Ever feel as though trying to wring emotion from your man is like trying to extract the last drop from a bottle of wine? There may be a reason.
A new study commissioned by KFC has found that a whopping 69% of Australian men find it taxing to say “sorry,” “I miss you,” and even “thank you.” In fact, more men think it is unacceptable to try and pick up their friend’s mum or throw up in a friend’s car than are willing to say “I’m Sorry.”
While women have complained about men’s stunted emotions for years, we finally have the proof to back it up. We asked psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi just why men struggle with the truth, and how to improve communication with the males in our lives.
RESCU: When it comes to communicating, it really does feel like men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Is this just in our nature or something more?
Dr Celi: Communication between men and women are naturally different and incorrectly seen as right/wrong, rather than complementary. For example, women generally focus on context, while men are more focused on “the point is…” Both approaches are needed.
While men and women naturally have normal gender differences, it’s the “women are always right and men have got it wrong” attitude that causes more difficulties between men and women, especially partners.
RESCU: How can we encourage the men in our life to open up the lines of communication?
Dr Celi:Men quickly learn that communicating is more costly than beneficial, because of criticisms, belittling or his viewpoint overlooked, so helping him open up the lines of communication means rebuilding genuine support from, and trust in, who he’s communicating with.
Men often reflect quietly and need space to consider and reconnect in communication, so giving him space to reconnect with a response, maybe a day or two, can help him open up his communication lines, better late than never.
RESCU: It can be easy to take offense when the men in our lives, particularly husbands and boyfriends, won’t open up. How can we overcome this?
Dr Celi: Offense comes with assumptions so recognise that his silence doesn’t mean he cares less or that he’s not considering. He often does his caring and consideration in silence then factors it into his later behaviours, his actions SPEAK louder than words.
Men don’t always place the same degree of value on verbal expression as women, he looks how he can alter his behavior with what he’s heard, so learn to ‘read’ his actions.
RESCU: How can mothers help their sons to become better communicators?
Dr Celi: Kids in general are open with their expressions unless they learn it’s unsafe to do so, like being told off or told “boys don’t cry” kind of comments. So showing supportive care and giving non-judgmental space will have him learn that he’s loved no matter what his thoughts and feelings, and therefore better communications.
RESCU:We’re surprised to hear a huge one third of men have lied to their partners in order to spend time with mates! Do you have any insights into why this may be?
Dr Celi: Anxiety that he’ll upset her, or experience that she does get upset, can account for avoidance behaviour through lying. Catching up with his mates with simultaneous drama from his partner is no fun, so lying just to have some chill time with mates often becomes an easy way out.
Acceptance by his partner that time with his mates doesn’t mean he loves her less, and that he doesn’t take the time with mates to the point of neglecting her, can help change his avoidant lying to open communication.
RESCU: Depression is rife in middle-aged men. Does this have anything to do with their difficulties opening up?
Dr Celi: Depression tends to signal that something needs to change and indicates our information processing and communication were astray anyway, regardless of gender. Short-term therapy with a psychologist assists with renewed communication skills and overcoming symptoms.