Men... why won't they talk?

The other day someone asked me how my coaching business was going and also inquired if I was coaching any men.  It made me stop and think for a moment because since I had begun coaching I had actually ended up coaching more men than I had thought I would.

I had held this preconceived belief that women were more interested in personal growth and about talking and reflecting.  Since coaching men I've learned that that simply isn't the case.  Sure you will often hear women complain that their partners/husbands never talk to them, never open up and say how they are feeling.  But I've found that when coaching men, at least for me, that hasn't been the case.  They will open up and they will talk about what they are feeling, they may have to really dig for it because it isn't a regular habit for them but with open ended questions, strong listening and no judgment, they do open up.  And that is where my curiosity really begins to grow.  Those are coaching skills I use, but I know that when I was married they weren't skills I used as a wife.

In Brene Brown’s new book  Daring Greatly she relays a story of a man who came up to speak to her at one of her books signings. He asked her. “I’m curious. What have you learned about men and shame?” She said, “I haven’t done many interviews with men, I study women.”  His response… “Well. That’s convenient.”  After a few more moments of conversation he stated, “We have shame. Deep shame. But when we reach out and share our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us.  You say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon. You can’t stand it. It makes you sick to see us like that. “

So I wonder, do men not talk about how they are feeling because of us? Is it because of how we react, do we respond with judgment? What would it be like to just listen, to respond with compassion and curiosity rather than judgment?  I know that the men I have coached and am coaching have opened my eyes when it comes to changing my perspective on men.  What could shifting your perspective do for your relationship?

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Judgment

I can't speak for every man, but for me, you hit the nail on the head; I don't open up for fear of being judged. I think the problem is that despite many women saying they want to know what a man's emotional life is like, they really can't handle the raw intensity of what they hear. And men know this; that's why they shut down.

Another aspect as to why many men don't open up is that they fear being judged. It's as though the old masculine and feminine scripts are still being adhered to (as in guys need to stay strong because that's what women ACTUALLY expect of them.) I think if most men could be assured that women would listen non-judgementally and hear what's being said on a human level instead of filtering it through that old masculine script and then judging what's been said as somehow "lacking masculinity," then more men -- me included, would be willing to open up. I think part of the issue with this is that men believe that if they're emotionally vulnerable with women, women will believe they can't then communicate their vulnerability because only one person can only take on any one role. I believe for good communication to take place, each person needs to be the attentive listener while the other person is communicating their vulnerability. When two people can alternate roles, I believe that's when great communication takes place, because only then is each person truly heard and valued for their hamanity.

Hi Paul, 

Hi Paul, 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and to post your own comments and perspective. '

I found it quite fortuitous that I had a potential client share the same perspective with me this evening as you. And as a woman I feel quite bad that so many of us females take this perspective with men and that for all the strength we have gained in ourselves  we still seem to hold onto those old stereotypes as you suggest. 

I know I have done a great deal of work around removing judgement from who I am as a person, I'm not perfect but I am far more conscious of it and work at catching myself, I work hard to help my clients learn this new skill as well. 

I very much agree with your perspective of partners alternating roles at being attentive listeners and allowing their partner to be vulnerable without judgement. As I'm sure you know that most important aspect of being a good communicator is being a strong listener and that means learning to keep quiet and not interrupt. 

It is my hope that our stereotypes are beginning to change and it is my hope that women continue to work on how we treat the men in our lives whether they be our partners, fathers or our sons. I learned a great deal more about men by reading The Queen's Code, a book I reviewed on my site. I suggest more women should read it to learn more about the men in their lives and how to change how we interact with our men. 

Thanks again for stopping by Paul, I hope to see you here again. 

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