably his way of testing the water, but I happened to be busy that Thursday but not Saturday. He came back via email suggesting a French restaurant I thought it sounded far too much like a date place. Attempting to be coy about it, I wrote back with some decidedly less sexy options, explaining I couldn’t afford his selection. He replied that the meal would be his treat. What to do? The answer was with me all along, I realized, when I wrote back simply, “That sounds too much like a date.” Now when we hang out I don’t worry if I’m doing anything suggestive because I’ve made it clear that I’m not in the market for a romantic relationship with him.

2. Turn it into a group outing.

The good thing about many male friends is that you probably know them through other friends. Mark was just such a guy. Had we met on a dating website, I might have gone out with him. But it wasn’t long into knowing him that I knew it never would have worked. No shag with an expiration date is worth jacking up a circle of friends. This all seemed so obvious that I was surprised when he kept going in for a kind of open-mouthed goodbye kiss. Avoidance behavior and flat-out rejection, I feared, might cause the rift in our group that I’d been trying to prevent in the first place. I took the easier way out by always suggesting we include our mutual friends when we get together. If it is just the two of us, I ask about his love life.

3. Try going on a date.

I knew Sam was into me because of the way he’d lock down on me whenever I saw him. We did share an unwavering and constant desire to belt out ’80s pop tunes given very little provocation, yet this did not make him a guy I wanted to date. But should it? He was smart, funny and handsome. We were friends. Common wisdom would have me believe we just might be perfect together.

“Go out with someone who’ll treat you nicely,” my friend Willy advised. Why the hell not? I’d experienced attraction deepening other times, maybe my soul mate was standing right in front of me. Sadly in this case, this was not so. When I found myself on said date repulsed by his thumbs, I knew I had to get out of there fast. I ended the date early. I still see him around, but the build-up to that date has dissipated—we don’t IM or text anymore. I’m OK with that and think he is too. First Date Tips Guys Should Memorize

4. If all else fails, lie.

Oh look, I know it’s not the most evolved response, but sometimes the best brush-off is the “accidental” kind. I was consoling a long-distance friend via an IM chat when he stopped talking about feeling sad about his ex- and started talking about how he “got” me. The attention was stroking my ego, and I let it go much farther than it should have. I snapped out of it as soon as he suggested coming to visit. “Oh,” I wrote. “I don’t think my boyfriend would like that.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s kosher to tell a little white lie in order to spare a person’s feelings.

5. What not to do.

Whatever you do, do not talk about other men in your life. Seems crazy, right? You’d think this would be a turn-off. It generally is for women. Even if we’re not interested in a guy, if he blathers on about his conquests, we start to feel, well, somewhat like chopped liver, right? Apparently, with men, any talk of exes, hookups or dates could plant images in his mind and/or entice him to want what he doesn’t have. Better to stay mum.

And you, dear reader? What tips do you have for keeping it platonic?

I revealed last week that I’d gone on a date with a young woman named Katie who had given her number to another guy. I had basically stopped texting and calling (we’d been hanging out while I was dating Miss Canada and a little after) and was wondering what to do next. Well I ran into Katie on Friday night. And it was awkward.

This is a photo of me from college–taken in the hallway outside my first and only apartment in Montreal.

One of my best college pals was in town Friday night and after a great dinner in the East Village, we went for a drink at the Jane hotel on the west side, where some friends of mine were deejaying. The night became a major party and a number of different groups of friends all showed up, including Katie.

I said a brief hello, but then a couple hours later Katie confronted me near the bar. She wanted to know why I was ignoring her.

Here I was at a crossroads. Part of me thought I should just say nothing, pretend I’d just been super busy, and that it was great to see her. Maybe make some plans for later that I wouldn’t follow up on. But in the end, I felt I owed her more than that.

I explained that I’d been pretty pissed over what she did. She said she figured she had done something wrong, but wasn’t 100 percent sure what. When I told her that I had liked her and that I felt dissed, she pointed out what many of you commenters did: that for much of the time we’d hung out, I had had a girlfriend, so how was she to know?

I shrugged, and let her know that, while that made sense, I didn’t quite buy it. Girls know when a guy likes them, and this girl is no dummy. I didn’t really have anything else to say to her. She wanted to be friends “like before,” but I said no. I can’t just hang out with someone I’m crushing on—too frustrating.

New York is too full of gorgeous, scintillating, smart people to hang around waiting for one to look at me the way I want her to. So, onwards and upwards. Literally upwards, in that I’m leaving New York tomorrow for Canada for three weeks, minimum.

And it’s not like my heart and I have ever gotten into trouble there, right?

Did I do the right thing, or should I have just avoided the confrontation? Can you hang with a guy you have feelings for?

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Photo: Courtesy of Simon Wilkinson

Guys And Girls Can Be Just Friends, But You Will Fall For Him

Hanging out with your best guy friend may give you some relief from the typical girl drama you learn about at Sunday brunch with your roommates from college.

In our society — where Tinder messages have replaced hand-written birthday cards and 3 a.m. beers have replaced steak dinners — the friend zone has become more murky than ever.

With casual hook-ups on the rise and the help of on-demand online dating, the question, “Can guys and girls be just friends?” is frequently asked.

Dave Matthews answers this question on point: “A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other.

Maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.”

The short answer is yes, you can be just friends, but don’t expect smooth sailing.

We don’t get to choose our family, but we do get to choose our friends. Often, our friends echo us in terms of personality, morals, values, socioeconomics and goals. Our friends should complement us.

No matter the gender, we find our friends attractive. At first, it isn’t physical attraction (well, most of the time). Rather, we become attracted to how they make us feel, how comfortable we are talking to them and how fun they are to go out with on a Saturday night.

What we look for in our guy friends is very much the same in what we look for in a significant other: chemistry. Why would we want to hang out with a boring bro who plays video games all day?

We want a guy friend who makes us laugh, goes out to dinner with us on a Friday night and watches the Rangers with us.

Whether it’s his dark brown eyes, height, charming personality or love for the Yankees, we are in some capacity attracted to him.

If you deny this, ask yourself, “Why do I hang out with him?”

It’s inevitable: You both form feelings at one point of the relationship. Time wise, it can come in a variety of combinations.

You may fall first; he may fall first; perhaps, you will fall for each other at the same time. Timing is key here.

You can’t control when you will fall for each other, but the way you handle falling for him will definitely shape your relationship.

Do you ever notice how you feel when he brings a new girl into the picture? How about when he posts a picture with his new girlfriend on his arm at the same restaurant he took you for your 23rd birthday?

Whether you like it or not, you feel threatened, even if you can honestly say you don’t want to sleep with him.

If this feeling of threat hasn’t happened yet, trust me, it will. Often, without consciously recognizing it, we become attached.

He is your best friend, after all, and all of a sudden, you’re not a priority in his social life. You’re his friend first, not girlfriend, and you don’t always come first anymore.

Once you see your best guy friend pulling away because there is someone else in the picture who can jeopardize your friendship, the platonic feelings get confused. It is often in situations like these where our true feelings are revealed.

Hooking up with guy friends is not unheard of, and some of us are guiltier than others.

Obviously, hooking up with a guy friend can and will, without a doubt, complicate your relationship if you want to continue being friends.

It can put your relationship in jeopardy because you’re no longer discussing sports; you’re trying to discuss where you stand.

Jealousy, love and lust don’t always last. Therefore, it is possible to be friends, even after you hook up.

However, it does require a lot of work. Honesty is important and being upfront about each other’s feelings is imperative.

If you both enjoy flirty banter, be upfront that it’s just that and nothing more. Let him know you don’t want anything serious.

If you feel yourself falling for him, but feel a $200 romantic meal in Soho is not acceptable for just friends, just stick with the coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon. If he truly respects you, he will respect your feelings, no matter what.

However, falling in love with your best guy friend can possibly “last forever.”

You have already set up a solid foundation of trust and love, and you know each other on a fundamentally deep level.

Relationships don’t always start out as “love at first sight.” Sometimes, it is through deep, meaningful relationships we start to fall in love.

As his friend, you see his flaws; you see who he is when he’s sad and when he’s happy.

Unlike guys you’ve formally dated, falling in love with your best guy friend allows you to see his vulnerable side immediately.

He’s not putting on a show for you. Instead, he is showing you his true side while letting you open the door.

If you do happen to fall in love with each other at the same time, go for it. There isn’t a guy who knows you better than he does.

Cross the bridge of dealing with feelings and emotions carefully because at one point or another, you will have to sit down and have “the conversation.”

Boys and girls can just hang out; they can sleep in the same bed without getting intimate, and they can be platonic, but not 100 percent of the time.

Be aware that whenever you have a guy friend, there will be questions, doubts and moments of weakness.

You can be just his friend, but remember, you will fall for him at some point. It’s up to you whether or not you act on the feelings.

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Men are generally pretty bad at making friends—at least with other guys.

Especially as we get older, men often have fewer close male friendships. Yet, according to research, we crave intimacy in our friendships just as much as women.

Worst of all, this lack of close relationships could be very, very bad for us. Prolonged loneliness can have serious consequences for cognition, emotion, behavior, and health—and may even speed up physiological aging.

Growing Up Changes How we Relate to Other Men

It’s hard to say why guys aren’t great at making friends with other men.

Part of it seems to be the way we grow up: as we hit puberty and we begin to develop as men, we try to avoid any notion of being “feminine”—which often means trying to appear stronger and less vulnerable.

During our adolescence and through the great social experiment we call “high school,” we struggle with afflictions like acne, the sudden desire to be noticed by potential love interests, and the scary realization that we’re going to be adults soon.

Ironically, as we start our journey to becoming men, some of us become preoccupied by worries about not fully reaching some manly ideal. In high school I vividly remember being petrified that I would be a virgin for the rest of my life.

During this time, we may also start to see other men as competition—probably some primal vestige of our more Darwinistic caveman days, when the only thing that mattered was (A) Am I strong enough to fight you? or (B) Will I be the one who gets the attractive, nubile mate instead of you?

Download this Free Cheat Sheet with 11 ways to make more guy friends.

Other Barriers to Male Friendship

The end of high school and college seem to be the prime time for men to make friends with other guys. This is when we start to zero in on our interests and begin finding paths for our adult lives.

The activities we choose at this time often become the centers of our social spheres. We may not feel comfortable walking up to guys and saying “hey, will you be my friend?” like we did on the playground in elementary school. But our common interests become a non-threatening foundation for friendship—they allow us to reinforce our value to each other without having to get overtly sentimental.

There has to be an activity where we can both contribute our own skills and appreciate/value what the other has to offer. When two men affirm each other’s usefulness and significance, friendship is almost bound to arise.”

–Matt, Distilled Man reader

But beyond college, as we settle into our lives, it gets more and more difficult to make new friends—and to maintain existing friendships.

Keeping friends as you get older is the difficult part. Life gets in the way. you may get to hang out every once in a while but just like anything that you want to grow it needs to be nurtured and attended to. That’s difficult with things to do around the house and children. Not to mention if you spend more time with your buddy than your wife or girlfriend thinks is appropriate then they think that you are neglecting them. So enjoy the quality not so much the quantity.”

–Fred, Distilled Man reader

Increasing time-demands from our jobs, from our spouses, and from our children make it more challenging. Overall, we have more “inertia” in our lives. And where we once may have explored other interests and made new connections, it becomes harder and harder to fight that inertia and broaden our social circles.

Social Inertia Isn’t All Bad, But…

This narrowing of our social circles isn’t all bad. Many guys are happy to maintain a few strong connections with men they’ve met in high school or college—and they don’t feel the need for much more socialization beyond that and their family.

I am good at making acquaintances with NEW guys that I meet. I can hang out, laugh, have inside jokes, etc. But on a weekend, I’d rather work in my yard all day and relax by the grill in the evening than hang with any “NEW” friend. But the friendship I share with my OLD BUDS is significantly stronger. So, it’s not that I’m not GOOD at making new friends, I just prefer not to.”

–Bart, Distilled Man reader

For some men, there’s a sense of starting to really know who they are as they get older—getting clearer about their values and the things they want (and don’t want) in life. This translates into having less interest or tolerance for making friends with men who don’t share the same ideals.

But many other men feel a loss of connection as they get older—and the sense that having more close male friendships would be valuable. Yet, it can feel like an uphill battle. Some of the common themes that emerge are:

  • A subconscious sense of not “measuring up” to other men their age
  • General social anxiety or lack of confidence having conversations with other men
  • Worrying about not seeming manly enough if they don’t appreciate traditional “manly activities” like sports or working out

One big barrier for these men seems to be the lack of practice with “chatting up” a guy.

Growing up, most men are pretty motivated to learn how to approach and talk to women. It’s a natural part of becoming an adult (heterosexual) male—and even though it’s far from easy for everyone, the rules of engagement are clearer.

For this reason, many men find that in their adult years, they are still far more comfortable talking to women—even in a platonic situation.

Meeting guys without an “in” is almost harder than meeting girls (which is tough enough as it is). I can (theoretically) go up to a girl at a bar or coffee shop and start talking to her. Maybe ask her out and start a relationship. That’s normal. For some reason, in our society, walking up to a guy and doing something similar with a friendship being the only desired outcome seems strange and bizarre.”

–Jesse, Distilled Man reader

Is this a real barrier in our society? Definitely. But as you explore it further, you realize it’s a false barrier: there are no disastrous consequences when you go talk to a random guy. Yes, there might be some awkwardness at first. But pretty soon, when he realizes you’re not hitting on him or trying to ask him for money, you both relax and try to enjoy the conversation. Or, the conversation ends after a while, and you both go your separate ways—still no real consequences. Yet still it holds us back.

Tips for Making Guy Friends as a Man

If you crave more male friendships in your life but feel anxious or uncertain about how to do it, don’t worry—there is hope.

The first step is getting over any fears about “measuring up.” Remember, everyone gets insecure, and you’re always your own worst critic. Even if you think you’re being judged when you talk to another guy, most likely he’s being more critical of himself than he is of you. We all get nervous, we all get stage fright. Johnny Carson did 4,000 shows with the Tonight Show and said there wasn’t a single episode where he wasn’t nervous beforehand. The key is acknowledging your nerves and then calmly stepping past them.

Once you do that, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of making new guy friends.

But even if you feel desperate to make new guy friends, you’ve got to relax. It’s the same as the dating world: if you come across as too eager to “seal the deal” and get a girlfriend, you’re going to turn women off. So too with making guy friends.

It’s much like fishing: you have to get into a zen-like state where you simply enjoy the process of fishing. By going fishing, you know you’ll increase your chances of catching fish. But if you stress about catching a bunch of fish, you’re not going to be as successful.

Here are some tips that can help you increase your chances of making guy friends as an adult:

1. Break the Social/Work Barrier

As I mentioned earlier, work and family play a larger role in our lives as we get older. So why not embrace it? You’re not going to connect with every guy you work with on a personal level, but you shouldn’t be afraid to explore hanging out with co-workers outside of work. The irony of work connections is that you probably spend as much time (if not more) with them as your family. So often, you may find that your coworkers will be willing to embrace the “true you”—and vice versa—more readily than you think.

The only potential downside is if you feel your friendship might interfere with work. Though expanding your relationship from from one sphere to the next is generally positive—it can help relieve stress and make you more resilient at work. I had an experience where a close college friend ended up working with me—actually reporting to me—shortly after I moved to San Francisco. At first I was worried how working together would affect our friendship. I was surprised to find that we actually appreciated and respected each other more after spending time in a professional setting.

2. Go Deep on Your Own Interests

Of course, it’s only natural that since many of our friendships with other guys develop based on common interests, this can be one area to explore that can help us make new, like-minded connections.

While this aspect of male friendship might be viewed as shallow, it’s just reality. Very similar to the way that small talk becomes a pathway to genuine rapport, shared activities can become the bridge to real friendships.

Even if two men start as “football buddies” or “drinking buddies” there’s no reason a deeper connection can’t develop if both men want it to.

So, think about your interests:

Taking friends out of the equation, what are you already interested in? What excites you?

Languages? Music? Carpentry? Hiking? Spirituality? Yoga? Cars? Metalwork?

Take a class. Join a club. Put an ad on craigslist for an “activity partner.” Go to a new church…

It’s nearly impossible to have an interest that NO ONE ELSE is into. And the great part about this strategy is that it allows you to “pursue making friends” without doing anything you wouldn’t normally want to do.

And when you’re doing an activity you love, you’re more likely to be yourself. You’re in your element, you’re more relaxed…The shared activity takes the pressure off worrying about making friends…which ultimately makes it more likely to happen naturally.

3. Explore Completely Random Social Activities

Instead of going deep into one topic you’re interested in, there’s no shortage of groups and activities that are quasi-interest related…but really focused on just “hanging out and meeting new people.”

Meetup.com is great place for groups like this. One meetup group I came across here in San Francisco is called “Bay Area Hiking, Biking, Adventure, Photography and Vino.” Collectively, their events touch on each of those different interests, yet they remain open to all skill, fitness and experience levels.

This makes the events a non-threatening way to simply socialize. As the organizer says, “…All activities are geared to give you guys a fun, healthy, safe, enjoyable, way to meet other people and enjoy each others company, while getting some good exercise.”

Many of the guys who attend Meetup events are young, post-college professionals who either (A) want to meet women or (B) want to meet other guy friends, or (C) want both. So, there’s good chance that social events like this would be a great place to meet other potential guy friends.

4. Join an Organization

Joining an organization can be a great way to meet new guys who could become potential friends. As Brett and Kate from AOM note, a few organizations men can join include:

  • Fraternal organizations
  • Church organizations
  • Sports leagues
  • Toastmasters

One of the best things about joining an organization is, while organizations can help focus men’s energies around a common goal or interest, they also force you to interact with people who have different views and backgrounds.

And ironically, in this age of increased communication and options, it’s often easier to find ourselves accidentally gravitating towards like-minded people than to rub shoulders with those who don’t think like we do.

It’s healthy to consider other viewpoints beyond your own. Best case, you expand your mind and change your opinion. Worst case, you reinforce your previous beliefs and (civilly) agree to disagree.

5. Join a Professional Networking Group

You can certainly explore organizations specific to your profession. The nice thing about this is that you get the advantage of having a common interest (your industry)—but without the potential pitfalls of being direct coworkers.

There are also other cross-industry organizations solely for the purpose of networking. I recently met a Distilled Man subscriber, Dennis, who is a true gentleman and “connector.” Dennis introduced me to a networking organization called The Art of Active Networking. The group aims to simply connect people without any specific agenda. As the organizer says, “…people are finding jobs, leaving jobs to follow their dreams, getting dates, creating new ideas, investing in each other getting roommates, clients, connections and discovering a new way to think!”

Groups like this prove that networking doesn’t need to be a dry experience of “talking shop” and then blindly shoving business cards in each others’ hands before you go attack the crab dip. It really can be an opportunity to connect with people on a fundamental personal level.

In fact, as John Corcoran of Smart Business Revolution says, even in a professional networking situation, it’s often best to focus on personal conversation: asking about people’s interests outside of work or about their family or where they’re from. That’s when you see people come alive, when they’re talking about their passions: they may not enjoy talking to you about the latest trends in accounting, but they’ll be excited to tell you about their rafting trip on the Colorado river. Those are the conversations that can establish a business relationship, but also potentially lead to friendships with other guys.

6. Attend Local Events

Check your local event listings for performances, art openings, rodeos, fairs, fundraisers, festivals…Even if it’s just your local paper, there are likely announcements for local events right in your own backyard. But you can also look at sites like Eventbrite. Local events are a great way to simply “get out there” and meet people. The truth is, most of the people attending are there to meet other people—or at least not afraid of making new connections. It’s not hard to simply introduce yourself and strike up a conversation if you do it in a friendly way.

Will you become “besties” with every guy you meet? Hell no. You may not make ANY close friends. But, again, much like in dating, simply getting out there helps increase your chances of making an acquaintance that may eventually turn into a true friendship.

7. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to get out of your normal friend/work/family sphere…and potentially connect with new people. Many of the people you meet volunteering are also likely to be more open to connecting with strangers: just by the fact that they’re volunteering their precious time to help others shows that they’re likely more empathetic and less self-focused.

Organizations like the The Red Cross or Volunteer Match can be places to start. But you can also google “volunteer opportunities in .”

8. Connect With People Somewhere You Already Go

Is there a place you regularly go—somewhere you see people on a regular basis, but maybe you haven’t made a connection? A cafe, your regular bus or train route, a bar you frequent, even your gym?

Not all of us can be lucky enough to have the Cheers experience, where “everybody knows your name.” Though there’s a strong argument in favor of every man needing a “third place”—somewhere that’s not work and not home, where we have a community. Certainly it can seem harder these days because even when people are “regulars” at an establishment, they might be too absorbed in their electronic devices to really notice the people around them.

But you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to strike up a conversation with someone in a place like a cafe—especially if it’s someone you often see but have never said hello to. “Hey, you’re the guy who always wears those Skullcandy headphones. I’ve been meaning to grab a pair.”

The key is simply to make the initial connection, without trying to force a friendship at first. Often, breaking the ice once can lay the groundwork for a real relationship to develop over time.

9. Leverage Social Media to “Go Analog”

Odds are you are connected to far more people than you realize through your various social media profiles…and your connections’ connections. But maybe up until this point, you’ve never had a substantial interaction with some of those folks—they may just be a profile pic and a bio, who you occasionally interact with in 140 characters or less.

But what if……(gasp)…you decided to actually meet up with some of these guys in person? Face to face.

It may not always be possible for connections that live on the other side of the country (or world), but there may be opportunities to meet up with contacts that live within a reasonable distance. When writer Bob Gordon was looking to reinvigorate his social life and meet guy friends, he started going to Reddit Meetups. He had an interest in raw denim, and ended up finding a meetup that he drove to, where he met a bunch of new, like-minded guys. Not all of them became lasting friends, but having the in-person interaction definitely helped create a new bond with some of his connections.

10. Get Set Up on a “Blind Date” by a Mutual Friend

Going on friend-of-friend setup “dates” can be a low-risk way to connect with other potential guy friends. Even though the idea of getting set up may seem awkward, it can often take the pressure off meeting new people. To start with, you have a common interest talk about from the get-go: your mutual friend. So starting a conversation is fairly easy. And I’ve personally found that most of my friends who are good people surround themselves with other good people, so I’m rarely disappointed.

11. Crash Parties

Party crashing isn’t for everybody. But if you listen to this interview with Neville Medhora on The Art of Charm podcast, you can’t help but want to give it a try.

Before he became a Kopywriting badass and the “internet marketing version of Aziz Ansari” (according to Jordan at AOC), Neville crashed parties to expand his network.

His goal was more specific than just meeting new friends; he wanted to surround himself with rich and influential people (he was familiar with that adage that you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most).

Since Neville usually crashed parties alone, quickly making conversation with guests was critical so he wouldn’t stand out. Neville’s “pickup line” for meeting other guys at parties was great: As he’d wait in line at the bar, he’d say something like “5 more people, ugh! I want my booze now! I’m Neville by the way.”

So simple, but it worked!

He would repeat that trick each time he grabbed a drink. And that simple exchange would often turn into multiple connections throughout the night. Inevitably he’d see a guy he met earlier in the evening who’d say “Hey Neville, meet Fred” and on it would go. Pretty soon he’d go from being the guy who came alone to a party he wasn’t invited to…to being the most popular guy of the evening.

Getting Comfortable Establishing Weak Ties

Perhaps the best advice for making friends is to “just get out there” and meet more people any way you can. For many of us, this requires shifting our mindset to focus more on developing “weak ties,” or acquaintances, at first.

In terms of experiencing the full richness that friendship offers, there’s no doubt that quality is better than quantity. If you have 12,000 friends on Facebook but no one to give you a hug when your girlfriend dumps you, then you need to reevaluate your social life.

But the truth is, we can’t exactly plan on who will be come our close friends. It’s a game of chance.

Record labels have the same challenge. They can’t plan on who will be their next multi-platinum artist. They simply have to cultivate a wide swath of bands and hope that one—if they’re lucky—makes it big. Meanwhile, they expect to lose money on the other 10-15 artists on their roster.

We have to have a similar mindset with making guy friends.

We have to get be comfortable simply making initial connections—acquaintances—which may or may not develop into friendships down the line. Can we predict how often those acquaintances will turn into friendships? No. But we also know that without putting ourselves out there and meeting new people, we’re unlikely to make new friends.

Practicing the “Runway” to Friendship

Much of the anxiety that men feel around trying to pursue male friendships seems rooted in the notion that the stakes are higher than they actually are. That by simply having a conversation, they are making themselves vulnerable and opening themselves up to be judged.

As Trevor’s quote below illustrates, we’ve grown accustomed to shrugging off rejection from women, but many of us are still nervous about how to act around men:

I know how to comport myself with women because I practiced hard in high school and in college. I’m wondering if how I carry myself and make conversation is confusing for guys I’m just meeting because I send mixed signals of insecurity or lack of confidence in the conversation itself.”

–Trevor, Distilled Man reader

As we discussed earlier, this nervousness and uncertainty is because we’ve never consciously practiced the “runway” to friendship with men the way we’ve worked on being accepted by women. It just didn’t occur to us.

So, the irony is that we can be (relatively) nonchalant about “just chatting up” a woman. But when we talk to men, we often revert to a binary view of the interaction: “Will he be my friend or not? Will he accept me or not?”

But in reality, the guy you’re talking to probably isn’t judging you. He’s just thinking about keeping up his end of the conversation (and possibly being self-critical in the process).

Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we become dismissive of the interaction because we’re just making small talk and don’t appear to have anything in common.

The key is to get comfortable being in that middle-zone: where you’ve made the introduction, but you’re not friends yet (maybe you never will be, and that’s OK). Because that is the potential runway to friendship.

The more fluent we are within that “uncertain” zone, the more chances we create to develop true friendships with other men.

Embracing The “New Networking”

One of the best ways to make personal connections is through the guise of networking. And this is far easier—and less awkward—now that our understanding of networks is changing.

With employees staying at jobs for shorter periods and as technology has enabled more mobility (and competition) in the workforce, the importance of having a professional network is even clearer. But we’re also seeing less distinction between professional and personal networks. This shouldn’t be surprising given that 40% of Americans are expected to freelancers by 2020. We’re starting to realize that, going forward, we must have at least some sort of network in order to survive.

And with books like The Tipping Point popularizing the idea of “mavens” or super-connectors, the value of connecting—in a professional or a personal context—is now more widely recognized.

All of this to say that one of the simplest ways to make an acquaintance and potentially develop a relationship is by just asking to “connect.” Often you can start developing a relationship by saying “I’m really interested in finding out more about what you do and your background. Can I buy you some coffee sometime?”

You might feel uneasy asking to connect without having a specific plan. But usually the best thing to do is just focus on helping the other person somehow. And often this means simply introducing to someone else you know who might be useful to them.

As Adam Grant shows us in Give and Take, this kind of selflessness can actually drive our success in big ways. You can think of it as making a goodwill deposit that may yield a return later.

They may return the favor and help you professionally (or personally)—or maybe not. Regardless, they’ll appreciate your genuine interest in helping them out. And that goodwill may blossom into a deeper connection later on.

Turning Connections into Friendship

Once you’ve established a initial connection, if it seems like there’s mutual “chemistry,” you shouldn’t be afraid to take things to the next level. As writer Bob Gordon notes, all it takes is for one guy to take the initiative and say “You’re cool, I dig you, let’s hang out.”

The “let’s connect over coffee” thing can be a good first step if it’s more of a professional connection. Otherwise, grabbing a drink or going to a show—really any kind of activity that you both might enjoy—can work. When you ask, as long as you’re open, honest, and confident about it, the other guy will respect you for having the cojones to invite him. And the worst thing that can happen is he’ll just say no.

But since so many men recognize that they could use more male friends, odds are he’ll be open to hanging out. After all, you’re not talking about going steady—you’re just talking about “two dudes hanging out being dudes.”

Next Steps:
Put Yourself Out there, Be Interested, and Be Likeable

As you can see, once you get over the fear of “getting out there” and talking to other men, there’s no end to the different ways you can make connections, which may turn into friends later on.

Ultimately, the best way to get comfortable seeking out new connections is to practice: to do it over and over. To build the habit of connecting with people….Without any specific agenda.

Say hello to people (men and women). Engage them. Make conversation. Take an interest in their lives. You may become friends or you may never see each other again.

Will everyone want to talk to you? No. But usually that won’t have anything to do with what they think of you—it’s more likely to do with what they think of themselves.

Plus, there are fundamental techniques you can use to make yourself more successful and connecting with people. Let’s face it: Humans aren’t that complicated. Connecting with them isn’t a mystery.

A great place to start is Dale Carnegie’s “Six Ways to Make People Like You” from How to Win Friends & Influence People:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the others person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

And now, in the spirit of connection, I have two favors to ask:

  • Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought. Anything I missed? Any tips you want to share?
  • Then, please send this article to one friend who might find it helpful.

Thanks for your help! Cheers!

Note: some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links, meaning if you buy the books through the link I get a small commission (at no extra charge to you). But I would recommend these books regardless.

Weekly Inspiration on How to Become a Better Man

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The matchmaking app for people who want to make friends not love

‘Wiith’, a new San Francisco-based app, is designed to buddy you up with people looking for buddies. And that’s it. No romance, no sex, just pure, unadulterated friendship.

Think of it as a Tinder for making friends. The premise is simple: if you’re new to a city, or just want to meet someone new, the app connects you with like-minded others inside a set radius. You sign up via Facebook, build a basic profile, then approach people for friendship or arrange social events and invite others along.

• The Tinderisation of modern life is on the rise

I arranged a coffee meet-up for Saturday at 5.30pm, which after half an hour a guy called Harpal said he was coming to. I also followed a man called Jeff, something that means Wiith will notify me when he creates an event, and told some bloke called Youcef I’d join him for a run on tomorrow at 9pm. Youcef actually approved my coming along, and as I write this very sentence has just pinged me to say ‘hey’. I don’t really want to go for a run tomorrow. I feel bad now.

Would you like to be friends with Jeff?

It’s true that the current market for community-based dating and networking is becoming increasingly saturated. A fresh dating app seems to spring up every month, and friendship platforms are following suit – today, the young, mobile generation appreciates the practicality and instantaneous nature of forming relationships by scrolling through pictures and sending a few messages.

With that in mind, Wiith already has a few similar models to compete with. There’s Skout, which brands itself as more of a friend app but has morphed into more of a dating landscape. Peoplehunt exists, too, although it is now mainly a tool for finding others who might be able to help you with something (language exchange classes are popular on the format).

The most popular friend app around at the moment is Meetup, by a stretch. However, the app was founded as a website; its mobile platform isn’t the smoothest, lacking the responsive, quick-fire style of its new competitor.

• Bristlr: a dating app for bearded men and the women who love them

Wiith co-founder Jeff Hodnett told TechCruch that he believed Meetup is “too rigid” for more natural, spontaneous get-togethers. It’s here where the app’s likeness to Tinder becomes starkly apparent. The new model is apparently more fluid, loose, and appears to favour randomness – all things young people enjoy.

“We think Wiith is a lot more spontaneous than Meetup, along with not having the dating stigma of Tinder,” Hodnett said.

If Wiith does manage to attract users and take on some of Meetups’ 20 million-plus fan base, it could prove a popular choice for business travellers keen to find someone to share an evening meal with, and city newbies hoping to track down a running partner within hours of unpacking their trainers.

As for me, I’m hoping that some of those people sign up in the next 24 hours and make Youcef a proper offer…

How to Be Friendly (Not Flirty!) with Male Friends

Corbis Images

There’s a clear line between being interested in a guy’s life and being interested in the guy. At least, we think so: Men often misinterpret female friendliness as sexual interest, while women often think a guy is just being nice when, really, he’s flirting, says a new study in Evolutionary Psychology. (What else don’t we realize? 14 Things Men Wish Women Knew.)

Not surprising, but a bummer-friends make us happier and healthier, and you can’t control who you click with.

So how can you let a guy know you just want to be friends without him thinking you’re secretly looking for something more? “It’s almost impossible to convey with complete certainty to another person that you don’t want something romantic,” says Rachel McLaren, Ph.D., assistant professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Iowa. “There’s always going to be that question mark and possibility that one of you will change your mind.” (Hear from real women on whether Men Can Really Be “Just Friends” with Women.)

The best you can do is to be as clear from the start that you’re looking for a platonic relationship and avoid delivering mixed signals-which is where these five steps come in.

Drop the “Boyfriend” Early

“If you have a boyfriend or significant other, make sure it’s included in the conversation earlier rather than later,” advises Rachel DeAlto, relationship coach and author of Flirt Fearlessly. That’s an instant friend zone move for most men, and they will immediately take you out of the running romantically and start to see the potential in your platonic relationship.

Stick to Group Hangs

If you aren’t involved with someone, spending time alone is just asking for trouble. You need to make it clear this is in the friendship category right from the start, which means no dinners for two. “Try to hang out in groups at the beginning, so you can establish your friendship as just that,” McLaren suggests. Once the lines are established and time has made that clear, you can start to hang out one-on-one, but even then try and avoid anything that seems too date-like.

Don’t Treat Guys Like Your Girls

If your girlfriend has on a new shirt or gets a haircut, you’re going to compliment her-that’s what good friends do. For guys, though, this sends mixed signals. “Male friends have to be handled differently than girlfriends-especially if you think there is an attraction on his side,” DeAlto says. You can compliment him, but don’t do it flirtatiously, she advises. It’s all about the intent-you want him to feel confident, but not ogled at. And no touching that new hairdo, she says. Which brings us to…

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Touch is a powerful flirtation tool, says DeAlto. (It’s also a powerful tool in the bedroom-learn 8 New Ways to Touch Your Guy During Sex.) Even if you’re a touchy-feely person, you need to rein it in so he doesn’t get the wrong idea. A goodbye hug is okay, but no knee squeezes, shoulder rubs, or arm grabs, she advises.

Clear the Air

At some point, both of you will wonder if this friendship should be something more. That’s just a fact of cross-sex relationships, McLaren says. But you may not even realize he’s thinking that. “Research shows there’s a kind of conspiracy of silence, where people who are romantically interested in their friend aren’t sure how their feelings will be received, so they just don’t bring it up to avoid getting hurt,” she explains.

But if you want to clear the air to avoid any potential sticky situations, try this: “You’re a wonderful friend, and I love spending time with you, but I’m just not interested in you in that way. I just want to make that clear.” There’s a chance he’ll stay in denial and harbor hope for your relationship, but this is the most direct message you can deliver on your feelings without being unnecessarily harsh, McLaren says.

  • By Rachael Schultz

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Maybe you’re totally into him and you want to take your relationship to the next level; or maybe the idea of seeing him naked sends you into a catatonic state of sheer terror. Either way, it’s always a good thing to know if your guy friend has a not-so-hidden agenda.

1. He spends his free time with you. All of it.

Contrary to popular belief, guys have no real use for female friendships. None. There’s nothing we can give them that their guy friends can’t. If your friend is spending all his time with you and neglecting his true bros, he’s probably pining for you so hard.

2. You’re in on the family holidays.

Any guy that includes you in important family occasions is definitely setting you up to become Mrs His-Last-Name. He desperately wants to include you in his family life, because in his lovestruck fantasy, you’ll soon be part of it.

3. He compliments you.

A compliment about your appearance from a guy can be translated as, ‘I am attracted to you.’ If your bud is mumbling that you ‘look good’, or he notices and compliments your new gold eye-shadow, he’s definitely into you. (Disclaimer: this is only true if the guy in question isn’t a total player.)

4. He touches you.

The long, lingering hugs, light backrubs and hair stroking aren’t just friendly interactions. Guys don’t want to give us girls the wrong idea about their feelings, so if he’s touching you a lot, rest assured that he knows exactly what he’s doing and he hopes you know it, too.

RELATED: Man Cluedo! 4 Signs He Likes You Like That

5. He finds fault with everyone that isn’t you.

He’ll sing your praises from the highest rooftops, but if you bring any other girl up, he can only point out her flaws. He doesn’t want some other chick standing in the way of his Ron-and-Hermione dream. He’ll want you to know that he’s completely available. Like, so available.

6. He’s never asked you to set him up with one of your hot friends.

We all have that beautiful single friend that could get any man she wants – except your guy friend. If he’s never so much as mentioned that she looks a bit like Kate Upton, he only has eyes for you.

7. You’re the first person to hear all his big news.

Forget the person sitting next to him – when something big happens, good or bad, you’re the first person to get a text (and the first person to be invited for celebratory drinks). He tells you everything important because you’re important.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Escape The Dreaded Friendzone

8. He goes out of his way for you.

He drives you home even though it’s 20 minutes away from his own house. On your birthday, he brings you a cake that he made. You mention that you’re craving spaghetti; he invites you to his house for spaghetti. He just wants to please you – a lot.

9. He lets you know how much he appreciates you.

Guys aren’t very open with their feelings, especially when it comes to their friends. If he’s always casually mentioning what a great girl you are, and how glad he is to have you in his life, you’re definitely someone he never wants to lose.

10. Before he does anything, he makes sure you’re in on it.

No social gathering is the same for him if you aren’t there. How is he supposed to enjoy himself when he can’t gaze upon the object of his affections? He might as well sit at home in his underwear and watch reruns of Friends.

RELATED: 13 Ways He Secretly Says ‘I Love You’

11. He texts you while he’s out with his guy friends.

When he does get roped into a guys’ night, he’s texting you running commentary the entire evening. ‘Going to the club now.’ ‘Brad is completely smashed, LOL!’ ‘They’re playing that song we danced to that one time.’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I wanna go home.’

12. You know he does.

Girls tend to underestimate a guy’s interest in them. If you have an inkling that your guy friend is crushing on you, he probably is. What you do with this information is up to you. We say, what could be better than a relationship with a guy you already know and love?

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How to Hug a Guy

There are a number of different situations in which you would have to know how to properly hug a guy. You don’t hug your brother the same way you hug your boyfriend and you don’t hug your boyfriend the same way you hug someone who is just a friend. You may not have noticed this before, but now you will.

So how do you distinguish the difference? Well, that’s where I come in! First of all, if you’re trying to hug a guy for the first time, it can be nerve wracking and you may not know what to do. There are many different ways in which you can hug someone and it tells them a lot about how you feel about them.

How to Hug a Friend

If your friend is a guy and you want to hug him, but make sure he knows it’s nothing more, then there’s a certain way you have to go about it to make sure he sees it the same way. There’s a fine line that can easily be crossed when hugging a friend – make sure you stay away from it.

  1. Don’t Flirt Beforehand

The worst way to go into a hug with a guy who is just a friend is to be really flirty beforehand. This makes the hug take on a whole new meaning and they might see it as something more than just friends. You never want to start a hug with just a friend after you’ve been playfully flirting with them. So keep it off unless you want a hug to mean more.

  1. Keep the Hugs Infrequent

You shouldn’t be frequently hugging your guy friends. When you’re regularly giving someone a hug and then saying you’re “just friends”, you’re confusing them and everyone around you. Reserve the hugs for times when you haven’t seen them in a while or will be departing them and won’t see them for some time.

  1. Hug with Alternating Arms

The last thing to think about when hugging someone you just want to be a friend only is the style in which you hug them. Don’t wrap your arms around their shoulders and move in like you’re slow dancing. Make it a casual hug where one arm is above their shoulder and the other below. This is the most platonic way to give a hug.

How to Hug Someone You Like

Hugging someone you have a crush on but are not together with yet is a whole different ball game than just hugging a friend. You want to communicate through that hug that you like him if you want any sort of chance with him. Here’s how to hug a guy that you like.

  1. Stay Close to Them

Even before you want to go in for the hug, stay right next to them for as much of the time you have with them as possible. Proximity is a huge indicator that you like someone and it will make the hug seem more natural. Plus, it’ll be easier to transition to a hug before you leave when you’re already standing so close to them.

  1. Wrap Your Arms Around their Shoulders

Now, when you actually get to hug them make sure you do it in a manner than declares your feelings for them. If you want this guy to be yours, then wrap both arms around their neck so they get to squeeze your waist. This is a hug that says you want to be something more and it’s easy for them to slip in a kiss right after – if that’s what you both want.

  1. Squeeze Them a Little Harder

Don’t just give them a weak hug that tells them that you’re just friends. No! Squeeze them hard. Make your hug have a lasting impression even after you’ve pulled away. The key is to surprise them with it so they will be certain to remember you later. Nobody remembers a limp, lifeless hug.

  1. Linger for a Little While

When you hug them, make it last for a little while. Not too long that they think you’re strange. But don’t make it a super quick hug and then dip out the door without a second glance at them. Hug them for more than the average time you would, then when you pull away, stay within arm’s reach for a while. However, if you start hugging them and they pull away, separate. Nobody wants a hug from someone who just won’t let them go when they want to!

How to Hug a Boyfriend

If you want to know how you should be hugging your boyfriend to let him know you are his and only his, then you’ll need these tips.

  1. Do it Unexpectedly

If you’re actually in a relationship with someone, then they are probably pretty used to getting your hugs on a regular basis. If you really want to hug your boyfriend the right way, do it during unexpected times. If he’s doing some dishes or cooking in the kitchen, just go up behind him and hug him. He’ll find it really endearing.

  1. Pull Him in Close

Take a hold of your man’s shirt and pull him into you forcefully. Demand a hug out of him. Don’t just casually go in for one. Make a point to get his attention in a drastic way before doing so. It will make the hug much more memorable and meaningful.

  1. Make Eye Contact Before

In order to set a hug to your boyfriend apart from any other hug you might give someone, make eye contact before going in for it. When you’ve been dating someone for a while it might seem unimportant to make eye contact. But that’s a great way to really connect with the person you love before giving them a hug. This is your way of telling him that yes, it’s just a hug, but it’s uniquely for him.

  1. Put Your Arms Under His

The way you position your body when hugging a boyfriend is much different than when you hug other people. This hug should be intimate. It should be comfortable. And it should be easy. When hugging your boyfriend, wrap your arms around his waist and nuzzle your head into their chest. This is the most natural way to hug someone and it provides the comfort you should find when hugging your boyfriend.

  1. Squeeze Him Tightly and For a Long Time

Hug your boyfriend in a way that lets him know you mean business. And by business I mean let him know you love him through your hug. To do this, squeeze him a little tighter than you normally would when hugging someone and stay in that position for some time. Not only does this make them feel loved, but it also is great for your own mood. Hugs that last longer than 20 seconds actually release endorphins and raise your mood.

Hugging might seem like a simple task that you do all the time. But the way in which you hug someone can tell them a lot about how you feel about them. Make sure you’re hugging them the right way!

During the course of your week, you may be hugged in many different ways. How can you tell what the hug means, especially if it comes from a man? Women tend to hug friends and family enthusiastically, almost any time they meet together. However, men can be elusive and mysterious when doling out hugs. Here five of the most common hug types and what they symbolize.

The Awkward Hug

This hug feels wrong from the get go. It’s almost as if he’s been pressured to hug you because everyone else hugs, or the situation calls for a hug. Typically, he will quickly throw one arm around you and give a squeeze while looking for the exit, or closest person to distract himself. Often, these are side hugs with no eye contact.
The Friendly Hug

Some guys are super friendly and pass out hugs to everyone, while others reserve these hugs for special people in their lives. A guy will throw both arms around you for a few seconds in a warm, but brief hug. This basic hug shows you that he cares about you in a friendly, platonic way. Even if the hug lasts more than a few seconds, it could still be a friendly hug. Pay attention to the circumstances surround the hug. For example, he’s more likely to hang on for a minute if he hasn’t seen you in awhile.
The Hug That Seeks Comfort

If he rubs your back, he probably seeks your comfort. This principle applies regardless of the type of hug he’s giving. Guys are notorious for not talking about their feelings, but this simple action speaks volumes. Perhaps he’s trying to be strong for you and doesn’t want to voice his feelings. Or maybe he is hurting right there with you. Don’t make light of his hug. Give him some extra attention and return the comfort to him.

The Playful Hug

You often see playful hugs in the movies. The guy runs to the girl and scoops her up in his arms. She laughs as he twirls her around. If they look ridiculously happy, it’s because they are! HIs favorite thing is to hear her laugh and being the one to make her happy is his biggest accomplishment. If you have a guy who hugs you like this, don’t let him go! It shows he is comfortable with you and will go to great lengths to make you happy.

The Adoring Hug

A man with a romantic interest in you will typically make his intentions clear. First, his hug will be tighter and more directed. He might place one hand on your lower back. The other may travel to your neck so he can lay your head on his chest. Your lower bodies will most likely touch. This hug conveys his attraction for you. You feel it and know it’s not just a friendly hug. It also shows that he doesn’t want you to leave.

The Sensual Hug

This hug envelops your entire body. There will be absolutely no space between your body and his. Your Jr. High Dance chaperone would not approve! His hands trail down your back all the way to your bottom. The lower his hand travels, the more passionate he is towards you. If he leans his head toward yours, he conveys a desire for emotional connection as well as physical. Relish this hug!

When receiving hugs, focus on how they make you feel. Typically, you can tell if a hug is forced, or truly meant. Pay attention to his body language clues to determine if he is being friendly, romantic, or more.

Even lion’s like to hug!

6 Tips for How to Be Friends With Guys

When we were growing up, my younger sister had all the guy friends.

And I was so jealous.

Let me count how many guy friends I had in high school…ummmm…zero. That’s right. Zero.

But that’s not because I didn’t want any guy friends! I just got totally awkward any time I tried to befriend a guy. Part of the problem was that I saw all guys as “Mr. Maybes.” Maybe I could date him…or maybe him!—which is a great lesson on how NOT to be friends with guys.

Over the years I finally started learning how to make and keep some good guy friends. By the time I was in my 20s, some of my closest friends were guys! And I’m so grateful for their friendships. They showed me what good men were like, helped me embrace who God made me to be and helped me decide who to date (or not to date).

So today I want to share six tips that made all the difference for me and helped me be friends with guys.

Tip #1: Learn how to talk about a variety of topics.

There are some things I can easily talk about, such as shopping. Makeup. Brand-name shoes I found on clearance. Then there are other things that don’t come as naturally. For me, football. Video games. Cars. (I am what you might call a “girly girl.”)

Some guys love talking about shopping. Some girls love talking about football. But in order to have a wide variety of friends, it’s important to have a wide variety of interests and have conversations about them.

Something that helped me become friends with more guys (and more girls, too) was learning how to talk about a variety of topics. If you need help learning how to do this, check out the book How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes.

Tip #2: Be yourself.

This might seem obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me. I really thought guys wanted me to be either ditzy and blonde (which is totally just a stereotype) or an athletic superstar. And I was neither. But boy, did I try to be that ditzy blonde (even bleaching my hair)! Years later I discovered my fake persona was actually a turn-off to many guys because they wanted me to be ME. They wanted a genuine relationship with a real person, not with a wanna-be. If I genuinely was ditzy and blonde, that would have been fine, but they could tell I was just putting on an act. The more comfortable I became in my own skin (and in my own personality), the more guys enjoyed hanging out with me.

I think this is true for girls, too. In a world of masks, we crave authenticity. The more I can be who God made me to be, the more genuine friends I can make. And sure, there will always be people I don’t click with, but that’s true no matter who I try to be. Plus, keeping up a mask is exhausting. So I decided to cut my losses and just be me.

Tip #3: Look for meaningful friendships.

It’s tempting to want to befriend someone just because they’re cute or popular, but those aren’t good reasons for friendship. Real, meaningful friendships—the ones that last and make you a better person—are built on deeper qualities, like common interests, common values, the ability to connect on a meaningful level and the ability to have fun together. So when you’re looking for a guy friend (or any friend), pay attention to who the person is, not just to their social status.

Tip #4: Be “just friends” in your mind if you want to stay “just friends” in your heart.

This was the hardest part for me. I LOVED imagining what it would be like to date my guy friends. But the thing is, where your mind goes, your heart follows. As I started thinking about my friends in a romantic way, I started to have romantic feelings toward them. And then I just started acting weird…and they could tell…and it got awkward.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you end up liking your guy friend, that’s totally fine! I know quite a few couples who were “just friends” but now are married with babies! But if you only want to be friends, and no more, it’s important to keep it truly just a friendship in your mind, too.

This can be hard to do, especially if all your friends and family keep making well-intentioned (but super confusing!) comments like “Look how cute you two would be together!” But take a minute, stop and ask yourself “Do I want to stay friends or do I want more?” If the answer is “stay friends,” then be just friends in your mind, too. (Which reminds me, if you’re thinking, “Help! I’m crushing on my guy friend and don’t know what to do!”, here’s an article all about that.)

If you’re really good friends with a guy, chances are one of you is going to end up liking the other at some point. It happens in almost every friendship. That doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong for each other; it just means you’re spending a lot of time together. It’s natural to develop those feelings on and off. Sometimes you’ll end up together, and sometimes you’ll stay friends. But if you can have honest conversations with each other, that can help protect both your hearts. Which brings us to the next tip…

Tip #5: Be up-front about where you stand.

One of my best guy friends was so good at this. Every few months he’d bring up a conversation about our relationship. The first time this happened, it surprised me. Out of the blue he said, “Tiff, I love being friends with you, but I don’t want to lead you on. Is it okay if we’re just friends?” He wanted me to know where we stood so that neither of us got hurt or confused.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. Every few months one of us would bring this up and make sure we were still on the same page. Sometimes one of us liked the other, sometimes we were both a little interested (but prayed about it and decided we didn’t want to date) and sometimes we were both dating other people. But through it all, for 15 years, we stayed just friends. And neither of us were led on because we were up-front about where we stood.

We also tried to make sure that the way we treated each other reflected the fact that we were just friends. That included what we did, where we hung out and how we talked to each other. We knew that if we started acting intimately or like “friends with benefits,” that would lead the other person on and create a lot of confusion. It’s so important to be what you are instead of losing your relationship in a gray area.

Tip #6: Allow the friendship to change over time.

When I started dating James (now my husband), my friendships with guys started changing. We slowly stopped meeting up 1:1 and started inviting our significant others. We slowly stopped talking on the phone and started group-texting with our fiancés. Now that I’m married (as are my close guy friends), we have morphed into couple friends.

Yes, my friendships with guys are different than they used to be, but that’s because James and I don’t want to develop unhealthy, dependent relationships with someone of the opposite gender. We think it’s important to discuss and set healthy boundaries that work for each person and their spouse. These boundaries will look different in every marriage, but our personal boundaries with opposite-gender friends are: 1) We no longer talk on the phone with them, 2) we no longer have deep conversations about life without our spouses there and 3) we very rarely meet up 1:1 without our spouses (and definitely not without okaying it with each other first).

My closest guy friend who I told you about? I LOVE his wife, and James LOVES him. So the four of us will hang out for hours! I’m so grateful that I still get to keep his friendship, because it means so much to me. It just looks different than it used to.

So if you too struggle with developing friendships with guys, I hope these six tips can help you as they’ve helped me.

And comment below: What other tips would you add?

According to Sam*, a 28-year-old business executive, men are not naturally good at interpreting your attraction cues. And the more he likes you, the more he may convince himself it’s better to be in your friendzone than out of your life—and all your so-called “hints” are falling on deaf ears. “Girls have a terrible tendency to communicate in ways guys don’t recognize and, yes, we are a bit thick,” he insists. “From my experience, women hate the idea of clearly explaining their interest. It may not be as ‘romantic’ as you’d like, but at the end of the day, if a guy is not sure about your interest, he won’t swing.”

3. You are most definitely sending mixed signals.

Be honest with yourself: Are you on the fence some of the time, unsure if you want to move your friend chemistry into a full-blown relationship? If so, he can tell. Jeff, a 45-year-old ad agency owner, instantly hit it off with a female co-worker, who he was interested in pursuing after he moved on to a new job. “What held me back? A collection of mixed signals, like skipping my goodbye happy hour and ghosting me on some texts that dropped hints about grabbing dinner,” he says. Jeff says he still talks to his friend and crush, and they even hung out recently. “The really odd thing is that I don’t seem to have many issues asking women out. But with her, I don’t know. It’s like I’ve built it up because we’ve been friends for so long.”

4. He’s not sure if he fits into your life at this point.

If you constantly project how busy you are, that you’re “really into work right now,” or are “just really happy being single,” your guy friend might start to get the wrong message (read: don’t pursue me, please). “Even if common interest seems to be there, this is a big one,” Sam says. “Saying, ‘I’m just being single right now,’ or ‘I’m focusing on work,’ or the like is the worst, because that person is implying that a good relationship would hinder their life! It’s such a bummer to find out that someone who has expressed interest is not available because she needs to ‘focus on herself’ for a bit.”

5. He doesn’t want to disrupt the friend and group dynamic.

Even confident guys freak at the thought of you saying you’re “just not that into him,” says Connor, a 24-year-old music management rep. “Even if you think you’re 99 percent sure there’s something there, there will always be a little ‘What if I’m wrong?’ doubt,” he explains. “I would be super-embarrassed around my friends if I thought there was something going on, and then I tried to act on it. In my mind, the person is obviously going to tell everyone. Related to that, there’s the whole ‘I don’t want to make it weird if it doesn’t work out’ thing. That fear is so real. If two people that are friends decide to date and it doesn’t work out, it always makes things weird.” And Connor has experience in this arena, having formerly dated a female friend. “We broke up and it totally wrecked our whole friend group,” he says. “I think people felt they had to pick sides, and then the two of us didn’t want to hang out anymore while the other was around.”

And, of course, there’s always the chance that he digs you as a friend and nothing more. There’s nothing wrong with that—especially since you might actually feel the same way.

But if you’re feeling it with a friend, it’s worth thinking about making a move. Boston-based dating coach Neely Steinberg says she’d encourage more women to act on their attraction to friends. “I actually think friends-to-partners is a wonderful way to begin a romantic relationship,” she says. “Yes, there is a chance the friendship might be ruined, but at the end of the day, your partner should be your best friend—so if you already have that dynamic in place, you’re off to a good start. The foundation for a relationship has already begun building itself.”

Being friends with guys

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