Why do some men have a hard time with empathy?
Lets start with some definitions…
- Empathy means to deeply understand, and share the feelings someone else is experiencing. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Sympathy means to express feelings of pity, and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Empathy allows us to connect deeper, and listen more intently. If we are allow ourselves to be more vulnerable with each other through the use of empathy, we will experience healthier and more satisfying relationships.
Sympathy creates distance between people and prevents healing. Think of sympathy in terms of a sympathy card; the card offers some passive consoling from a distance. “I’m sorry for your loss” is much different from, “I am so sad to hear about your father passing. I know how close you were to him and you must feel devastated”.
Here is a great video from Brene Brown explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy!
So, why do men struggle with empathy?
In short, society told us not to show any emotions (other than anger of course) in order to maintain power and control over self and others.
From a very young age men are being told to hide or stuff their emotions. If a young boy is learning to ride his bike, falls and begins to cry, what is the typical response from his father? “walk it off kid, stop crying and act like a man”. That father has effectively taught his son that it isn’t acceptable to show emotion.
Remember, empathy requires you to access your vulnerable emotions in order to connect with others suffering. So, if men have been taught not to express our emotions, how can we access them for others in order to connect? How in the world are we supposed to have the vocabulary for it when we have been spending our entire lives stuffing them deep down not allowing ourselves to practice this skill?
Emotions always get what they want, and they want to be expressed and heard! When a man feels those vulnerable emotions like, sadness, fear, embarrassment, disrespect, or anxiety, and he fails to express those emotions he will end up resorting to anger as a way to express the vulnerable emotions he is feeling.
3 things men can do to increase empathy
- Emotions do not mean you are “weak”, they mean you are human.
- Everyone experiences emotions, it’s okay to let people know exactly how you are feeling.
- practice makes perfect. Start by putting your vulnerable emotions out there for others little by little.
Men have been socialized for a very long time to deny our emotions, so rewiring our brains to become more comfortable with using empathy in our relationships will take some time and mindful effort, but it can be done! I want to challenge you to re-think what being a man means to you. Lets start exercising our empathy muscle and start experiencing more loving, connected and fulfilling relationships!
Click here to schedule an appointment and start your journey to a more empathic life!