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First things first – big apologies! I said, I would do a Live chat this week, unfortunately, I have been hit with a sickness bug for the last couple of days and I am really not feeling on top form! As you know, I like to have a drink with you guys when I do this, I am not sure how successful a live vomit would be for you all!! I promise next week, I will do this! Sorry and this is nothing to do with a hangover from Nic and Sarah’s wedding (contrary to what you may think for those who saw my drunk singing on my Instagram page)…the shame!!!!
Anyway, on to today’s blog, why are men poor at communicating? I’m not talking about in the work place – I’m talking about personally, be it in a relationship, a parent or similar. This piece isn’t about man bashing, after all I am one myself, but it about exploring the options as to why (in my view) this seems to be the case.
Firstly, despite the fact I write a blog, I wouldn’t say I’m a great communicator. I think I’ve got better, but for me there is still plenty of room for improvement.
If we break this down, emotionally, men seem to be wired differently to that of women. In a relationship a man tends to feel threatened just because a woman tries to talk with him and for whatever reason that is a perceived threat and so then they feel compelled to bottle up their feelings.
Conversely, when it comes to speaking out, why are men poor communicators? For me, this comes down to many reasons; their background/upbringing, pride or even. They may feel they are bringing shame on to their family in some way, or they are just worried about their masculinity being questioned.
It is no coincidence that I came across two pertinent facts last week during world mental health awareness day; the first was that 75% of suicides in 2016 in Great Britain were male. Secondly, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49 in England and Wales.
I’ve said before, in any relationship communication is key and I try to remember that whether it is to do with the kids and their mother or any personal relationships (be it friends or loved ones).
However, it is not just about relationships, what about our health? Men are renowned for bottling things up and I’m not specifically talking about mental health issues either. I would say many men are embarrassed to admit they have a problem and like most other problems in life, they pretend it’s not there in the hope it goes away.
Of course, that rarely happens and like most problems, they tend to manifest themselves if not dealt with properly in the first instance. It is no coincidence that studies show conditions like cancer or diabetes tend to be diagnosed later in men than in women.
For me, fundamentally men need to feel safe in order to communicate. There has to be little or no risk involved, no repercussions, reprisals or embarrassment.
So what can we do?
A lot of this comes down to perception, how men are viewed by society or their peers. Admitting they have a problem as such in their mind is admitting a weakness. All too many friends will have a nickname for one of their mates calling them ‘sick note’ or ‘sick boy’ and in a sense, it is humiliation, albeit in apparent jest. Terms like ‘man flu’ are used in jest and good fun, but then they are those who then choose to keep quiet as a result. Tough love doesn’t always work, so just have a think next time you want to tell a loved one or friend to ‘man up’.
I think we are seeing an improvement, men’s charities and campaigns are on the up. ‘Movember’ for example, is a pretty recent charity campaign aimed at stopping men dying too young. The Movember charity focuses specifically on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
When it comes to relationships, the same applies – men are less willing to speak or seek any professional help. Often, if or when they do, the ship is well and truly sinking and often it is too late to resolve an issue. I remember, when I went through divorce, I was often asked by friends or family if I was ok? Well, of course I wasn’t ‘ok’, but at the time I always said ‘fine’ and just tried to get on with things. Why did I say that? Ultimately, I didn’t want people to worry about me or perceive me to be weak in this situation. I wanted people to think I was doing well and coping with things.
Keep asking and keep talking
Not many people will know this, but I think this is a good platform to say, I actually have been to see a counsellor – a few years ago now and for me that was the best thing I could have done. Not only it did help me understand and process things mentally, I was able to address concerns or fears in an open environment where I felt I wouldn’t be judged. It took a lot for me to do this and many people will be able to access this type of support through the workplace. At the time, it was a big boost for me. If one person reading this makes the step to do this, then this article will be a success.
The whole “it’s ok not to be ok” is a good campaign to help break certain stigmas. So before you accept a man’s word for it when they tell you they are ‘fine’ or ‘ok’ – maybe gently probe a little further, make them feel at ease or even ask them if there is anything they want to talk about or if they are worried about anything. I am not saying they will open up immediately, but with care, patience and over time, you may just get that cry for help.
If this article was a good read then why not check out some of my other pieces – a relationship break down – how do you move on? or co-parenting – How to establish rules, routines and boundaries