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If You Want Men to Open Up, Start with Yourself

Posted on 02 February 2019

If You Want Men to Open Up, Start with Yourself

There’s a phone call I remember very clearly from the time I stayed in Hong Kong. It was from a friend who had recently moved to Japan.

For the last few months or so he’d put up with my complaints and struggles to adapt culturally. I was envious of him—he loved Japan. This call was different: instead of the usual conversation which went along the lines of he’s doing well, university was fine or he’d been having a blast with girlfriend, he was struggling. Having grown up and spent most of his life in Queensland, he was used to warmer weather. It was almost winter in Japan and as beautiful as snow might be, the cold was too much.

Call me evil but my first thought wasn’t sympathetic nor empathetic in the least–I was happy. It wasn’t out of spite or wanting someone else to experience the cultural struggle. It was something to do with knowing I wasn’t alone.

Image: Jon Siegel/Flickr

I had heard how happy he was so many times before so I’d come to point where I’d just assumed he was always ok, and I wasn’t. Realising that someone else, too, is having a hard time is comforting, I believe, because men don’t often open up about these situations. It’s very normal for a person to struggle in a new environment. You did it on your first day of school, and you’ll probably still do it on your first day at a new job.

With that in mind, is it up to those of us who feel less vulnerable to start the harder conversations first?

What can also be somewhat therapeutic is trying to explain our struggles to someone else. Situations often escalate in our own minds and trying to break it down in a logical way to explain it to someone else can help get rid of the clutter. In a way you’re almost cutting the fat to get to the point of the story–just as I’ve done while bringing this piece from the pitch it was in my own mind to the story you’re reading now.

It’s true that misery loves company. If you genuinely enjoy hearing about someone else’s struggle then it’s probably not healthy, but sharing your struggle or getting an issue off your chest is different. In fact, as mentioned earlier, you might even find it somewhat therapeutic. And, while decluttering your own mind, you might just find that you’re actually helping someone else realise he or she too isn’t alone in their struggle.

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