Over 30 years working with thousands of men I’ve discovered most will talk about their concerns and feelings. Recent research from Movember* confirms my experience: more than three-quarters of men recognise that talking is an effective way to deal with problems, and the same proportion has at least one person to talk to.
Yet in the same survey, 58% say society expects them to be emotionally strong and not show weakness. 62% of men who say they’re under pressure don’t talk to avoid being unmanly (38% of all men). 43% wish they could talk openly about personal problems but don’t. 41% regret opening up in the past because they weren’t taken seriously or respected.
My experience is that once men get talking, you can’t shut them up. The problem is many must overcome obstacles like ‘being manly’. So how do we encourage more guys to open up?
We need more men who know how to listen.
Most of us think simply listening to another man is too passive to make any difference but done with care and respect, it’s a gift. When a man listens, he demonstrates that what others have to say is valuable and talking is useful. With space to talk, a man can think. Seemingly insurmountable problems are exposed to the light and broken down into manageable pieces. He can run scenarios and test ideas. His confidence grows.
A while ago in a mentor training session, I ran a simple listening exercise. The guys paired up into speakers and listeners. The latter were asked to push their opinions aside, look interested, say little except to ask a few questions, and refrain from offering advice. Their job was to create space for the other men to talk, think and solve their own problems. We all felt unnatural but agreed to try it in our mentoring sessions.
A few days later a man I was mentoring was struggling to articulate his problem and then work out his course of action. I was dying to interrupt to tell him what I thought was the bleeding obvious answer. But he soon came up with a far better solution and left happy and empowered. I was so glad I kept my mouth shut.
My invitation to you is to ask another man if he’d like to talk and then just listen. That’s all you need to create space for magic to happen.
here to happen.
Have a look at my videos on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqT9PK68Z9MGI-Ia_9rRdzA
*Perceptions of Masculinity and the Challenges of Opening Up by Ipsos Mori October 2019 commissioned by Movember surveyed 4,000 men in Australia, Canada, UK and USA. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/amhf/pages/722/attachments/original/1572840692/Movember_Masculinity_Report_%281%29.pdf?1572840692