The T-Word: How NOT to be a typical man
You’ve heard it before. The sarcastic-toned critique from someone who is sick of your $#!+. After some discovery of your failings–the trash you didn’t take out, the birthday you forgot, the overspending on some self-absorbed purchase–you get what many men get, the dreaded T-Word: a comment about you being a “typical man.”
It’s like a gender slur. Some unfair assault on you regarding your gender. But it isn’t so much your gender this person is attacking. It is what they perceive as your failure to fulfill some kind of contract that you may or may not have even agreed to.
Let me just say this, men. You don’t want to ever be considered typical. To be called a “typical man” should be an indicator that you have work to do. Unless of course the person slinging that mud is perhaps a “typical woman.” But that’s a whole ‘nother blog article.
What is a typical man?
I guess, like so many things, this disparaging label gets it’s meaning from the beholder of such behavior. But in my 20 years of counseling men and their families, I have found a few common characteristics of this sub-par sub-species:
- They are selfish.
- They are irresponsible.
- They are undisciplined.
- They are hedonistic.
- They are aggressively immature.
Some of what others see in you to call you typical in the first place is filtered through unrealistic expectations and the false hope that you’ve read their mind about what you’re supposed
to be doing.
But sometimes, dude, you suck. Sometimes I suck. And I’m here to shoot you straight about how not to be a typical man.
- Have an opinion. I can always tell how mentally lazy a man is by the amount of “I don’t know’s” he uses in conversation with me. To me that is simply a shutting down of effort and a refusal to engage. Yes, decisions take brain power, and that is difficult, metabolically. It takes calories to think and we men have perhaps evolved too far when it comes to preserving caloric resources and avoid having an opinion or making a decision. Know what you want for dinner. Know what your dreams and goals are. Know what you want to do this weekend. If you don’t know, simply say, “give me a minute, I need to think about that one” and sort out your thoughts.
- Use your voice, assertively. In working with men for a month-shy of two decades, I have discovered that most angry episodes are sparked only after a long period of previously-unspoken passivity. Go into an anger management class and you will find a room full of “nice” guys who lost their cool after too much passive avoidance of communication. Speak your mind. Tell the truth.
- Do it yourself. Don’t let someone serve you. I don’t mean when there’s been a death in your family and people bring scalloped potatoes. I mean when you’re in the recliner and you ask for someone to bring you a beverage. Some people’s “love language” is acts of service and they feel very loved when people DO things for them. But far too many men have become so dependent on people waiting on them that they have come to expect service and never return the favor. A few years ago my friends step-mother died and one of his father’s first remarks was “who is going to fix my dinner?” I was shocked. Do it yourself, bro. Get out of the habit of asking, especially if you do it all the time.
- Be consistently reliable. We can’t just say here to “be consistent” because for too many men, consistent means you consistently suck. You are consistently UNreliable. Do what you said you were going to do, or stop saying you’re going to do it. The worst example of this and the ugliest form of unreliability in the world is the divorced father who promises he will be there to pick up the kids and never comes. Don’t be a flake, man. Do what you said you were going to do. Sometimes things get in the way. Sometimes your job, your vehicle, your new wife, your stomach flu, and your headache WILL get in the way. Even if you claim a 20% error rate…be 80% consistent. Eighty percent of the time, follow through and be there. Show up.
- Find ways to selflessly serve. We are naturally lovers of ourselves; maybe all human beings, but particularly men. Here’s how you fix that. Feed the homeless. Visit with your widow neighbor who NEVER knows when to stop talking. Volunteer for two hours once a month at the animal rescue. You have to exercise the selfless muscle or you will be ripped with ego, and alone.
- Over-communicate. There is a professional here in Vegas that I have had to work with a few times and I just can’t stand the guy. He has personally insulted me, caused major upheaval in some of my plans, and is generally a total douche bag. But about 2 years ago I had reason to coordinate some client care with him. I was stunned by the positive way he communicated with me. It was like he had just attended a customer service seminar recently and was being observed by headset by the owner of the company. Here is what he did: He answered the phone and I shared the need for this client. He told me he was going to transfer me to so-and-so and that explained what their role was, and right before transferring said “ok, i will transfer you now.” It was SO helpful to know what he was doing to handle this call. He told me what he was ABOUT to do and it really changed some of my opinions of this guy. He over-communicated. I knew exactly what to expect. I would say that men need to channel their inner flight attendant when it comes to communication. Tell them what you’re about to do. Ask what they need from you. Before delivering it, be sure you have it right. They even do that at Taco Bell and Jack in the Box.
- Be disciplined. So much our bullying comes from feelings of inadequacy in ourselves. We pick on fat people most when we, ourselves, are so undisciplined. We complain about others’ lacking when we are hiding from our own guilt and shame about what we aren’t doing so well. I remember at one of my heaviest times I was having a meal with a group of people, and one of them was a police officer. I asked if he was finished eating and if he wanted or needed more food and he said “I’ve had enough food.” I was so impressed because I probably had already “had enough food,” myself, but I’m sure I continued eating. This man has maintained a health body and didn’t fall into the kinds of destructive indulgences I did, and I think that is all about his discipline and my lack of such. Perhaps our toxic tendency to control others in unhealthy ways stems from our inability to control our own appetites and habits.
- Act your age. Many times, I have told the overly-serious man that he needs to get in touch with his “inner Jack Black.” Sometimes we need to be silly and let loose. I write about this in my upcoming book, but here, I want to address the need to understand appropriate behavior. Sometimes we need to be goofy and have some fun. But I think the “typical” man overdoes this and can’t really be on the same vibe of the given experience. Grow up, bro. Your “that’s what she said” jokes stopped being funny 40 minutes ago.
I could go on. And I have so much more to say, which I will share in the form of podcasts and my other articles and upcoming book.
In the meantime, do whatever it takes to not be “typical” because there is no honor and dignity in that. For me, that’s the worst insult that can be spoken to me: the T-word.