Men aren’t talking, but they need to. We need to enter the cave of man’s mind and encourage him to talk. Words flow when we listen well.
It was early in the morning, and I was driving to the first job of the day. The day was starting dark, cold, and wet, and I was listening to the radio when I heard a deep and serious voice come to my ears.
Last year, 668 Kiwis took their own lives.
475 of these were men. [71%]
On average, more than 1 Kiwi male took their own life each day.
It could be your mate, your dad, your brother, or even your son.
Sometimes men feel they can’t open up about what’s affecting them
so they just don’t talk.
Which is why on August 9th on Radio Hauraki, we’re not talking.
No shows, no ads, no news, no traffic.
We’re not talking, so you can.
If you’re thinking someone you know might be struggling, it’s time to reach out.
Ask them they feel.
Tell them you care.
We know it’s hard, but it might be the most important conversation you ever have.
NO ANNOUNCERS NO NEWS NO TRAFFIC NO ADS
It got me thinking about why men don’t talk and why I don’t either.
Of course, men do talk, it just may not be about what truly matters.
We’ll talk about sports, politics, cars, technology, work, etc.
As we go fishing, we will talk about the surface of the sea, but will avoid fishing up the true monsters of the deep.
‘No, I want to know.’
I once was asked by a woman how I was. I responded that I was ok.
She then repeated ‘No, I want to know how you are’?
She repeated this three times, which was kind of annoying, but she was serious about wanting me to talk. I told her how I was to the level I felt safe.
It was awkward but also strangely good to be probed.
So I am asking a question of myself and you. ‘Why don’t men talk’?
Ive come to some conclusions that I wanted to share. But I also thought that others might like to talk about this too, so I posted the question on Facebook
The response was huge and spoke volumes about the problem.
So here are some reasons.
These reasons aren’t super-ordered into categories or backed by scientific research. They are raw, honest, and illuminating.
26 Reasons why men don’t talk
- They don’t want to appear a loser
- They don’t want to appear weak
- No one likes a whiner, and if they genuinely talked, then people would reject them.
- There is a D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) belief of ‘I can sort this problem out myself.’
- They don’t know what to say or how to put into words what’s going on in themselves
- Being problem solved by others rather than being a person first
- They have never had the taste of being truly listened to
- Fear of being put down, physical violence, emotional abuse, shamed, and guilt-tripped.
- Some men believe others have needs more important than their own
- They aren’t aware of just how far down the mental unwellness track they are in
- They think there is no one to listen to them
- Those who have tried to listen to them in the past haven’t been helpful, and so the conclusion is that no one can help
- They have been repeatedly told to ‘Harden up, be a real man.’
- Absolutely #$%^ scared of their inner world
- Fear of dependence on others
- They are not sure of what will happen if they do open up. What is going to spill out, will I be ok afterward, will others be ok?
- They have been open before, thinking it was confidential, and then they found that what they shared was shared with others. Now there is an inability to trust anyone with the deep stuff.
- Years and years of receiving messages of being encouraged to have a “ stiff upper lip,” that ‘boys mustn’t cry’ real men are tough men.’
- Being told as a child that “You’re a failure,” “You’re useless” “You’re a parasite” “You know nothing.” Then as an adult hearing, these messages echo back to you.
- Learning at an early age to shut your mouth and roll with the punches.
- Terrified of rejection should others see what’s really going on inside.
- Not wanting to be a burden on our loved ones.
- Guilt and shame for both real and perceived failings.
- A lifetime of negative self-talk
- Repeated messages from society and media devaluing the role of men
- Men being uncertain about who they are and their purpose. A confusion that leads to being stuck in a ‘No Mans Land.’
I’m, sure there are other reasons, and many of these reasons will apply to women too, but men need to hear they have value in their maleness.
Let’s be honest that men find it hard to talk.
Men want to be heard
I have never found a man, who once you clamber through the clutter of twenty-six plus reasons, that does not want to be heard.
I well remember a man in the last months of life.
He wanted to be heard, and so I listened to him pour out the pain he had bottled up and ruminated over for thirty plus years.
It was good. Talking wisdom, sharing the food of forgiveness. I think, and hope, my father, felt some sense of absolution, the lifting of a shoulder borne weight.
We don’t know how to listen
We need to learn how to ask better questions, listening questions.
I think many of us are wary of asking the questions that need to be asked.
Some inner voices from the back of our own cave reaches out and tries to claw us back in.
- Will you be ok, they might bite?
- You might make matters worse for them
- Who are you to offer help?
- Just don’t get involved, someone else will
- ‘She’ll be right.’
It’s time to acknowledge we all have those inner fears that siren calls us back into inactivity.
Men like the idea of going solo, into the wind, fighting off the wild bandits, moving into life like the prow of a boat and yet many of us are cave dwellers.
Storms frighten the little boy in us to withdraw, to hide, and to pretend.
A Boston Balcony
One of my favorite TV shows, last decade, was Boston Legal. James Spader and William Shatner as lawyers and friends. What a pairing.
At the end of the show, the two of them would sit out on a balcony, drink whiskey, smoke cigars and spill their thoughts to each other.
These two dug and dodged into each other’s worlds and caves. It was friendship at its best, even if it was fictional.
Could we move towards something like this?
If you’re a man reading this, then realize you can’t do this life thing on your own. You need a friend who will stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Please, be that brother for someone you know.
If you’re a woman reading this, then encourage the man (son, husband, brother, etc.) in your life to have a friend, someone who will stick closer than a brother. Endorse it, encourage it, tempt the men in your life with cookies to come out of their caves to talk, grunt, and build a fire we can all warm to.
Words flow when we listen well.
Quotes to consider
- What the world needs are men who have come alive.
- True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. I don’t want clichés; I want deep, soulful truth, and that only comes when a man has walked the road I’ve been talking about.
- Every man carries a wound. I have never met a man without one. No matter how good your life may have seemed to you, you live in a broken world full of broken people.
- We tend not to recognise depression in men because the disorder itself is seen as unmanly. Depression carries, to many, a double stain – the stigma of a mental illness and also the stigma of “feminine” emotionality. Terrence Real
- A man’s deepest terror is weightlessness, the absence of solid substance that others recognize and appreciate. Larry Crabb
- If you do not transform your pain, you will almost certainly transmit your pain to others through anger, blame, projection, hatred, or scapegoating. Richard Rohr
- Western male feels. He is trapped inside, with almost no inner universe of deep meaning to heal him or guide him. Richard Rohr
- Much male anger is actually male sadness. Richard Rohr
- Men often have no way to know this themselves, and many probably even think of themselves as “angry men.” They are often very sad men, but they have no differentiated feeling world, no vocabulary, no safe male friends, no inner space or outer setting in which to open up such a chasm of feeling-not even in their churches or with their partners. Richard Rohr
- A man will not go on a quest until he begins searching for the right questions. I think the world is tired of religious men with loads of answers for everything. Richard Rohr
Questions to answer
- Why don’t men talk?
- Which of the twenty-six reasons spoke to you?
- What do the inner voice critics say to you to stop the flow of conversation?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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