“Men don’t talk” - that’s what I’ve been told. The statement is not just harsh and unfair; it’s untrue. I’ve met lots of men who talk, about their feelings too. Many of them love it. I’ve also met female clients who would prefer not to talk about anything. Generalisations are always wrong, and there’s always an exception to the rule; including those just mentioned.
The media is great at hosting the conversation on mental health and getting people to talk about what’s on their mind - especially in the comments section of a website. I hope that means that quiet people talk more than before, not just the same people over and over again.
I remember speaking to a wise man when I was in school; he told me that often it’s the people who don’t ask for help that are the ones who need it the most - because they don’t ask.
Part of the reason I choose to be a career coach is that you can talk to someone about their career and make it a nice metaphor for life. You don’t have to ask them to unload their innermost thoughts on the table, to be dissected and analysed. When a person experiences stress in their work life, the chances are that that stress carries over into their personal life; they don’t need to say it explicitly. If a person has complicated interpersonal relationships at work, that will often be reflected outside the office as well.
One of the teachers on my coaching course would often say ‘speak to a person about what they’re interested in - not what you want them to talk about.’ So when people say that 'Men don’t talk', I believe we have to ask if we are talking to them about what they want to be talking about? I think we should be flexible in our approach because there are many ways to do anything...
Talking isn't the only way to share what's on your mind. You can also write down what you're thinking and then rip it up; that can be very therapeutic. When the time is right, you can have a chat with someone. Some people prefer talking to someone they know, some prefer talking to a stranger.
To be brave, you have to show vulnerability; to be a leader, you have to go first; and to be a modern man, you have to share what’s on your mind.
The beauty about when someone decides to talk about what’s on their mind to a family member or friend, is that the other person starts relating that to themselves, It can give them the opportunity to also share what's on their mind, and the comfort in knowing that 'I'm not the only one!'. it’s very powerful.
A recent client told me how he’s been having a tough time - career wise. After hearing his story, I tried to lead by telling him that I also had many tough days looking not even for the right job, but for any job. The session was, of course, about him and his challenges, but I felt he needed to know that I wasn’t some perfect person who’s never had any problems, career or otherwise. I led as best I could - hoping that would make it easier for him to talk.
I told him that I had been unemployed for months after graduating, had low self-esteem, no confidence in my skills (or belief that I had any), until one day when I decided that I’d had enough. That was the day that changed everything - not because I gained new skills or experience, it changed because I decided I wasn’t going to tolerate that standard of living.
I found a job within the day. How? I printed out 100 CVs and walked around the city in the morning, going to every cafe I could find. Then in the evening, I went to every bar I could find. At 7 pm I got a call from a bar I visited at 6 pm, asking me to come back for a quick chat. I got offered a 3-hour trial - success!
The only thing that made that day different from all the others was a decision to make it different. Afterwards, it was tough to look back and ask myself 'why hadn't I just done this before?', but maybe my problem just wasn't painful enough to make the decision.