Husband, love interest, father, brother, son, or friend – here are some thoughts on how to speak to men.
The most searched blog post on my site is a post I did quite a while ago called Why He Hasn’t Asked You Out Yet. Every time I see the search terms, I feel kind of sad to think there are people out there who are facing that struggle in their lives, but they are the people I wrote the post for, and I hope they find something helpful in what they read. I think it really shows that when it comes to men, that there can be a lot of mystery, a lot of questions, and a lot of uncertainty in approaching them and how they act.
I think it really shows that for as confusing as some men have made women out to be, that there can be just as much confusion going the other way. When a guy comes up to you and starts to talk to you, what do you say? How should you act? In the early days, it can be a whole new unfamiliar world. And even after you have known a man for a long time, it can be an exercise to continue to learn how to have deeper conversation with him.
This goes beyond romance too. We all have men in our lives of a variety of descriptions. Even men sometimes struggle to relate to other men, perhaps even especially so.
So here are some tips on how to speak to men, brought to you from a male perspective. Hopefully I’ll cover enough relevant points for all sorts of interactions you and I have with the men in our world.
It’s different to talking to your girlfriends
I think the first point straight off the block is to acknowledge and recognize that speaking to men is not the same as speaking to women. I work a lot with teenagers, and it’s always interesting to see how the girls who’ve grown up in all girls’ schools relate to the guys as opposed to the girls who’ve grown up in mixed classes. Or those girls who’ve grown up with brothers and uncles and groups of male friends as opposed to those who haven’t. There is usually quite a bit of a shock factor and uncertainty when it comes to how guys act. It can appear to them as brash, egotistical, showy and too confident, at least at first.
These attitudes can follow people as they get older.
It’s important to recognize that men and women are different. And while we all know girls who seem to talk more like the men do and vice versa, there are similarities between men that can’t be denied or ignored. And if you try to use tactics that you use in your chats with the girls, you might not have as high a success rate in good conversation. That can either be taken as a point of frustration, or just an opportunity to acknowledge that there are differences to keep in mind, in the same way men shouldn’t treat women just like one of the boys.
Men tend to be more literal than women. We tend to take things in a practical sense, and we usually like to be upfront. When I’ve had female friends come up to me asking about what a guy means when he says X, I usually tell them, he probably means X. Men usually are straight shooters and like to get to the point quickly.
There are a number of resources on the differences between speaking to men and speaking to women. What they will usually say is to use stories to communicate with women, but use bullet points to speak to men. When I’ve been around women’s events in a serving capacity or otherwise, they usually do tell a lot of stories. Conversely, at men’s events, they usually give you it short, sharp, to the point, a quick kick in the teeth to set you straight, some practical tools to take home with you, and off you go. Even this blog post has headings and additional content. A lot of the men who talk to me about reading my blog usually tell me they just read the headings (not all, but a lot more women than men will tell me they’ve gone through the details).
If you’re ever wondering how you frame something to a man, whether he be someone you like, someone you’re married to, or just someone you have in your life in some capacity, tell him straight. If you think something, let him know. If you’re not sure, tell him you’re not sure. If something he’s doing is affecting you in an adverse way, don’t dance around it, go for it. Don’t beat around the bush. That’s not licence to be brutal, but it is advice to get right to the heart of the matter. We appreciate it.
I have written before about the importance of men being understanding towards women, such as in Are Women Too Emotional?. But I must say on the flipside of this point that if you want to meet a man where he’s at, in the same way you want to be understood, this is how he usually prefers (and often needs) to be spoken to.
Listen to what he’s not saying
You can usually tell when something is affecting a man by listening to how much he’s not talking about it.
Men tend to retreat into our mancaves whenever we’re facing a challenge. We’ll go in the shed and fix something, we’ll work on the car, we’ll take the boat out with the boys, we’ll slaughter some terrorists in COD, or wherever else we’ve made our little nest. This is a good and bad thing. It’s a good thing because it helps us process things. It’s a bad thing if we get stuck down a train of thought or an event in our lives and are unable to come back out of it.
If you want to be a true blessing to the men in your world, listen for what they’re silent about. What topics are they avoiding, what compliments are they shrugging off, what are they not talking to you about?
Let him speak when he’s sharing his heart
It can be very hard for us men to spend enough time to gather our thoughts enough to work out exactly what we want to say about things that are important to us. Some topics can make us very nervous or touch on sensitive areas, and it can take a lot of mental willpower to put it together in sentences.
And if you interrupt him in this moment, you can cause him to shut down and seriously consider speaking his mind again.
You could say this rule applies with all people, as a lot of these considerations do in fact have some relevance for both genders. But I’ll tell you as a guy knowing guys, we can seriously lock up if we have been shut down during a key moment sharing a key aspect of something that’s important to us.
Let him help
This is more a relevant one on the topic of romance. Men have deep desires in their hearts to help and bless the woman who has been placed in his life. It can be a massive inhibitor to a man if he’s met with a closed door when he’s trying to be there for the one he cares about. If you don’t believe me on this one, ask any man you know. Who knows – he may even help you find the answers you’re looking for. I believe men are equipped with unique perspective that can sometimes make confusing times much clearer. If you’ve invited a man into your life, let him show you what that means to him.
Never tear him down publicly
If you want to kill a man, destroy his ego. Some profound damage happens to men who have their wives or their buddies criticize them in front of others. It’s a fate worse than death in some ways. Okay, so that sounds a bit extreme, but ask a guy who’s had people close to him air their dirty laundry in front of others. It really can kill a man’s confidence and his desire to be a better man.
If you want a better strategy for addressing problems in a man’s life, encouragement around the issue always works. Same topic, same issue, different tact, still being direct, with often better results.
The feeling of failure
No man wants to feel like a failure. We get so much of our value and identity in what we do. Our work is close to our heart, our exploits are important to us, and we want to feel like we’re contributing to others through our actions.
Ah, but having to taste failure and the feeling that you’ve let people down is absolutely terrible.
As men and women looking out for a man in our world, we have to be really sensitive with him when he’s facing a setback. Maybe he has even failed at something. Maybe even miserably. But what we need to do to help him through is to make sure that even though he may have experienced failure, that he himself is not a failure.
And I’d like to say that to any men reading this who feel like they are a failure. You’re not, my friend. Maybe you have failed or experienced a setback, but you are not your disappointment, you are more than your actions and activity, and there’s always a chance to do better.
When he’s being awkward…
I wanted to throw this one in here mainly for the women out there for some ideas on what to do when you encounter a man who is being awkward or inappropriate towards you. There is so much to say on this one, but a few quick ones I always suggest:
- Find a man or men you trust and maybe invite him along into the conversation, if anything to just offset what he’s doing.
- Tell someone if they’re crossing a line – emotionally or physically. You shouldn’t feel unsafe where you are.
- Beware the “sympathy time”. Hanging out with him and letting him text you heaps or catching up at weird or inappropriate times because he doesn’t have a lot of friends. It is a more productive use of time to help incorporate such men with other guys who can help him work out stuff at a guy level, and if he’s adverse to that idea, he’s probably a shark.
There are lots of other considerations and variants on some of the things I’ve mentioned. Over to you! What else would you say is important to keep in mind when talking to men?