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Is it just me? Finding friends in midlife for men


I’m reading a great book at the moment called “Billy No-Mates: How I Realised Men Have a Friendship Problem” by Max Dickins. It’s a candid, relatable, and humour-filled exploration of the challenges men face in forming and maintaining meaningful friendships, navigating emotional connections, and addressing their mental health.

As a brief synopsis: When Max Dickins contemplated proposing to his girlfriend, he found himself in an unexpected predicament—he had no one he could confidently ask to be his best man. He quickly learned that he wasn’t the only man struggling with friendships.

It’s an eye-opener to the fact that, on average, men tend to experience greater isolation and loneliness compared to women. Numerous global studies spanning decades have consistently affirmed that men tend to have fewer close friends, and this issue tends to exacerbate as they age.

Coincidentally, the topic of loneliness surfaced during one of our recent sessions with a group of leaders. Despite being constantly surrounded by people, they expressed a profound sense of lacking genuine connections, especially since their work encompassed frequent travel.

Considering that people typically dedicate about 50% of their waking hours on any given workday to their jobs, it’s clear that organisations play a crucial role in nurturing a sense of community and belonging. It’s important for everyone but is particularly critical for workplaces with a high proportion of males.

The book explores these issues through the eyes of the author as he grapples to solve his problem. It examines how traditional masculine norms and societal expectations often hinder men from expressing vulnerability and seeking deep, meaningful connections. It also takes a deep dive into the unhelpful norms that say men don’t need close friendships or emotional support (not true!).

If that makes the book sound heavy – it’s not. It’s so funny that I had to do that snuffling snort thing on a plane to suppress what should have been roaring laughter. The key message of the book – that applies equally to all is that having a support system is key. While it might change through our ages and stages – we all need a community of people around us to support us during the good and the bad.

So here’s a takeaway: Consider how you can foster a safety net for people in your workplace to check on each other. Could it be inter-team like in meetings or 1:1s? Or could it be by interest group? There are lots of ways to foster community in a business. The question you want to answer is: who are you looking out for, and who is looking out for you?

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