Getting blokes to talk openly and frankly about health issues can sometimes be a struggle, especially if they feel like they can’t show vulnerability, or they don’t want to worry others with their problems. Whilst I’m the first to admit that talking about fishing and footy is great, we need to be open to broadening the range of topics that we are happy to cover in general conversation.
The importance of this is bought into sharp focus when you see that blokes are on the wrong side of the ledger in terms of all the preventable cancers, cardiovascular disease, suicide rates, workplace accidents/deaths and motor vehicle trauma. There’s some serious stuff we need to talk about, but currently, many of us aren’t!
Sometimes when trying to address this, the old adage about getting in touch with our feminine side gets wheeled out, but it’s important that we realise that men and women are hard-wired differently. We communicate differently, show our emotions differently, take risks and like to win, however if a bloke feels in a safe place he will talk. The following are some useful tips when chatting to blokes:
- Shoulder to Shoulder Talk: Blokes tend to feel much more comfortable talking side by side. A shared task or sport is often a great starting point. A few explanations have been offered as to why this is our favoured stance: Blokes can find direct eye contact challenging; They place less emphasis on reading someone’s face and tend to take others by their word.
- Steer Away from the Language of Failure: Blokes can be quite sensitive to turns of phrase like “suffering from” or “needing help”. This to them may suggest that in some way they are failing themselves or their family. Therefore rephrasing “seeking help” to “taking control” may help your cause.
- Don’t Make it a Big Conversation: If you are concerned for a bloke in your life, it can be tempting to prepare yourself for one big chat. This can feel like an ambush and be counterproductive. Instead, mention health and wellbeing in passing, even if initially it is framed around someone else. Once the topic is introduced, let it run its course. It may take a couple of conversations to explore or explain your concerns and get him talking comfortably.
- Persist: If it’s worrying you, it’s probably worrying him. A bloke’s initial reluctance to engage may just reflect a nervousness around the subject matter. A second or third approach won’t go astray. After that it’s probably time to give him some space with the option to take up the offer when it suits him.
- Mr Fix It: Guys tend to be task oriented and prefer that approach when talking about and tackling problems. They want to have a clear purpose, therefore a general discussion around feelings just doesn’t cut it! Conversations that are goal oriented and have a clear direction are the most effective.
Of course, every bloke is different, but if we start to play to our strengths rather than highlighting our weaknesses, inevitably the lines of communication will become stronger. If we can achieve this then the health and wellbeing outcomes for men can only improve.
Glen and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277