Like most women I know, I am surrounded by the male species. I am blessed with a father, brothers, and nephew, interact with some swell guy friends, and teach a passel o’ adolescent boys. And of course there are others who I encounter as I live in my community on a daily basis. Men and boys have been a part of my life since birth – so why am I not fluent in their language?
Over the past 2 years (since I began teaching) I have really become serious about developing my communication skills with guys. Middle school boys do not make any attempt to appease the opposite sex because they are just beginning to understand themselves at this point in the human life cycle. Educating them has become one of the most rewarding and frustrating challenges of my calling as a teacher and has raised my awareness of how fascinating guys really are. Here are some trends I have observed across the male lifespan:
1. Men (and boys) avoid admitting hurt feelings. In the male world feelings are a sign of weakness. If they are hurt they make a joke out of it to show how tough they really are.
2. Male bonding occurs by testing each other’s strength. Men (and boys) show they care for their friends with a series of tough talk, whacks on the back, running into each other, or pranking each other (middle school), or extremely strong handshakes.
3. Men (and boys) remember what’s important to them and they often don’t know what that is. They have a desire to do the right thing and they want to do well in life, but they tend to be moment-driven. They focus on what grabs their attention in the moment and everything else slips away. This often requires a repetition of requests or instructions from the females in their life (but they must repeat with creativity otherwise they will be tuned out).
4. Respect is vital to the male psyche. It is important to build men (and boys) up by focusing on their strengths. They tend to rise to the challenge if they know you believe in them.
5. Most men (and boys) have an inner-knight. It is difficult for them to turn away from a rescue. If they know they can help or truly make a difference they will come and usually do a splendid job in the process.
6. Men (and boys) are just as confused about women (and girls) as we are of them. They find us simply complicated while they, in fact, are complicatedly simple. We have emotions that can never be understood and we talk about feelings as fluently as they talk about B.O. and other things the body does (mostly middle school again). It’s little wonder they sometimes just choose to avoid us.
In summary, males and females will always be in different zones, but it never hurts to put forth the effort to communicate. The more I learn about men (and boys) the more I see that we need each other (believe it or not). Each sex has its definite strengths and obvious weaknesses, but we can compensate for one another. This will build healthier relationships and a stronger community.