Being a man in 2021 is not an easy task. We are expected to be tough but sensitive, strong but caring, and commanding but gentle; the list goes on. The obligations associated with being a man have been changing over the years as society evolves and changes. This blog post will explore what it means to be a man in 2021 with these new expectations. I’ll cover topics such as: how to get your voice heard at work, how to manage stress at home and how to deal with relationship drama without losing your cool.
I want to touch briefly on the concept of “toxic masculinity”. The vast majority of men know how they should behave in society, around their families and around the opposite sex (or the same sex if that’s your preference). In my estimation, those who shout loud about toxic masculinity are usually those who have some other agenda driving them rather than an all-consuming concern that maleness is somehow a disease requiring their cure. You are not poisonous but you are totally capable of being a complete ass-hat. Don’t be.
Being A Man At Work and Getting Heard
“Going to work” has become something a little different in the new, post-covid societies we now occupy. It seems to me, though, that we have just transferred this challenge from the office to Zoom. The problem for any man in the 45 to 59 age group is that we arguably advanced through our careers conditioned to think of the workplace as a man’s domain. I couldn’t, hand on heart, admit to that myself since my first career was in nursing and my work domain was predominantly female.
Whatever your environment, as a man looking to be heard in this space you will need to take some time and reflect on your own voice, how you speak, and what it communicates about you.
First of all be gracious toward everybody. You might feel some kind of deep instinct to be chivalrous but you can save that for your next date guys. Your colleagues all want to be heard and to be treated equally. Allowing people to say their piece and to then wait your turn is actually an incredibly effective technique. Patiently waiting to hear as many opinions as possible can help you to fine tune your response and make a valuable contribution.
People will potentially come to appreciate your remarks and respect what you have to say, provided you’re not just regurgitating what everyone else has said. When you do speak try and ditch fillers like “you know” and “um” and also avoid filters like “I feel” and “I think”. In other words get straight to the point and be authentic.
Also get your body manguage and tone of voice right. As far back as the year I was born (1967 – Summer of Love and all that) the respected University of California Professor, Albert Mehrabian discovered in his research that successful communication was only 7% down to the words you use. 38% was tone of voice and 55% was body language so study that and try to get it right. If you are on zoom, don’t just be a talking head, wave your arms around a bit and grin if you need to. Seriously I’m not asking any of you guys to be Mr Bean, I’m saying be aware that a disinterested drone fails every time.
Strategic relationships are also going to help you. I’m not talking about brown-nosing the boss. That kind of behaviour stands out a mile and people hate it. I’m talking about intelligently reaching out to those members of your team who seem to be on the same page and cultivating a direct, professional relationship with them. I’m not advocating that you go ahead and form a clique, I’m saying figure out who you are going to need to support you and have your back. They are probably going to need that too.
Being A Man and Dealing With Stress At Home
Stress is a common perception or factor in the lives of many people today. It can be caused by anything from work to family, and it affects everyone differently. But how does stress affect the average man? I’d like to share what I’ve learned through my own experience with stress at home as a man.
What I’ve found is that when we’re dealing with pressure in our lives, there are two main ways of reacting: fight or flight. The problem is that most men have been conditioned to deal with their stress by using the ‘fight’ option – which means they will get angry and do something physical like hitting things or yelling out loud; but this is only going to make you more stressed out!
Needless to say, turning to alcohol, drugs or any kind of destructive behaviours is uacceptable. These are “flights” along with running away completely. If you care about resolving things for the better, take the positive action you need to take to change things.
It’s hard to feel like you’re managing your stress when there are so many responsibilities at home. But the truth is, we all have a lot going on and it can be easy to let things get out of hand. Stress can be debilitating and so this man would never tell you to “man-up” or to never show weakness. Your aim in the home is to demonstrate determination, fairness and the strength of character to be both kind and make choices that benefit everyone.
Let me tell you the one thing that had a massive impact in my life. I laid out in detail for all of those close to me the reasons WHY I was doing everything I was doing. “What is your WHY?” has become something of a cliche’d and glib remark in the ears of many. But it’s vital to know the answer. My aim was to show common purpose with those who cared for me the most. Now, I can assume with some confidence that anyone reading this is likely to be co-habiting with one or more human beings who are less than rational at times. All that means is that you need to be ready to repeat and re-emphasise your priorities and, if necessary, participate in a review with those who share your life.
I have experienced far less stress at home since then. Communal living will always lead to frayed nerves at some point but when tempers rise and subsequently (as they always do) subside, those around you will rely on the fact that they have the clearest possible idea of who you are and where you are going.
Being A Man and Dealing With Relationship Drama
I need to be careful here. This heading is presumptive but I decided that it would be more important to hit the right level with it than to get too sophisticated over the implications. You guys all know what I am talking about. I am focused here on your personal relationship with a significant other. In this segment I’m going to talk about the first person as “he” and the third person as “she”.
The life of a man is filled with obstacles. Whether it’s work, family or personal relationships, there are always challenges to face that can leave you feeling like you’ve reached your limit. But what if the issue was rooted in how we deal with our manhood? In my opinion you will be fundamentally better equipped to take care of someone else if you know how to take care of yourself. Get that right first. How to care for yourself as a man is another blog post in itself but again, work out what is going to be best for you and have a plan for both your mind and your body.
Whether you met her 5 years ago or 40 years ago, there is nothing less attractive than an overweight, beer-swilling, pizza munching slouch who can barely offer up a grunt of acknowledgement to that person they once said “I Love You” to. Work on that. It’s common sense. It’s also far more attractive, as I have said, to have a plan and motivation to achieve improvements in your life. Get some of this right and you can mitigate some of the drama.
She is not always going to appreciate these things though and when she is in the wrong frame of mind you know you will find yourself in the crosshairs with no clue as to how you got there. Well let me answer that one now. You were in the room. There, now you get it.
Now when this happens I want you to get on autopilot. Here are the steps. First of all drop what you are doing. You will get through it far quicker by really, truly hearing what she has to say. Disinterest or irritation will just exacerbate the situation. Remind yourself that this is not personal. She will drag up the past, however irrelevant to the current situation and she will completely dispense with your “WHY” as I described it earlier. She’s angry, so just remind yourself that you need to just listen. Don’t do what most men do and go for the solve. The solve is for her to figure out, if she wants to. Half of these moments are not about solving a problem but as men we automatically go into solve mode and logic in order to get it over with. Big mistake.
You are on a bucking bronco and the insertion of the next coin is dependent on the words that come out of your mouth. Hear it all, tell her you understand why she feels that way and be absorbent. Reiterate your priorities for the relationship and give it time.
This is not a silver bullet strategy. Some women are manipulative, spoiled and downright crazy, hell it might even be your fault but I will say this; If there is violence, furniture destruction and any of that, especially in front of children, then you need to look at that relationship and ask some serious questions about your choices. That kind of behaviour is never justified and it’s never OK. Don’t stay in it for kids either. Children need a loving and caring environment to grow up in. As a man you obliged to see that they get it.
In 2021 and beyond stand your ground fellas. We are certainly different from our fathers and grandfathers mainly because we live in a different kind of society but there is nothing I have said that couldn’t have produced a better man for those generations. We are their second chance.
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One of my all-time favorite books on the topic of masculinity and being a man Fire In The Belly : On Being A Man by Sam Keen. You may not agree with everything Sam says but the philosophy that you need to have questions answered and a trajectory set before you start involving a significant other, let alone having kids, is essential to our attitudes as men.
Grab Fire In The Belly : On Being A Man by Sam Keen on Paper, Kindle, Audiobook and Audio CD in the USA:
Grab Fire In The Belly : On Being A Man by Sam Keen on Paper, Audiobook and Audio CD in the UK: