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‘Men can’t talk about this stuff’

If you have women in your life, you’re probably familiar with them booking out several hours to meet a friend for a coffee and a chat on a regular basis. Sometimes, there’s a bigger activity involved, but more often than not, women (I realise I’m generalising, but bear with me) are far more likely to dedicate time to talking to their friends about anything and everything.

 

In comparison, men will meet up to go out for a pint on a Saturday night, go to watch a sports game, or do some other kind of activity. When they get there, the conversation may go something like:

 

“Hi mate, how are you?”

“I’m good thanks, how are you?”

“Yeah, all good”

 

Before both parties take a sip of their drink and move on to discussing the game on the screen.

 

Ring any bells? Then read on.


Do we have space to be honest?


If you believe that women aren’t just born with the ability to jump straight into deep conversations, then the key has to be in the social setup and conditioning. Research from the charity Mind shows that:

 

●      One in ten men have no one they can rely on for support – compared to one in twenty women

●      Women are more likely than men to have five or more people in their support network

●      Men are most likely to rely on their partner for emotional support

 

In addition to the size of our social networks, men don’t have the space to be honest and authentic. Whilst a coffee and a chat, a walk or a glass of wine at home all invite conversation, it’s pretty hard to be honest in the middle of a busy pub or when you’re getting interrupted by your team scoring a goal.

 

As a result, surface-level chat has become the norm. Men feel social pressure to brush over their problems, particularly if their friends don’t push the subject and ask follow-up questions. There’s a built-in expectation to be independent, meaning that sharing feels like a weakness.



The value of being more open, more often, with more people


When I was writing this section, I googled ‘the value of emotional connection for men’. I was looking for some key stats to drive home what I’ve always believed – emotional support via friendships is important for everyone’s mental health.

 

The search results duly pinged up a variety of articles about men wanting emotional intimacy in romantic relationships, advice on how to build an emotional connection with a man, and how men are more attracted to women they have an emotional connection with.

 

There was nothing about friendship. Which perhaps in itself is telling.

 

So, here are my thoughts, minus any stats:

 

●      Sharing worries and discussing problems can reduce stress

●      Emotional connection reduces isolation, lifting mood

●      Talking things through can give you a new perspective, especially if others say they can relate

●      In some cases, sharing means the problem actually goes away

●      Having a group of friends you can rely on makes you feel more settled and connected to the world outside your family unit


Getting started


With all that in mind then, how do you get started? And how can you be a better friend to someone else?

 

Create a space that allows conversation. You don’t have to avoid activities all together, but make sure there’s time dedicated to having a proper conversation.

 

Commit to honesty before you go. When someone asks you how you are, don’t shy away if there’s something you want to share. You’ll feel better, and maybe inspire others to do the same.

 

✅ Give your friend space to talk. Ask them about specific things, rather than just leaving it at “how are you?”. If they dodge the question, go in again – show them that you’re interested, and they’re not wasting your time.

 

✅ Be an active listener. Hear what your friend is saying, rather than preparing your response.

 

✅ Remember that your friend is more than their job. Work worries are important, but we also spend a lot of hours out of the office.

 

Be consistent. Make sure you see your friends regularly, whether you’ve got something specific to do or not. Even subconsciously, they’ll feel that you’re there for them, and you’ll feel the same. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s harder to reach out.

 

Be mindful. Don’t make assumptions about what your friends might be struggling with, or make jokes about things you think they’re not to break the tension. You never know what’s going on.

 

You might feel like you have no one in your life to have these kinds of conversations with. But in a lot of cases, that person is in your life – you just haven’t created the opportunity for a deeper friendship yet. None of you know what the rules are, and everyone’s sticking to small talk by default.

 

Someone in your contacts now may go on to be your greatest support pillar, but you’ve got to start that relationship off with an honest chat, and let it go from there.

 

This month, why not try and challenge yourself to create space for one good conversation? Get out your phone, text a friend and get something in the diary.

 

Take care,

James


Got feedback about this blog, or simply want to share your thoughts? I want to hear it.



 

Want someone to talk to?


Drop me a message. I’m here to be a sounding board, but also to teach you skills for being more honest with the people in your everyday life.

 

 

07855 315 753

 

in: James Pickles (connect with me for my own experience having honest conversations with strangers, the importance of your gut, and meeting new people on my trip to Hong Kong)



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