What’s the best way to get a group of men into the discussion? Which men’s group topics will work best? What are the best men’s group ice breakers?
Getting a group of men into a discussion isn’t easy but you’re in luck. We’ve been running men’s groups for 10+ years. In this article, we’ll share the most effective topics we use to get guys chatting.
It’s no secret that it can be hard to get men talking. Most of us were encouraged to start conversations or share – especially within the context of a men’s group where sensitive matters could be discussed. We were all told to be strong and to not show any weakness to anyone – especially other males – which makes discussing sensitive men’s group topics challenging.
So there you are, sitting in a circle – or on a video meeting – with a small group of 5-10 men or a bigger group of around 20 other men. You’ve all come in conditioned that sharing is a weakness. How on earth do you get the men talking? What men’s group ideas for discussion topics will get the conversation flowing? That’s what we cover below:
Table of Contents:
- 1 Know that every man wants “real-talk”
- 2 The purpose of the men’s group defines the topics
- 3 It’s less about men’s group topics and more about leading by example
- 4 Start the discussion with updates and commonalities
- 5 Men’s group ice breakers
- 6 The best men’s group questions for discussion
- 7 Popular men’s group discussion topics list
- 8 Now you’re up to speed on topics for men’s groups!
- 9 If You Want Men’s Group Discussions That Just Flow…
Know that every man wants “real-talk”
There isn’t a man walking that hasn’t been discouraged at one time or another from fully sharing what’s happening in their lives or how they feel about things. We have all been conditioned away from sharing – some more than others who feel that men’s group topics are totally off-limits.
Some men have had the masculine stereotypes drilled into them so hard that they will never open up. Many men fully buy into the dogma in society that says that men don’t share – especially their feelings.
But the good news for men’s groups is that despite this conditioning, everyone wants real-talk. Even those who front that sharing is weak, deep down are hardwired for sharing and deep connection. All of us humans are!
As humans evolved we spent most of our time living in small groups. We’d hunt with the men and sit around the fire at night with our friends and family. Everything was shared. Wisdom was passed down from the elders via storytelling. Asking for guidance and sharing experiences was a nightly occurrence.
It wasn’t until the agricultural and industrial revolutions came along with their shut-the-f*ck-up-and-just-do-your-job attitude that men were strongly discouraged from feeling. Furthermore, during this time life was tough. Many men saw the horrors of war and worked grueling jobs in horrible farming and factory conditions. These men didn’t have the opportunity – the luxury – of sharing what was happening in their lives. When they did talk, they discussed men’s topics like sports or politics. Topics that wouldn’t get them ridiculed by their peers.
Then these men taught their sons the same attitude towards self-experience and sharing. Then they taught their sons. And so on until our dads taught us the same things, along with the media, school teachers, sports coaches, and friends.
But even with all of this pressure to withhold sharing, it didn’t fully snuff out that human desire for connection. That wiring from those hundreds of thousands of years of tribal living is still alive and well inside of all me.
If given the opportunity, even the hardest guys would open up and share vulnerably if he could be certain that he wouldn’t be judged or ridiculed for doing so. Many men’s groups have been breaking out (pun intended) in prisons across North America and Europe are a testament to this:
As this funny article said, “Even men like talking about candles”!
This is good news for your men’s support group. It means that even though we are all conditioned to avoid touchy-feely topics with other men, there is still a part of us that desperately wants to go there.
You just need the right discussion topic ideas or ice breakers to open your men’s group up.
The purpose of the men’s group defines the topics
Before jumping into specific men’s group topic ideas first, you will want to define the purpose of your men’s group. There are many different kinds of men’s groups out there.
What is the overarching theme? Are the men meeting for self-improvement? Are you guys a men’s support group focusing on a specific topic?
Really we primarily see two kinds of men’s groups out there:
- A general personal development men’s group – More of an open format. Whatever topics the individual men need to talk about in a given meeting will be discussed.
- A topic-specific men’s group – Where men support each other around a specific topic such as divorce, grieving a loved one, mental health, business goals and more.
There are other kinds of men’s groups out there – coach centric, exercise focused, etc – but these are the two kinds of men’s groups that we have observed are most effective.
Here at MensGroup – in our online men’s groups – we opt for the first theme, having our men’s group topics be more free-flowing. We find that it is more relevant (aka more valuable) for everyone in the small group to be able to talk about whatever they’re facing right now, no matter what the topic. One guy may be experiencing relationship conflicts and another might be chewing on an investment opportunity.
We feel that it would do all of our members in attendance a great disservice by forcing them instead to talk about a pre-chosen men’s group topic like “grieving”.
That being said, there are some incredible men’s groups out there that support men going through longer-term challenges around one specific topic: for example how to control your emotions as a man. If you are facing one massive challenge that has no end in sight, then perhaps a topic-specific group is for you.
What about the specific men’s group questions and discussion topics to get the conversations started?
Well, it’s the same for any men’s group…
It’s less about men’s group topics and more about leading by example
Sure, there are specific questions and topics that you can float to a men’s group to get them talking. That being said, they aren’t going to work unless you create an environment where the guys feel safe sharing. This means getting up in front of the guys and leading by example.
Here are the best ways we found to set the stage for getting guys talking:
- How you word/position things matters: More than once I’ve made the mistake of stepping into men’s group and said: “Okay guys, let’s all open ourselves up, be vulnerable and support one another”. Words like “vulnerable, support and opening up make a lot of men cringe and have the opposite effect of making them shut down. Instead use more masculine positioning phrases like “We’re getting real”, “real-talk”, “talkin’ about the real sh*t”, “we’re going to talk about the really meaningful stuff in life that a lot of people are too afraid to get into” and others. You need to make them feel cool for being a part of the men’s group and opening up.
- 100% private and confidential – Guys need to be alone, away from anyone who may judge their sharing. Unfortunately, this also means women due to the biological urge all men feel to appear strong in front of women for mating. Nothing can be shared outside of the circle. Guys need to know that their sensitive matters will not leave the room.
- Lead with openness and vulnerability – I learned through running hundreds of men’s groups that the leader sets the tone. If the leader starts with vulnerability, the other men are much more likely to be vulnerable as well. Here’s how I created a safe environment for sharing vulnerably with the guys: During the short welcome speech I do every meeting I would slip in my own sensitive, embarrassing story. I used my own trials and tribulations as an example. Then I would chuckle at my situation, creating lightness (instead of a heavy vibe). For whatever reason, this would 100% put the guys at easy with sharing their own sensitive men’s issues.
- Stack the deck – You want to lead by example, but you also want the first man in the group to be an example as well. I found that if you have a guy go first that has something really meaningful or a heavy topic to talk through, it allows the other guys to open up because a. they got to witness that the man sharing vulnerably wasn’t ridiculed and b. their topic probably isn’t as vulnerable as that first one. I once was in a men’s group of 30 guys and I knew that 3 had really heavy stuff to talk through. One’s wife had a number of miscarriages and he didn’t know how to support her. Another guy had just watched his dad die in a horrible way. And another guy was dealing with intense business partner conflict. I talked to the guy facing the miscarriages before the circle started and asked him if he would please go first; that it would help the other guys. He agreed. I then sat the other two guys next to him. The first guy shared and cried. The second did as well. The third topic was moving as well. What do you think happened with the other 27 guys in the circle? Yep, they too shared vulnerably. Time and time again I’d see men in a men’s group say “I don’t have anything to talk about”. After witnessing another guy sharing vulnerable and finding support in the discussion, all of a sudden that guy too would have their own sensitive topic to bring up. Stack the deck. Get the one or two most open individuals to share first.
- Engage with empathy – Everyone wants to have there experience and feelings validated. Men especially don’t have this enough. So when a man shares something, instead of everyone in the circle jumping to fix things, first just validate the man’s experience. “Wow, that sounds challenging man. I’m sorry to hear you’re facing that. I want to acknowledge that you’ve been strong facing that kind of a challenge.” Validate with empathy before getting into solutions
- Ask questions that dive deeper – The reality is that some guys are more open than others. With some guys, you need to drag it out of them a bit more. The best way to do this is by asking questions. If a guy shares something, ask questions that make him feel more. “What was the worst part of that?”, “What are you feeling?” and repeating the last few words of the sentence and adding “Tell me more about that” are great ways to get a guy to open up further and become more vulnerable.
- Make them laugh – Many times humor can deflate the insecurity and heavy vibes that can come from having important discussions around men’s group topics. An ice breaker for a men’s group can be invaluable! I try to fit a couple of laughs into every meeting because it can lighten the mood and get guys to open up further.
Those are the key pieces to getting guys to open up to discussions in a men’s group. But…
Start the discussion with updates and commonalities
It doesn’t matter if it’s in person or in an online men’s group, any time we just launch into themed discussions it always feels forced.
What works best – for us – is we start with updates. Each man has the opportunity to share what’s happening in his life. In a topic-specific men’s group, this would be giving an update on the progress with the topic: divorce, grieving, etc.
This works because guys will naturally bring up discussion topics in passing and the other men in the group will realize there are others in the circle going through the same stuff.
In MensGroup we will share our highs and lows from the last month with regards to personal life, health, relationships, and work. This is a great men’s group exercise because lots of guys that think they have nothing to discuss when describing the lows from the month will realize that there is something they want to discuss further (the low situation).
Another way I have seen that works well is to bring up common topics that all of the guys in the circle would be interested in. Sports, the weather, world events. Even though these are surface discussions, these easy topics will help the guys to get to gabbing!
Men’s group ice breakers
Whether it be in a small group or bigger team, ice breakers for men’s groups can work wonders for getting the conversation started. I’ve seen guys use icebreakers in a room guys that were struggling to get into a conversation. It opened the room right up. I’ve observed through running men’s groups for over a decade and leading the guys through many different men’s group topics that it can be a lot like dating. You go out on a date, you are with a stranger you know nothing about, so you’ll ask them questions, right? That’s how you can open conversations with guys too.
Here are some great ice-breakers to get the guys gabbing:
- What are you most excited about in your life right now?
- What’s your biggest achievement?
- What are you most proud of?
- Tell me about your wife / kids!
- How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?
- What do you do for work?
- What do you like / find the most challenging about your work?
Common ice breakers like this work wonders for a men’s group! If you have any suggestions for other ice breakers for a men’s group, please add them below in the comments!
Know your audience
In all my years of running men’s groups, I’m still constantly amazed – shocked, flabbergasted? – by how two guys with SO MUCH in common can just sit there and struggle to find things to talk about. I’ve seen two young men sit there who love backcountry skiing, bible study, run similar businesses and play guitar, sit there over a beer and awkwardly have conversation fizzle out because they don’t know what to talk about. As soon as I said “Hey you’re both into backcountry skiing” or “You guys both have Amazon product businesses, don’t you?”, all of a sudden the conversation would take off and they’d become fast friends.
It pays to know your men’s group members when it comes to men’s group discussion topics. We have members fill out short profiles that include their business, their interests, their locations and birth cities, their romantic and family situations. That way I can quickly spot commonalities and bring them up.
This is important to get guys to open up in a men’s group because guys want to feel that their men’s group mates are similar to then. After all, you’re much more likely to open up to someone if you have commonalities with them and like them.
This is also a key skill in learning how to start a men’s group.
The best men’s group questions for discussion
Aside from updates, questions are the second-best way to get the discussion group started. Here are some examples of great questions to ask in a men’s group:
- “What is the most interesting you’ve seen in the last little while?”
- “What have been your recent highs and lows?”
- Repeat the last few words of something that a guy says, and then say “tell me more about that”.
- How are your relationships: partner, family kids? Relationships are always a source of discussion because there is always something to work on.
- If you notice something (positive) about a guy, ask him why he is that way.
- “Why did you get into X/Y/Z?” Ask a guy about why he got into his line of work or a particular hobby.
- After someone shares something meaningful – like a challenge they’re going through – say “I can relate to that. Can anyone else relate to that?” There is always someone who can relate.
- If you feel like the guys are all-in, and have been sharing a lot of sensitive stuff, you can be trust by asking “What is one thing that you wouldn’t tell anyone else?” This usually leads to incredible sharing and often lots of laughs.
And if you’re stuck on questions in a men’s group situation, you can always use a list of topics.
Popular men’s group discussion topics list
Again, we don’t use stock topics to discuss in a men’s group therapy discussion. I’ve heard of other groups doing that, but for us, it felt a little forced and irrelevant.
Imagine you’re sitting there in a men’s group and you’re about to explode because your marriage is falling apart. Instead of getting to talk about that, the men’s circle leader throws out the discussion topic “masculinity”. Is that going to be beneficial? Nope because it’s not relevant to what you’re facing right now.
That being said, over the years I have seen the same popular men’s group topics get brought up over and over again in men’s groups (via the updates). It seems like the vast majority of challenges that men face fall into these general categories of common men’s group topics. Please note that they are listed in the order of how frequently they come up, with romantic relationships being #1:
- Romantic Relationships: Relationship conflicts, communicating effectively, rekindling the romance, divorce, dating challenges, sexual performance and questions around whether someone makes a good life partner.
- Family: Fathers and sons, conflict, family drama, communicating with family, raising children, how to be a good father and your father dying. Being a better dad!
- Career / Purpose: Confusion around purpose, best career moves, goals & dreams, unsure of personal strengths, business partner conflicts, getting bad press and money management.
- Managing emotions & mindset: Mental health challenges, anger, depression, anxiety, losing it on people in emotional situations and how to develop a healthier mindset.
- Health: Aging, how to get stronger, best nutrition, best exercise programs, getting better sleep, finding healthy hobbies, chronic illness, meditation, and mental health.
- Personal Development / Personal Growth Tips: Best times to wake up, useful apps, goal setting, envisioning the future, best tech/apps for XYZ goal.
- Addictions: Porn, alcohol, food (sugar, carbs, binge eating, etc), marijuana, harder drugs, sex and working too much.
- Personal finance: Investing, cash management, getting out of debt, savings, bankruptcy, and cryptocurrencies.
- Men’s accountability questions: How can I stay accountable? Can you guys hold me accountable to my goals?
So that’s our list of men’s group discussion topics for your convenience.
Now you’re up to speed on topics for men’s groups!
- Remember that deep-down men want to open up and share the more sensitive parts of their lives and how they feel about it. They have a desire to engage in meaningful men’s topics, even if they front that they don’t.
- As long as you set the environment properly and lead them into the conversation using one of the tactics above, you should find the guys rambling away in no time!
- Find commonalities beforehand and bring those men’s ice breaker discussion topics up in early in the group conversation.
- As a last resort, throw out some of the most popular men’s group topics from our list above to target more specific issues.
Good luck with the men’s group discussion and if you have any questions on mens circle discussion topics, please leave them in the comments below.
If You Want Men’s Group Discussions That Just Flow…
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