10 Essential Life Skills Every Modern Man Needs
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“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein
What does it mean to be a man of “value,” as Einstein once put it? The answers to this question have evolved over the generations as the role(s) of men in society have changed and altered due to shifting expectations, views of masculinity, and gender roles in heterosexual relationships.
I believe that boys and men are lacking positive influence from role models in today’s “mainstream.” They’re not quite sure where they fit, what’s expected of them, or how to conduct themselves in many social situations.
As women out-pace men in educational and professional fields, men are facing an identity crisis as they no longer are expected to be the provider or protector, as was the case in our parents’ or grandparents’ generations (and long before).
I believe this provides an opportunity for growthin today’s boys and men. How can we build more varied, empathetic, supportive, and emotionally connected boyfriends, husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends?
Here are some essential life skills that I believe every modern man should have in his arsenal:
1: Effective communication.
Effective being the key word here. Men are notoriously bad communicators (sorry, guys), and are hindered in ways they don’t even realize because of it.
Communication skills are a balance of active listening, and an accurate translation of thoughts to words in a way that the average person can easily understand.
Also included are non-verbal skills such as body language and facial expressions that help to get your point across.
Articulation and annunciation are key, which are often accentuated by slowing down and speaking deliberately rather than trying to get as many words out as possible.
Practice your tonality and pitch when you’re nervous. Recognize the natural patterns of speeding up your words and raising the pitch of your voice under stressful situations, and consciously decide how you want to sound.
Don’t forget texting, guys. One of the biggest complaints I receive from women I coach is that men are horrible texters, use bad punctuation and grammar, and are generally stale or boring in their speech (even if they’re dynamic and animated in person).
This isn’t just about dating, though. Personality and color in your textiquette can enhance email correspondence and professional communication as well.
Moreover, listen with the intention of understanding your conversation partner and following up with meaningful questions based on what they’ve said.
This helps to strengthen both personal and professional relationships, and people tend to like others who simply listen and allow them to speak. It’s one of the magical benefits of shutting up now and then: It can make people like you even more.
2: Emotional intelligence.
Yes, emotional intelligence is a skill.
the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an essential piece of building trust with people, because you’re able to make them feel heard and understood. You can navigate social and professional situations more effectively, and you know when to push, when to pull, and when to simply disengage.
EQ is also shown to be a key factor in strong leadership, and an even more important indicator of success than IQ.
EQ can help you to stay calm during stressful situations as you’ve worked to have the ability to manage your emotions even when they can feel overwhelming. This is beneficial in your personal and professional life, whether you’re dealing with an intense argument with your significant other, or a disagreement with an upset client or employee.
Emotional intelligence isn’t just something that some of us have and others don’t, it can be learned, cultivated, and mastered.
Is discipline a skill? Oh boy…IS IT EVER.
Discipline is a skill that we must, ironically, discipline ourselves to cultivate.
Discipline allows us to stay focused on a plan or a task in order to move further towards a goal of any kind. It empowers us to stay consistent on a fitness routine, meet a deadline at work, make the sales calls to grow our business, or even stay in close contact with a loved one by scheduling time to get together.
Discipline is prioritizing what your future self needs over what your current self wants, because you’re not always going to want to do the work — in fact, many highly successful people will tell you that they’re lazy and unmotivated if left to their own devices.
The only thing that’s brought them to a high level is their commitment to discipline. To doing the work even when they didn’t feel like it.
No matter what success looks like to you, or what goals you’re looking to accomplish, none of it can be achieved without consistency, which is fueled by discipline.
4: How to dress.
If you don’t think this is a skill, just look around.
Dressing well isn’t about being in a tailored suit or tuxedo all the time. Dressing well applies to any personal style or fashion choices — it’s a matter of how you pull it off.
Color or pattern coordination, fit, unique combinations, bold self-expression…
Men’s fashion blogs, YouTube channels, and even *gasp* magazines are aplenty. Finding one that fits your personal vibe is just a matter of some searching around on the interwebs and being inspired.
The way you present yourself plays a huge role in all areas of life, whether or not we like to admit it. But, liking the rules of the game isn’t as important as knowing how to win by using them to your advantage.
5: Tipping and service etiquette.
How much do you tip at a restaurant? Out at a bar? How kind are you to those who work in the service industry? Do you simply take your item and leave, or do you graciously thank the living and breathing human being for providing you with a service?
“But I paid for that service!”
That’s correct — and a human being provided it to you. A human who is deserving of respect, and whose entire livelihood is dependent on providing you with good service so you will show your gratitude, that’s why it’s called a gratuity.
My personal guidelines that I choose to follow:
- 20% minimum for any restaurant dining experience.
- $5 minimum for any valet service, be it for a car or bags.
- $2 minimum for every drink from a bartender.
Choose where you are comfortable contributing extra for the service provided, but I learned a long time ago (from watching my dad) that when you take care of people, they take care of you in return.
6: Being trustworthy.
I’m listing this as a skill because it requires effort. It’s much easier to focus on yourself, to tell other people you’re busy, to just do what benefits you directly.
It takes more effort to put aside your own interests in order to be there for someone else. Whether it’s picking them up when a car breaks down, covering for them at work, running errands when they’re unable, or simply lending an ear in a time of need — being trustworthy and reliable is a skill that is waning thanks to a focus on self being magnified by social media and external validation having everyone putting themselves first.
7: Manners and etiquette.
Guys, seriously. I’m not sure when it was that simple “please” and “thank you” became the stuff of history books but the most basic manners we have really need to make a resurgence if we want to live in a civilized society.
More than just simple niceties, though, are the deeper nuances of etiquette that are also changing in a post-Covid world.
A few quick pointers:
- It’s always best to ask who’s comfortable with shaking hands rather than simply extending, which may cause some awkwardness.
- If you’re old school on dates like me:
- Always open doors.
- When following the host/hostess to the table, your date should walk in front of you.
- When walking UP stairs, your date should walk in front of you.
- When walking DOWN stairs, your date should walk behind you.
- When walking on the sidewalk, your date should be on the inside, away from the street.
- Always express gratitude to servers, hosts, baristas, bartenders…
- Do your best to read body language and non-verbal cues to gauge your date’s comfort level so you don’t overstep (and also so you don’t miss good signs, either).
I have hundreds of dating advice articles if you’re looking for more in-depth tips on dating etiquette and manners. But common sense usually reins supreme.
8: Consent, consent, consent.
Asking for and determining consent is a skill because it’s something that has been much more focused on over the past few years (finally).
It may sound extreme to some, but even something as simple as a hug is best to get consent for first.
“Are you a hugger? I’m a hugger!”
I’m not saying you need to explicitly ask permission, particularly on a date when the signs of interest are mutual and obvious, but in regular everyday life we need to make sure we’re not overstepping boundaries and making people uncomfortable.
“What, do I have to ask if I want to kiss someone?”
Well, if you’re centimetres away from their lips and it’s obviously going to happen, the clear answer is no. But making sure you have approval for physical advances can help avoid some serious future drama or conflict.
9: Personal accountability.
A gentleman takes responsibility for his actions. Right, wrong, and otherwise.
We’re growing up in a world where nothing can possibly be our fault. The breakup is always because of the ex. The toxic work environment is always because of the bad boss. The weight gain is always because of crappy processed foods…
While these circumstances might make things more difficult, the bottom line is that we are responsible for the direction that our own lives go, and owning up to it is an essential skill of the modern man.
Possibly one of the most difficult because it requires self-reflection and finding our own shortcomings, but also because of this, possibly one of the most important.
Figuring out your own sh*t.
I bet you didn’t see this coming, nor did you see it as a skill. But, here it is.
Figuring out your own sh*t as a man is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.
- Personal and professional goals that are true to YOU. Not your family, not your friends, not your social media followers. What YOU want.
- Wants vs. Needs. WHY do you want the things you want? Finding the deeper meaning behind your desires is the quickest and most efficient way to actually getting them.
- What is your identity? Not what you do for a living, not your relationship status, not your family life. What are YOUR values, YOUR beliefs, YOUR standards? These are what make you up as a man.
- What standards do you expect from yourself on a regular basis? What are you going to do if you fall short?
- What do you want for your future, and who do you want in it? Figuring this out prevents leading people on or going down the wrong road yourself.
Sitting down with yourself and getting crystal clear on your identity and purpose in this world is the most important skill you’ll ever cultivate.
It empowers you to let go of the things (and people) not meant for you, and live a life in full alignment with yourself that draws the right opportunities (and people) TO you.
If you can hone and develop each of these skills individually, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a well-rounded modern man.
What are some other life skills you think are essential for thriving in the 21st century? Tell me in the comments below.
James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.
Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 38 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.
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