Interested in online men’s groups? Unsure with how online men’s support groups work? Perhaps you’re not sure if online meetings work as well as in person?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. My name is Sean Galla and I’ve been running online men’s groups for the last 10 years. In this article, I will answer the above questions and you will hopefully leave with a better understanding of men’s groups.
Table Of Contents:
What Is The Point Of Online Men’s Groups?
Before getting into the specifics of an online men’s group, we should address why men’s groups exist at all.
Even though they may not recognize it day to day, men are subtly isolated. Sure, a guy may have great friends and family around him every day, and yet he will likely not feel comfortable sharing what’s really happening in his life or how he truly feels about it.
When adversity strikes, he likely doesn’t have many healthy outlets.
And this is a problem because the nature of life is adversity. It is the great leveler of playing fields. No man escapes adversity. Everyone hits challenging times. If a man were being honest in a men’s support group, when he is asked “how are you doing?” he would likely say “ya, not that great”.
And yet for the last few hundred years, society has been forcing men to be tough and not talk about your experiences or feelings.
The History Of Men’s Groups
The stage for men’s groups was set just a few hundred years ago.
Before this, tor the entirety of human evolution – think hundreds of thousands of years – people lived in tribe villages. During the day the men would break off from the group and hunt/gather for food. Then we’d spend the evening in close quarters – sometimes in caves – with a number of other families. Because of the close quarters, we’d share our lives with one another.
We are hardwired to talk about our lives and feel close to others.
Evolutionarily speaking, our brains and body evolve in tens-of-thousands of years. So a few hundred years ago when society began to push men towards isolation, this is where things began to go wrong. Our brains and hearts are still wired for close-connection and sharing the journey with others. Men are hardwired to discuss common men’s issues with other men.
Roughly three hundred years ago, the agricultural revolution was in full swing. This forced men into the fields and into sing-family dwelling homes. Men had to work long hours to sustain their agriculture and this isolated them from their friends they would confide in.
Then, two hundred years ago, the industrial revolution came into existence, forcing families to move into the cities and to work grueling factory jobs. Even though living quarters we’re close to other families, there was more competition for a family to survive. There were few jobs and men had to fight for them. The jobs were long, grueling hours in horrible conditions. Talking was discouraged.
A hundred years ago World War I broke out and twenty years later, World War II. These were horrific affairs where men would see horrible atrocities that would scar them for life. Even the war effort back home was difficult with all resources being poured into supporting the war. After each war, there were economic depressions where jobs were scarce.
With all of this, an expectation of men developed in Europe and North America of “put your head down and figure it out. You need to be tough man.
And while that became the expectation of men, again evolutionarily we are still designed to be living in small villages 10,000 years ago.
A lot of men struggled with that so they started meeting confidentially in men’s groups. Many men couldn’t find a group nearby so they – through trial and error – learned how to start a men’s group successfully.
What Kinds Of Guys Are In A Men’s Group?
Honestly, its guys from all walks of life. Typically its just normal guys that don’t have access to the kinds of guys and meaningful conversations they desire to have.
And over the years, some of the most powerful, successful men of all time had some variety of a men’s group going on behind the scenes. They called them all sorts of names – from “masterminds” to “think tanks”.
At the end of the day it was just a bunch of guys getting together to help each other grow and achieve more happiness and success. The intention was to share the journey because it feels good and leads to becoming a better man.
Enter Online Men’s Groups
With the advent of the internet and specifically digital phone and video conversations, a guy no longer had to be close to an in-person men’s group. He could now tune in from his computer and see the same benefits that a man would in a normal men’s group.
This has been incredible for many men who couldn’t commute to an in-person men’s circle or travel to a weekend men’s retreat-like Mankind Project.
Now these men, who are busy with family and work commitments, or who don’t live near a men’s group, can log into a virtual men’s group and find the support they need.
How Do Online Men’s Groups Work?
Men’s group formats come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. That being said, online men’s groups all work in similar ways:
- Guys will sign up to be a part of an online men’s group
- The organizer will choose a day and time of the week as well as choosing a frequency: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly are the standard.
- The men’s group facilitator will then send out a link for the meeting on video conference.
- The guys will all show up with their video on.
- The facilitator will begin. It’s not easy to learn how to facilitate a men’s group so a good facilitator is worth his or her weight in gold.
- Each man will have one minute to introduce himself, share his story and explain why he is attending the online men’s group.
- Online men’s group meetings typically last 1-2 hours.
- The format of the majority of the meeting will vary depending on the group
- At the end of the men’s support group meeting, each of the men will again have one minute to share something he learned and express appreciation.
Different Kinds Of Online Men’s Groups
While the primary goal of all men’s support groups is to help men grow through conversations around their lives, many men’s groups have very different themes and cultures. Here are some examples:
- One Topic Focused: Divorce, grieving, cancer, career, sexuality and more. There are online men’s groups out there with a particular focus for guys struggling with one particular issue.
- Spiritual warriors: There are lots of men’s groups that put a lot of emphasis on spiritual practices and discussions.
- Paid vs Free: Some groups are free, others are by donation and others have a reasonable member’s due. Typically the more you pay the more structure and facilitation you get which can be beneficial.
- Academic Discussions: If you’re keen to discuss men’s group topics such as “how do we re-define masculinity?” there are lots of discussion groups that are more academic in nature.
- Weekend Retreats: There are many groups out there focused on weekend retreats only. An immersive men’s experience that often involves a lot of masculine and team-building exercise.
So the question of what is a men’s group can be difficult to answer because as you can see from the above, there are many flavors of men’s groups.
Common Online Men’s Group Platforms
When online men’s groups first debuted on the scene back in the ’90s, the meetings were primarily held over Skype.
Since then a number of other platforms have emerged that offer better audio and video signals – with less drag and dropping out.
Most men’s groups use one of the following:
- Zoom – a streamlined video conferences service that can host hundreds of people
- Google Hangouts – Google’s version of Skype video meetings
- Skype – The original online men’s group platform
How A Men’s Group Can Improve Your Life
Men’s help groups were heavily researched and the results suggest that men’s groups help men become more successful and happier. By giving them access to a wide range of men’s group topics, they are able to learn and grow a lot more.
To be more specific, below you will find a list of the ways that men’s groups benefit a man’s life:
- More happiness: talking things through and getting stuff off your chest will lead to you feeling lighter and happier.
- Improve as a friend, partner, and father: it’s not just you that benefits from talking things through in a men’s group. All the people around you benefit as well.
- Get stuff off your chest: strategically venting in the right scenario can be a very healthy practice. You get to blow off steam with the guys instead of taking it out on your loved ones. This will make you feel lighter and will make life feel a lot easier.
- More Success: there is no faster way to grow than to get guidance from others who have been-there-done-that. You will find more success with an online men’s group.
- Save Energy and time: figuring things out on your own burns time and energy. You will save both by just asking others who have already been through similar things.
- Solid male friendships: you can’t help but become friends with a guy who is vulnerable sharing and also stepping up to support you in your growth. These friendships will help you in and out of your men’s group.
- Inspiration & motivation: its motivating and inspiring being around others who are making changes in their life and seeing results. Men’s groups are an endless source of motivation and inspiration.
- Helping others grow: we are hard-wired to help others. It just feels great to be in the community and to help others find more happiness and success.
We could go on, but we will spare you the ramble.
Do Online Men’s Groups Work?
Of course, everyone new to online men’s groups share some kind of concern as to whether or not an online men’s group will actually work. Common questions around online men’s support groups include:
- Doesn’t it feel weird talking to people over video and not face to face?
- Do you miss face-to-face meetings?
- Are virtual men’s group meetings like this as impactful as in-person men’s group meetings?
These are all fair questions. Without it experiencing it I would be asking the same. Actually, before my first online men’s group meeting I shared similar hesitations.
The Reality Of Online Men’s Groups
The reality is that nothing beats an in-person men’s group.
In a utopian world, if I had the choice between talking to a men’s group in person or online, I would always choose in person. It’s more engaging being in the room with people and really feeling what they’re talking about.
That being said, online men’s groups are damn close!
What people are attending a men’s group is to engage in real-talk with other men. And while the online men’s group format does feel a little funny at first, as soon as men begin to share vulnerably, the medium falls away.
One example comes to mind from one of my first men’s group calls one of the guys shared that his daughter had passed away in a sudden and traumatic way. As soon as he said this, everyone felt his energy and the energy of all of the men in attendance. We all hushed with silence. Everything else fell away. We felt his experience, even though an online meeting.
You tap into the energy of men sharing openly and will receive the same quality feedback and advice you would in an in-person men’s group.
So while sharing the energy in the room with a group of men can be powerful, from a personal growth standpoint, over the last ten years we’ve seen an equal amount of growth from the men in online men’s groups as we have from the in-person groups.
Furthermore, many of our online men’s group members say that the time saved in commuting to an in-person men’s group meeting might offset the benefits of being in person. These are guys with full lives, active careers, and busy families. They have very little free time and so they convince of online men’s groups out-weighs that extra sparkle of being at a men’s group in person.
We’ve also found that even with an in-person men’s group, the majority of interactions with the guys in your group will happen in between meetings in a discussion area or over text message / the phone.
Benefits Of Online Men’s Groups Over In-Person Men’s Groups
Again, face-to-face men’s groups may have that in-person feeling that you prefer. That’s cool. That being said we’ve learned over the years that there are a number of advantages to online men’s groups that you may be interested in:
- Save time: no commuting to meetings
- No traveling: everyone loves the idea of retreats, but then trying to fit one into your busy schedule is a whole other ball-game.
- More confidential: the majority of the men in your online men’s group will not live in your area. Accordingly, you will not have any surprise run-ins with guys in your group on the street with your loved ones or friends.
- Save money: without renting out an in-person meeting room or even center, the men’s group dues will be less. There are a lot fewer costs overall for running an online men’s group.
- You are more likely to show up: growth comes from repetition so the easier you can make it to show up, the better. With online men’s groups, you can attend in your slippers from home, at the office or while traveling.
Common Challenges With Men’s Meetings
The benefits of being a part of an online men’s support group have been listed above. But what about the downsides? We decided to list out all of the things you should watch out for when joining an online men’s group:
- A lack of facilitation: The reality is that people ramble and can talk over each other if there isn’t a skilled moderator to facilitate the group.
- Coach-led: Coaching on its own is great for many guys. That being said, in a group have a coach as the leader can sway feedback and thinking to be in line with that of the leader. This can detract from one of the primary benefits of being in a men’s group: a unique and varying perspectives from guys in the group.
- Encouraging victims: Expressing your emotions is healthy. Sharing events that are happening is healthy. Complaining week after week about the same old thing without taking action is not. Make sure you’re joining a group that encourages healthy challenging of one another and doesn’t encourage helpless victim thinking.
- Free men’s groups: We’ve found – and research shows – that without the financial commitment, people are less likely to show up.
- Giving advice: Offering guidance is healthy. Telling people what to do (advice) is not. Look for a group that encourages giving feedback like “This is what I did. This is what I learned” instead of “You should do XYZ”.
- A lack of alignment with your values and goals: If you’re getting guidance from people, you want to make sure that you value similar things. Obviously no two people are the same, but you can get bad advice if it’s from individuals that want different things from life and hold different values than you.
You can also check out what we feel makes a men’s group less effective.
What Makes A Men’s Group Thrive?
We just outlined what you should avoid in men’s groups, now its time to look at what makes a men’s group excellent:
- Full commitment to their own growth: Again, you want to be around people who aren’t playing the victim. Find a group of men that are committed to taking action towards the betterment of their life.
- Fully confidential: It is very important that nothing leaves the men’s group. Sensitive matters are being discussed that guys do not want to be public.
- Radical Honesty: Men need to be fully honest with the group about their situations and when giving feedback to others, otherwise what’s the point?
- Can take constructive criticism: The best guidance can sting a little. Having a blind spot revealed can be uncomfortable. It’s important that guys in an online men’s group can take constructive feedback without becoming defensive.
- A culture of healthy challenge: You want a men’s group that is gentle, empathetic and supportive. But you always want to be able to call a guy out when he’s bullshitting himself or the group.
- Committed members: Without this, a group will quickly waver and fall apart. A men’s group needs to have members that are committed to attending.
The good news? There is no shortage of men’s groups out there that fit the above criteria and will help you on your journey of personal growth.
How To Get Started With An Online Men’s Group?
The best way to get started with something is to just get out there and start trying things. There are lots of men’s groups boasting a wide range of men’s group activities and ideas that you will likely find beneficial.
We do this here are MensGroup. You can check out one of our men’s groups for free and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Honestly, there is little risk in giving a few different groups a try. The worst thing that could happen is the groups don’t align with your needs as much as you had hoped. Perhaps you find that men’s groups aren’t for you.
But the benefits could be massive. You might get stuff off your chest on a regular basis which will help lighten the load on your shoulders. You could potentially feel more happiness and achieve more success in your life. You may develop some solid male friendships that will offer support and good times for the rest of your days.
But the potential upside is HUGE. You can grow to become happier and more successful. You may find a support crew that makes you sleep easier at night knowing that they have your back no matter what happens. You might even make life-long friends that you will share the rest of your life with.
Take a shot. Give it a swing. I promise that you will not regret it. No way.