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Why don’t men talk? A simple 'how to' check in with your mate…

When asked in a recent study by Priory, 40% of men said that they never talk to anyone about how they are really feeling at the moment. I would even put myself in that bracket occasionally too and I’m a coach who specialises in working with men in this field.

I get it, it can feel vulnerable, and uncomfortable to share this stuff right? And when is the right moment to share? Most of the time when we are out with a mate it's down the pub or on the squash court etc.

There never feels a right moment to share the dark secrets of how low we are really feeling... and so we don’t, we just bottle them up and push them down and suppress them with alcohol, drugs, and other addictions which help distract us from what’s going on, and this is exactly why us guys have such high depression and suicide rates at one of the craziest times in human history!

Why don’t men talk?

From a recent survey here are the most common reasons we men don't talk:

1. I don't want to burden anyone with my problems

2. I don't want to appear weak

3. I’m too embarrassed 

And for me the most troubling one,

4. I don't really have anyone I can talk to about this stuff

So, how can we begin to untangle this and begin to find a way to hear one another, to both listen well and feel heard without judgment or feeling inadequate?

In the early days of my personal journey and even to this day, I can still find myself pushing my emotions down when they feel uncomfortable and masking them with addictions and numbing out, the difference is that nowadays I have the awareness (sometimes) to notice when I’m doing so and reach out to a mate, a mate I know and can trust to talk things through with, because we've designed a way to talk and share that is safe and acts as a powerful antipode to the discomfort of everything in that survey list above.

Don’t wait for your mate to reach out, check in with him today, you know who he is.

Two men chatting

How to check in a friend

I believe, and I have witnessed it time and time again, that with some basic tools and techniques as a guide, we men can talk, and it doesn’t have to be all thought-provoking, meaningful, therapist level support either, all we have to do is ask a few simple questions... and listen. When we give one another permission to be heard, no matter where we are and what’s going on for us, we can talk about it.

And here’s the thing, you might not even know he’s going through anything at all, we men are great at telling our mates everything is alight aren’t we?  

Jamie: “How’re things mate… how are you doing?” 

Dave: “Yeah all good mate, not bad, life’s a bit up and down but that’s how it goes right?”

Dave: “How are things with you?”

Jamie: “Yeah not too bad. This covid thing getting me down a bit, but what can you do, I'm ok mate nothing to grumble about.”

Dave: “Yeah right, fancy meeting up at the pub to watch the footy later?”

Jamie: “Great idea”

Sound familiar? Just a surface-level check-in. Nothing right or wrong about this either, it's just the way we have been conditioned as guys to not go any further than this. We haven’t been shown how to by our male role models in most cases.

Certainly true where I grew up in the midlands of the UK, a guy would never ask beyond this, it would appear suspicious and intrusive to ask about your mates' private life, “nothing to do with me, he’ll be alright, chin up mate, you’ll get through it… here have a drink.”

Today though I think things are different; men have more awareness of their feelings and it's becoming more socially acceptable to talk about them with other men, we just need to learn how to do it, because we were never shown. 

If I were to run that same conversation again here through a different more open-minded lens, notice how different the outcome is. Jamie is the guy daring to ask a few more gentle inquiring questions.

Jamie: “How’re things mate… how are you doing?” 

Dave: “Yeah all good mate, not bad, life’s a bit up and down but that’s how it goes right?”

Jamie: “What’s up and down for you?”

Dave: “Well things are just a bit, you know, more down than up?”

Jamie: “Sounds tricky Dave, that sounds tough for you mate...”

Jamie: “What do you think you need right now?”

Dave: “I feel like I need some time off, everything is too much.”

Jamie: “Everything feels too much, what’s that like for you?”

Dave: “It's making me anxious all the time.”

Jamie: “Anxious, yes I can see how that would. I hear you mate.”

Jamie: "How do you feel now talking about this?”

Dave: “I feel relieved to be getting it off my chest that’s for sure.”

Jamie: "This is between you and me ok, thank you for sharing with me, if you feel like it, we can carry on.. walk and talk yeah?”

Dave: “Thanks Jamie, thanks for listening buddy, this is really helpful.”

Staying really present for your mate is the most important part of this conversation. It's not your job to advise or fix his problem when culturally we have been conditioned to help and fix problems.

Just simply being there for him and holding a safe and confidential space is worth its weight in gold. Resist the temptation and just be with him.

Tip to reach out to your mate

These simple tips are designed to help you reach out to your mate when you feel he may be struggling with something, or just feeling alone with what he is going through. 

1. Sober sharing 

Avoid deep sharing or listening to your mate when you've had a few beers down the pub. In my own experience and I’m sure yours too, it's unlikely that either of you will feel safe to talk any deeper than surface pub talk when alcohol is present.

Alcohol is a depressant and will cloud both your ability to listen well and in turn, your mate may feel less connected to what’s really going on for him. Sober sharing when out for a walk in nature for example is a much more conducive place for open sharing with your mate.

2. Safety 

It's really important to create safety when you are sharing stuff with your mate. He needs to know that whatever he shares with you is never going to go any further. In turn, you need to be 100% confident that you can hold this confidentiality otherwise you can forget even checking in with him.

Once you have this safety together, you can travel as deep as you like in the knowledge that you guys have each other's back no matter what. So just name it, “Dave, whatever we share will never be spoken outside our friendship ok?”

3. No need to fix 

When you decide to check in with your mate, it’s important to remember you are not here to fix his situation or even make him feel better about it, you are here to listen to him, to hear him so that he feels seen and heard, that’s all. No matter how tempting it is to offer him a quick fix solution, don't go there.

As men, as humans we are programmed to want to fix something, to make the person we are listening to feel better, to take away their pain and make it alright again... this is a normal response. But as in coaching, we are simply allowing the other person to explore where they are at and find their way through to their own resolve. This takes patients and a little practice. What you are doing here is simply listening.

Four friends hug at sunset

4. How to listen

Sounds simple right? Well, it's not as simple as it looks. To really listen you have to hone in on your mate's sharing 100%, taking in everything he is saying, ignoring that voice in your head that wants to offer advice. Simply sit with him and listen.

In coaching, we call this Level 2 Listening. Being 100% over there with your mate, drinking in all of his words, and tuning into his emotional range. If you drift into your own thoughts, that’s ok, just gently bring yourself back to your mate again, back to Level 2 Listening. Almost as if he were going to test you on everything he shared after he’s finished. 

This takes practice so be patient. Resist the urge to return to the fixing, making him feel better. This is a new skill so treat it like a challenge, one that is in service of you and your mate. When you become a skilful listener your life will change for the better believe me. It's such a gift to allow a friend space to share what’s going on for them. In turn, you can eventually train your mates to do the same for you. A win-win.

5. Asking questions

When asking questions, practice asking open questions, starting with what or, how. Resist questions that include why in them. Why questions may get your friend into his head and begin to spin around. Why can imply he’s doing something wrong. What questions will have your mate look at his situation from a few different perspectives?

  • What is important about that mate? 
  • What do you want to explore about that? 
  • What is this costing you to stay like this?
  • What are you still tolerating?
  • What are you avoiding?
  • What's possible if....
  • What would it mean to you to....
  • How does that make you feel when you are alone?
  • How would you like it to be?
  • How can you make the first steps today?

6. Accountability

When you and your mate have talked over what he’s going through, it can be good to finish with some accountability to help him feel like you are there for him even after his sharing so that he can report back to you with how it's going since you last spoke. 

This is as simple as checking in with him in a few days maybe to see if he did the thing he talked about. If not what support does he need to carry it through?

I truly believe we men can talk, we just need a few tools and some permission to dare to go there with our mates. We have to create the space and time in the right conditions and from there it's plain old simple... just a sprinkling of courage from you to dare to go there, and know that your close friend will really love you for doing so!

I hope that these tools and simple guides are helpful for you and your mate. Be patient, these are new muscles so adopt a learner mindset to begin with.

If you’d like to go a step further and discuss coaching with me either for yourself or your mate please visit my profile and send me a message, I’d be delighted to support you in any way I can.

Please do share this article with your friends, it's important work this talking thing!  

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5

Written by Jamie Robins CPCC - Certified Men's Coach

Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5

Jamie is a Certified Coactive coach who specialises in working with men. Having trained with the CTI his mission is to help men to connect to what really matters in both their personal and professional lives. "I coach men who are ready to take action and live a full and conscious life by connecting to their true north"

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