Stories from the journey of fatherhood & brotherhood

Grill-talk: How To Stay Shallow And Avoid True Brotherhood

brotherhood depth friendship Nov 19, 2019
There is no better place to avoid the depths of relationship than standing around the grill with other men. Here are 5 sure-fire ways to keep it shallow.

Grills are the gathering place of men. At almost every cookout, neighborhood gathering, church picnic or “having-friends-over-in-the-summertime,” men can be found lingering around the grill with beer in hand. Lurking in the background, however, is a danger zone called “connectedness” that most grill-masters know how to avoid.

#1: Ask the question: “So how have you been?”

Most often the first question asked between men, this is the perfect introduction to “let’s talk, but don’t really give me an answer.” In essence, if you are aiming at shallow, ask an overwhelmingly large, broad and impossible-to-answer question. I have yet to meet a man who gives a deeply honest answer to this type of inquiry. “Good. Busy,” is the typical answer. Avoid at all costs any hint at questions like, “Since I saw you last, what has been your biggest challenge?” or “In the next month, what are you looking forward to most?” While still skimming the surface, these types of questions have the potential to lead the conversation to much deeper waters.

#2: Talk about sports

Many men belong to an affinity group called “ESPN.” Not all, but many. Somewhere in the world of sports – from football to soccer, from the Olympics to baseball, from purchasing a new kayak to coaching a kid’s t-ball team, sports offer ample content to divert the conversation to someone else’s life and adventure. While sports play a large role in the realm of teamwork and broader community, around the grill it also provides avoidance to more personal issues. A friend affectionately calls it “adventure porn.” Let’s talk about them so we don’t have to talk about our own lives and our own thrills or sorrows of success and failure.

#3: Complain

Clearly, life is not what we’d like it to be. Despite the fact that you are standing around a grill full of food with a refreshing cool beverage in your hand, life just plain sucks. We all know it, and it’s best for us all to share our version of sucks. Complaining about work, sleepless nights with sick children, schools that don’t meet specific standards, neighbors who let their dogs leave presents in the front yard — these are all terrific topics to address when attempting to keep conversation shallow. Don’t even begin to show gratitude that you have a job, that your children have access to medicine (or that you have children at all), that education is free and available, or that you have your own private garden called a yard.

#4: Avoid spiritual topics completely

If spirituality is introduced into a grill-conversation, it’s all downhill from there. There is no hope of staying shallow in the realm of spirituality, unless it involves #3:Complaining or some version of politics. It is ok to talk about religion, but certainly not deeper spiritual topics. Some brave men attempt to throw flat rocks skimming over the surface of the spiritual water. These are risky attempts to test the waters, and is usually a sign of a deeper desire in him to alter the course of the shallow conversation to something more. Watch out for these men.

#5: Talk about the women and children

Much like sports, women and children offer ample content for grill-conversations. Better to talk about their lives, their interests, their friends, or their concerns than one’s own. Asking questions about another man’s children, particularly their activities, is a safe zone. In many ways, it invites him into #2:Sports or #3:Complain, where multiple trips around the conversation cycle can be completed before the burgers are done. Focusing on them keeps the conversation at arm’s distance from the internal world of a man’s heart.

Brotherhood is dangerous

When men begin to plum the depths of each other’s true lives and hearts…when men truly listen to one another and take the time and put in the effort to really see another man…when stories told become more than observations or funny experiences and transform a man’s life by the telling…when fear of judgment and avoidance of shame fall by the wayside and honest exposure to life’s glories and pains becomes commonplace….watch out. True brotherhood may result.

Hoping for brotherhood? Check out The Brotherhood Primer as a way to deepen the male friendships in your life. 



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