Being a Mindful Man
With everything we read in the news today, I have become more concerned about men’s treatment of women, both at work and away from work. In some ways, so much has changed over the years, and nothing has changed. From unwanted sexual advances (both at work and in personal life), to unfair pay, and respect at work and at home. In my many years in Corporate America, I witnessed some very bad behavior. In retrospect, I did not do enough to stand up for my female co-workers, and in my 22-year marriage I did not always show the respect to my ex-wife that she deserved.
So, what does it mean to be a mindful man in the treatment of women today? We have made some progress as I look back to the distasteful comments, jokes and other inappropriate things men have said and done to women over the years—-both in and out of the workplace. While that may be good news to some, we clearly still have much work to do, and mindfulness can help males get there. This is such a target rich environment, I am not quite sure where to begin!
Let’s start with becoming more self-aware! I think it can be hard for a man to get to know himself. It can be scary to look in the mirror and not recognize the face you are looking at. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and can you accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. We males need to understand that after years of training, we are hardwired to respond to many situations. Think about that, and how you respond to women’s opinions, concerns about the kids, and her ability to problem solve. As you move through your scripted responses, what are the ripple effects and how are you impacting the emotions of others. Take the time to reflect on your behavior and assess where your responses to situations come from. This is a beginning, and it starts with getting to know yourself.
We men also have work to do when it comes to controlling our emotions. How often do men lash out at other men vs lashing out at women? There is an area in the brain called the amygdala, and it regulates many of our emotional responses. Mindfulness can actually create new grey matter around the amygdala so we can hit the brakes and pause before saying or doing something to a woman that we probably will regret later. Take a deep breath, or several, to calm your mind. Perhaps use your breathing as a time to settle your thoughts, and maybe not even try to respond and find a way to delay saying the first thing that pops into your head. Remember, what you say either at work or at home will send out emotional ripples. Use your self-awareness to understand that you are accountable for your behavior and its effects on women.
Have you ever noticed how women tend to be good listeners and why is that? Let’s start with being present, whether at work or at home. Be focused and listen to the woman in the room and show her respect. Never tune out at a meeting, because what she is saying is of value. At the dinner table, calm your mind and hear what she is saying—-it is important to her, so whatever is being said should be important to you. We males also love to get a word in, and will tend to interrupt a conversation without giving it a second thought; after all what we have so say is so important it can’t wait. So just listen, hold your thoughts and wait until she is done speaking. This will be hard for most guys, but if you really work at being present, over time it is an easy thing to master—trust me, I am a guy! No matter what the setting, acknowledge that you heard what she said and you understood it. Now guys, this does not mean always agreeing with everything she said, but at least you are demonstrating you heard her, and that is a true gift.
Finally, how can a man be kind and respectful to a woman if he is not kind and respectful to himself? Instead of being kind to ourselves, most men spend time beating themselves up; if only I had closed that sale, I should have gotten a bigger raise/bonus, why wasn’t I promoted, I don’t get the respect that I deserve, my friend Rick is much more success than me, etc. All the negative chatter in the brain over time will a create a darkened view of your life. These are stories we tell ourselves, and in most cases serves us no purpose or benefit. So why do we continue to do this? We have had a lifetime of training! This negative tilt in our brain no doubt impacts our relationships with women at work and away from work. To overcome these negative feelings, try kindness instead. Begin with doing one kind thing for yourself every day for a week. This might just become a habit and as you become kinder to yourself, you will become kinder to others. Use this new trait and apply it to the women in your life. Show them the kindness and compassion they deserve. BTW, as you are kinder to yourself and others, you might just notice that you are a happier person. Now that is a real benefit.
I believe that most women are much more mindful than men. Just like we have been hardwired and trained, so have women. Perhaps deep down we are jealous of their advanced skills. So, I invite men to be more mindful in their relationships with women and know that only good things will come of it!