3 minutes with Geoffrey Greif on male bonding

Local,Jessica Novak
Men have “must,” “trust,” “just” and “rust” friends, said Geoffrey Greif, author of “The Buddy System” and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Greif turned more than 520 in-depth interviews with men and women into a 272-page discussion on what friendship means to men, what makes those friendships work, and how men can build friendships that will help them live longer, happier lives.

How can parents raise their sons to have fulfilling friendships?
We have to allow boys to be close without trying to outdo each other or best the other in all endeavors. Historically, we raise our boys to act like ‘men’ so that being vulnerable and physically close are sometimes discouraged by parents.

What would surprise us the most about male friendships?

The myth is in order to have a good friendship you have to be highly verbally and physically expressive. But men can have very fulfilling friendships without being highly verbally or physically expressive and without revealing highly personal [information].

What influenced your work, and what did you set out to do with that knowledge?
People with friends live longer and healthier lives. Men live shorter lives than women, and a lot of men’s friendships are considered second-class or not as fulfilling as women’s friendships. So I set out to find how can those friendships be improved, and even if they need to be. ... On a broader scale, I wanted to find how do we improve our society in general if men are able to form better friendships. ... How much of society is driven by competitions between men, men being afraid to be vulnerable and men’s inability to connect?

You can ask Greif about his research and book at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Book Festival. For more info, visit
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