‘Head’ case: Why men don’t speak from the heart
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Keith Merron
ago, I was a featured speaker at a conference. Others spoke with great passion
about their area of expertise. Their drive, desire and care was evident. Particularly
noticeable, however, were the different styles in which men and women spoke.
While the women seemed to speak from their heads and hearts and allowed
themselves to be vulnerable, the men seemed to speak from their neck up.
As men, we
are taught from an early age to cut off from our feelings. As boys, it is
commonplace to hear things like "get some hair on your chest” or "be a man” or
"grow some balls” or "don't be such a girl.” When there are feelings, we are
taught to put them aside so that they "don’t get in the way.” Women, on the
other hand, are taught to experience and express their feelings.
Related: "Men: Mind the gender gap”
an adult man expresses his feelings, especially vulnerable ones, other men
swiftly communicate their displeasure, disdain and judgment, either overtly or
covertly with a glare, by looking away or physically moving away. When young boys
look at older, seemingly mature men, they notice men don’t express tender and
vulnerable feelings very often.
What lurks beneath the surface
This male "neck
up” way of communicating might work just fine in a business context and hardly
be noticeable if men worked only with other men. However, it becomes a problem
when feelings are relevant and even more of a problem in the presence of women, who respond
much more fully when communications are full-head and full-heart. Women
seem to appreciate men more when men drop their ego façade and act in a more
genuine, vulnerable and fully authentic way.
know this, but we remain the same, speaking with passion from the head up. When
there are feelings, we only allow the positive ones, or sometimes anger, to be expressed.
Women more often see and feel below the surface, and recognize men’s tender and
protected feelings. But they rarely speak about them directly to a man, because
when they do, men often get defensive.
question is: What to do?
you experience yourself withdrawing, feeling aggressive, tense, angry, depressed,
in heavy judgment or reaction, recognize that underneath those feelings are even
deeper feelings. Almost always there is hurt, sadness, fear or a sense of
Men who explore
their inner world and face themselves know this and own their "stuff” rather
than live in the illusion that "nothing is wrong.” They face the deeper pain,
hurt and insecurity that is almost always a reflection of their childhood
unresolved wounds. They get support from other men in men’s groups, workshops
or commit to therapy. They become truly solid as men, as opposed to giving the
illusion they are solid.
you feel men close to you stay on the surface, gently invite them to look
deeper, not because they are a problem, but from a place of desire to see and
connect to more of who he is. Then wait and listen deeply. Often I see women
look at men with disdain as they fail to recognize their own deeper patterns. Women
often get impatient, expect a man to behave like a woman and be emotionally
adept. Sometimes, hearing a man share his vulnerability can be scary for a
woman. As a result, women can communicate with judgment and men are then even
less likely to feel safe enough to share openly. These very same women do not
recognize that they are contributing to the very phenomena they seek to change.
I ask you to look at your own fears, pain and insecurity about men and do your
work as well, so that you can meet men with an embrace rather than a judgmental
Dr. Keith Merron is a
senior associate at Barbara Annis & Associates, part of a team challenging
the prevailing paradigms of business. He is the author of a number of books on
leadership and organization life. The most recent is Gender Intelligence:
Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line, co-authored with Barbara Annis. He also writes a column about
conscious leadership for Real Leaders.
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