For millions of men around the world, embracing the traditional cultural norms of masculinity often becomes a deception, whereby acknowledging or expressing emotions is frequently, and mistakenly, conflated with weakness.
While many of us are unlearning the outdated myths of what “real men” should and should not do, there are times when we face the challenge of supporting masculine men who require our care and support.
According to the World Health Organization, men in the Western world are three to four times more likely to take their lives than women. In 2011, the BC Medical journal described suicide to be the “silent epidemic” in men. It has remained ever so prevalent since. Over the past decade, there continues to be a significant lack of awareness regarding the disproportionately high rates of male suicide particularly considering the fact that other illnesses, like HIV/AIDs, which are far less fatal, receive more public attention.
So how can we play a role in supporting our male peers who may be silently experiencing turmoil or distress in the workplace?
More importantly, how can we identify mental illness in our friends if we are not provided with direct knowledge of their suffering as a result of their emotional masking?
Here are 3 effective ways to support the men who may be facing the fear of judgment and shame.
1. Talk Confidentially.
Communicate that first, loud and clear.
“What is said between us will stay between us. I’m here to listen whenever you feel comfortable to talk.”
Men need to understand that they are not putting their reputation at risk by revealing their emotions.
Make sure you communicate that, in being open with you, they are in a safe space, that is open for them to express themselves without fear that others will exploit their perceived vulnerabilities.
Make it clear that, by talking to you, you will, under no circumstances, use their vulnerabilities against them.
Trust is the one thing that, once broken, can be hard to recover.
Make sure to protect it.
2. Be Non-Judgemental
It’s incredibly important to understand that when hearing out our male co-workers, we should never be judgemental verbally, through our words or body language.
Assuming you are not a trained mental health professional, you may not be able to fully handle others’ emotional distresses or traumas.
And that’s okay.
It doesn’t end here.
Should a conversation make you feel uncomfortable, you must directly communicate it in a manner (and tone) that’s respectful of their vulnerability.
I remember putting myself in a situation where I couldn’t fully support my colleague at the time. Midway through our conversation, I asked him if he was comfortable if we Google searched a well-trained and reliable professional who we could contact for help.
It is important for the people in your life to know that you may not always have the answers, solutions, or the perfect things to say; but that instead, you will always support them in seeking the answers and solutions elsewhere.
In doing so you can quite literally save someone’s life.
Their value is validated by your desire to improve their wellbeing. They aren’t alone.
3. Be an Active Listener
Many times, we fail to be present the way others need us to be.
As men, it’s extremely rare to find another man who you can look up to and openly discuss your emotions with, knowing you will feel fully uplifted and supported.
By being an active listener, you become fully present, focused, and able to understand what is being said to you, rather than responding before allowing them the space to speak freely.
When we allow our masculine friends to openly express their emotions without interjecting, we help them to get in touch with their feelings.
Being effective at active listening allows them to become more connected with themselves, which can lead to pivotal realizations and improved self-awareness.
Your service of being a supportive individual nurtures their emotional awareness and personal development as they reflect on the way their experiences, choices, and thoughts form their deepest emotions; acknowledging the root of the problem; understanding the correlations and patterns; doing the inner work that is essential for healing and growth.
In Case You Needed a Reminder!
Whether you’re a colleague, manager, or entrepreneur, you can save someone’s life by showing up at an urgent time of need.
These techniques by no means replace the need for professional help.
Nonetheless, incorporating these three techniques can significantly enhance the relationship you have with your male co-workers, building a greater sense of trust and loyalty in the company’s culture. This will ultimately translate into greater returns for companies, in the long run.
Trust will always be key.
You can only do so much being there for those you care about.
Your job is not to heal others, but to support them in healing themselves.