Editor’s note: Patrick Buckley is the vice president of language strategy firm maslansky + partners, New York.

Turn on a television anywhere in the world and it is clear: the men portrayed in shows and targeted by ads are different from a generation ago.

But we wondered, how different are men really? Are the changes we see in media and advertising geared toward men fully reflective of this evolution? Do they go too far? Not far enough?

We wanted to understand how men today think and communicate with each other about issues that matter to them and to marketers.

To this end our firm, in partnership with Ketchum PR, launched The Language of Men study, an online survey with 900 men aged 18-49 from across the U.S. The sample included a representative mix of respondents based on race, income and education levels, and was focused on understanding how men think and talk to each other about a range of key issues, from sex and relationships, to health and appearance, to careers and their interpretation of success.

What we found is that men have indeed evolved. But things are more nuanced – and interesting – than you might imagine. Here’s a small slice of what we learned.

Shining a light into the man cave

The study shows a marked shift in how men behave today, defying the conventional notion of the single-dimensional, hard-to-read guy who spends the majority of his free time consumed with sports. Today’s male overwhelmingly (69 percent) reports that he is increasingly comfortable talking with his male friends about personal issues such as love, relationships and health. In fact, close to a third (28 percent) say they want to be even more open and honest, while a mere 6 percent say they do not talk openly at all about personal issues. 

The same tendency toward openness applies to conversations about sex, although indications are that the comfort level decreases slightly as men age. Men today also have conversations on a wide range of topics. They’re even increasingly willing to trade advice on things like clothing and shopping, with eight out of ten reporting they’re likely to ask a friend where they got a shirt if it’s a style they like. And that man cave isn’t always filled with only men – nearly half of men (46 percent) say their time spent hanging out is split evenly between male and female friends.

The emerging new traditionalists

Despite the stereotype that Millennials are nothing like their dads or granddads, it turns out that not all Millennials are created equal. This survey indicates that a notable subset of Millennial males, those 18-to-25-years-old, are emerging as the new traditionalists, expressing beliefs and values more typically associated with previous generations. 

According to the study, the new traditionalists are:

• more likely than older Millennials to believe men are still expected to be provider and protector (23 percent versus 15 percent of older Millennials),

• more likely to say it matters that men are the breadwinners in a marriage (40 percent versus 33 percent),

• more likely to think the “strong, silent” stereotype still applies to them (28 percent versus 24 percent) and

• less likely to think it’s OK to be vulnerable about their looks with friends (67 percent versus 74 percent).

Communication of feelings puts the “new” in new traditionalist

Yet new traditionalists are not just bowtie-wearing clones of older branches in the family tree. Compared to Generation X (those age 36 to 49), young Millennial males find it easier to talk about subjects like relationships, health and insecurities that not long ago were considered too private or “unmanly” to share with guy friends. Today close to three out of four (72 percent) males age 18 to 25 would readily share their feelings about a devastating breakup with a male friend as compared to 63 percent of males age 36 to 49. They also don’t mind if the tables are turned, with two-thirds (68 percent) saying it doesn’t make them uncomfortable if a male friend is emotional in front of them.

Finding language that resonates

In today’s crowded media landscape, it’s harder than ever to break through – and more critical than ever to find – the right language that truly resonates with your target audience. This study provides new insights into the way men think, behave and, critically, communicate. These insights into how men actually communicate – and how they want to be communicated to – are valuable for anyone trying to reach men.

While this study represents only the beginning in terms of understanding men, one thing is clear: brands and companies communicating to men stereotype at their own risk. Men have indeed evolved beyond the strong, silent-type model. This evolution has brought with it a more nuanced, layered character – one that could make communicating to men more difficult, but undoubtedly makes researching how they think and communicate all the more interesting.