As we all know, life is changing fast. The demands on men in the modern era have never been higher and mental health is declining rapidly, while rates of isolation, depression & suicide are also rising. So what can we do to help each other as men? Connect! Building a team of brothers or perhaps just that one solid man that has your back is all you need. Big or small, many great achievements in history have come from teams who were deeply connected and supported each other.
For example, in sport: The long reigning Qld State of Origin championship team with over a decade of dominance. The unstoppable Chicago Bulls, with Jordan, Pippin & Rodman.
In the space of global purpose and a literal fight for life, the Australian military. These teams of men are so connected they know how each other is thinking. They recognise and adapt to small changes in each other’s movements. They support each other and know their team has their back no matter what. Be it to win a championship or keep each other and millions of lives safe. So let's work to better support each other and keep our fellow men safe and thriving into the future.
Following are a few simple ways we can better connect with each other. Both reaching out for connection and how to show up more effectively for those you may be supporting.
For Those Reaching Out
Remind yourself you are not alone:
As men we often don’t speak out and keep things bottled up. We were taught that being emotional or not coping is weak or not normal. So we put up tough facades to the world while we silently suffer inside. The truth is, all humans have emotional ups and downs and there are numerous men around you, who are going through or have gone through a similar situation. We may not advertise it but many of us understand how you are feeling and want to help our fellow brothers.
Reach out to positive people:
You’ll be surprised at who is there for you. Sometimes the people you want close by aren’t, while others you may not realise, care about you, wanting and waiting to help.
Write a list of Men around you, who you respect or admire and for what reasons. Is there someone who shows a level of depth and positive outlook? Ask one of these guys to catch up informally. You don’t have to meet with the intention of spilling your guts. However, surrounding yourself with positive people can improve your mental state and make a huge difference to your path forward. Quality men will respect you and appreciate you for taking the hard step to reach out.
This is another step of connection building. As conversations with your mate progress, ask questions. Taking interest in the other person’s history not only prompts them to give a potentially helpful answer but makes them feel valued, that someone is also interested in them and what they have to say. For example: “Mate, have you ever experienced/felt…”, “I know you’ve been through ‘X’, what was that process like for you?” Getting another train of thought on a problem can often spark new ideas and lead to a different course of action for yourself, while building meaningful relationships with quality men.
For Those Supporting
Actively listen and show empathy:
When someone is talking to you, practice being present and listening to the other person. Hold that space for each other to talk and avoid thinking of a reply while they are speaking. Often as men, we want to give advice and ‘fix’ things, it’s in our nature. However, when someone opens up and is being vulnerable, solutions are the last thing they need, unless they ask. Offering solutions and trying to fix the problem can leave the other person feeling judged or even worse about their current situation. Giving someone your undivided attention, responses of acknowledgement and allowing them to be heard is a powerful tool that also helps build bonds of trust and reliability.
Be compassionate to someone’s suffering, respect the fact they are opening up and ask questions that show you care and are listening. Keep questions open ended, such as: “How long have you felt this way?” “What options do you see from here?” “What steps have you taken in the past, to help yourself?” Open ended questions encourage the other person to continue talking, while feeling heard and cared for, without being judged. It can also bring greater understanding to their history, how they think and feel. Which will allow you to be a greater, more informed support.
Validate Someone’s Feelings:
When someone is opening up to you, about how they feel, acknowledge it. Add in an occasional comment such as, “I’m so sorry you're going through this.” “Yeah man, that’s tough, I can see how you’d feel this way.” Also, where appropriate, share your own similar experiences or feelings, show they aren’t alone. Be careful not to hijack the interaction and make it about you. Simply show you understand but hold the safe space for your mate who is in a vulnerable position.
Make eye contact:
Lastly, a great tip for both parties involved, make eye contact. This is a powerful tool to connect with someone. Eye contact can create an emotional anchor, that can be quite calming to the person you’re supporting. It also helps reinforce feeling connected and supported, while helping the vulnerable person remain in a more calm, emotionally regulated state.
Peter Chiricosta - Health & Performance Coach