This song is about hard work, loyalty, small town values, and southern work ethic. The singers explain that they were raised in a small town southern atmosphere and taught to work hard to earn a living. They had not realized that other lifestyles existed and were practiced and the one by which they grew up is "the only way [they] know." Its verses are largely spoken-word, with Aldean on the first verse, Bryan on the second, and Church on the third. Aldean also sings the choruses.
Billy Dukes of Taste of Country gave "The Only Way I Know" a four-star review, saying that it "sounds best at neighbor-irritating volumes." Ashley Cooke of Roughstock also gave the song a four-star review, stating that the song "has a powerful chorus which allows listeners to get a little rowdy and let their inner badass out." Conversely, Tara Seetharam of Country Universe gave the song a D, stating "the song sinks because of its empty lyrics, its jarring theme of “humble pride” against a needlessly aggressive arrangement, and its subtle implication that a work ethic cut from a different cloth than the narrators’ is a lesser one."
Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Eric Church opened the 46th Country Music Association Awards with "The Only Way I Know" on November 1, 2012 and received an standing ovation. On November 13, 2012 Aldean performed the song on NBC's The Voice. Two contestants, Bryan Keith and Dez Duron joined him for the performance instead of Luke Bryan and Eric Church.
"The Only Way I Know" debuted at number 28 on the BillboardCountry Songs chart and number 63 on the Canadian Hot 100 for the week of November 3, 2012, as an album cut from downloads. It also debuted at number 93 on the U.S. BillboardHot 100 chart for the week of November 24, 2012. On the Country Airplay chart dated February 16, 2013, it reached Number One, becoming Aldean's ninth Number One, Bryan's sixth, and Church's third.