5 Traits of Really Great Guys We Should All Embrace

Joe Duncan

What Makes a Great Guy? Here’s a Shortlist…


It seems like it’s become so rare, these days, doesn’t it? I want to believe I remember a time when there were great men in abundance out there setting wonderful examples for ourselves and the children of the world, actually walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. I do firmly believe that plenty of them are out there, it’s that so much of our life has gone online where less-than-savory people tend to congregate.

Not everyone online is a terrible human being but the terrible people out there see the internet as a powerful tool to express themselves without reprisal or consequences and they know they can be jerks and get away with it.

The loud, obnoxious jerks have gotten…well…louder, leaving the great guys to fall into the backdrop of public discourse.

But you know what? This just makes those really great guys of the world shine even brighter as the exemplary stars of goodness and humanistic righteousness that they are. And if you can become one of those great guys, people will love you even more.

But how does one do that? Read on, dear reader, read on and fear not…I’ve got you covered…

We hear so much about male shortcomings these days. But what about celebrating men who show us what to do instead of what not to do; guys who go the extra mile, and guys who inspire us?

I feel like it’s time to write up a quick piece on guy traits that really great guys all share that we should all embrace.

Don’t forget, growth isn’t a destination, it’s a journey, so no matter how “all good” you think you are, no matter how disciplined you’ve become in trying to be the most stellar human being you can be, we all need a reminder sometimes so we can keep ourselves clean and in order. So, what’s a great guy like these days?

5. He’s Reliable. No Excuses.

Isn’t it funny when you look around at the people in your life, past, and present, you come to find out how many of them are totally self-centered? They put themselves and most obnoxiously their feelings before everybody else. Commitments mean nothing to them. But not great guys aren’t that way.

Solid dudes are always reliable. They’ll drop everything if they can to come to meet you and help you out when you’re stuck somewhere on the other side of town. Even when they have a lot on their plate, they’ll go to the ends of the earth to help others and put others before themselves. They never ask for anything in return, either, that’s not what it’s about, reliability is a virtue that good men bask in and take pride in.

They feel the sweet emotional overflowing of love and joy from their sense of communitarianism and derive purpose from being able to be a positive factor in other people’s lives reliably. It’s a silent joy that the great man bathes in, inside his own heart and mind knowing that he’s the guy who makes the lives of others a little bit easier and reliably so. He understands giving back brings him good feelings and has no misgivings about this. A win-win is still a win.

4. He Takes Responsibility for His Actions

Great guys understand every single one of their actions reverberates throughout the world and has consequences that will be felt by others. He both understands and accepts that this is the metaphysical nature of reality.

Even inaction is an action and failure to act reasonably when situations call upon him to do so is irresponsible by definition. Great guys are never irresponsible. When they mess up, they own it. It might not be right away. Great guys will let the situation cool down because they don’t need forgiveness for their mistakes as some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card so they can feel good about themselves again. No.

They think hard about their contributions to problems and situations that go awry and when they figure out their mistakes, they make direct, assertive apologies, accepting responsibility without expecting anything for doing so.

Being responsible is its own reward and admitting his wrongs is seen as a verbal contract between him and others that clearly states that he recognizes his own failures in the eyes of others as well as their perspectives. And he commits to taking those perspectives into consideration in the future.

And he does this well because…

3. He Listens

He doesn’t listen just so he can respond. He doesn’t listen just so he can become defensive and pounce on other people to try and reestablish dominance or overcome some feeling of slight that he’s experiencing in his internal world. He’s in control of his emotions to the point where he can truly, deeply listen to others, and put himself in their shoes.

Listening for the great guy is an activity, it’s not a passive thing he does to placate others. He understands how to put his own emotions on the shelf but experience the emotions the other people are trying to convey to him with their words. Are we supposed to be cold, rational, calculated listeners? Or are we supposed to be emotional, sympathetic listeners? The great guy knows how to do both and when both are appropriate, and he also understands that listening is a process that isn’t about him — it’s about the other person and proving a supportive platform and partner to which they may speak and feel like they’re heard.

2. He Doesn’t Dump Problems

I’m just going to put it out there, I’m not sure where this trope came from, this bad idea that men need to be more expressive with their emotions came from. One of the old-school male ideas that are really solid is the idea that we don’t dump our problems on people until it’s absolutely necessary. Of course, when it becomes absolutely necessary, we do so. I don’t think men’s problems lie in a lack of emotional expression but a lack of emotional regulation. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be stoic and not dump your problems on people — most of them aren’t ready for all that, anyways and if no one wants to listen to his bullshit, the great guy knows he’s going to have to handle on his own, so, why not do that in the first place without consulting other people?

He doesn’t problem-dump because it’s as exhausting as it is dehumanizing when people see us as outlets that they take for granted, people that they can just problem-dump and spew all the toxic stuff they have going on in their own little inner-world onto. That’s a really selfish view of friendship, people!

I’m going to spend a little extra time on this one because it’s important…

Great guys are masters at understanding the concept of atmospherics and setting the “tone” of a relationship with someone else. What I mean by this is let’s say you have a roommate who comes home from work every single day and dumps all their problems on you. After about six months, you’re going to know without a doubt that you’re just a dumping station for someone else’s baggage. You probably wouldn’t even want to go home because you don’t want to experience all the toxic bullshit of your roommate.

Great men understand this concept.

They understand that the less that’s said — only what needs to be said — the better because anything more degrades the atmosphere and the experience of others. And great guys care greatly about the experience of others and the atmosphere they bring to their relationships with other people.

1. He Establishes Clear Boundaries and Maintains Them

Like a military outpost, the great guy sets forth a perimeter and maintains it at all times. He doesn’t let other people walk all over them, but he does so without being rude or feeling the need to preemptively defend himself.

If someone crosses his lines, he gives them a clear reason why they’ve done so and attempts to empathize and reason with them so they can understand why he has such boundaries, helping them to respect boundaries in general in the process.

In today’s world, everyone seems pissed off at everything, the government, taxes, corporations, lack of jobs, lack of decent friends, social media outrage, political causes, ideological fantasies, you name it, and they’re ready and willing to take it out on anyone and everyone, using these reasons as excuses to cross boundaries and basically be disruptive. Great guys have no time for this because they understand their inner-worth and the value they bring to the table.

My father used to say that, as a rule, functional people don’t hang out with dysfunctional people for very long. A motto of sorts, I personally stick to this and make no excuses for maintaining my social circle and making sure that people are at least functional enough to respect the boundaries of others. All healthy relationships are built on consent and if your relationships aren’t healthy, what even are they?

This also means we’re responsible for not lying to such people and giving them the honest truth of our perspective. A lot of people might cross our boundaries and not even know they did. An example is a friend who thinks you’ve been on good terms for a while and so they cancel a dinner appointment without a valid excuse, “because they just don’t feel like it,” meanwhile, you’ve planned your whole night around that. Letting someone know that’s unacceptable is part of being a great guy so they can realize, “Oh no, yeah, I didn’t even think about that from your perspective,” and can learn from the experience.

The point isn’t to be controlling, abusive, or hurtful — the point is to help people realize their own shortcomings so that they may grow. Part of maintaining your circle is maintaining the integrity of the people who find themselves in it. That’s yet another thing great guys are able to bring to the table.

Great guys are willing to say the hard thing in a nice way so that an understanding can be reached with the minimal amount of damage possible.

A great guy will simply reply, “Hey, just to let you know, I scheduled my whole night around this. Go do what you want to do, but it’s important that you know that I value my time and expect more from you. I’ll find something else to do.”

99.9% of the time, people think, “Oh no, I didn’t mean to…” and thus they wake up tomorrow a little more self-aware than they woke up today.

Great guys are quiet teachers, they aren’t out for fame, glamour, they aren’t out for recognition or control — virtue is never a means to an end, but, as Aristotle said, ends in themselves. We should try at all costs to shun the culture that tries to teach us that everything needs to be used to attain some experience of purely selfish pleasure because that’s not how values and principles generally work. That’s how we become fleeting. That’s how we become not-so-great guys…

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Orlando, FL

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