I received an incredible email yesterday from a man who has been changing his life for the better. Like me, he made a lot of missteps, and accepted a lot of toxic ideas in his life, and they had harmed his self-esteem, his happiness, and his relationships. And he was kind enough to say that my Positive Masculine videos were a big help to him. Or which I was incredibly grateful.
He was also very concerned about his adult sons. He wanted to help them change their perspectives a bit, especially when it came to their marriages, which were not happy and parenting, which was proving difficult for them. I am glad he got in touch because answering him well was a challenge:
He wanted to know what a father or a friend can do to help another man learn a new, healthy perspective on masculinity, sexuality, and relationships. One that will serve them to have happy, healthy, sexually active live, and good, strong friendships. And I wanted to share here what I shared with him.
The problem is that there are some things that we have to learn the hard way in life.
Usually people make big changes in their life because the way they are thinking and acting is not working for them, and it is starting to create some pain – in the form of debt, relationship problems, stress, illness, anxiety, depression, or lost income. Reaching a pain point is critical for growth, if a problem doesn’t hurt yet, most people are happy to ignore it and expect it to go away.
Once they hit that pain point, things are different. Some people will complain, and hope someone else will come rescue them, but that doesn’t work very often for adults. Eventually they come to understand one of the most important pieces of wisdom in the world: “You cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”
When a person comes to that realization – that is when you can finally be of help to them, because that is when they are looking for new ideas, good advice and mentoring. If you are a person that they trust, whose ideas they know, then they are going to take an interest in what you think, and what you have to say. Before that point, trying to change a person’s mind is nearly impossible. After that point, they are looking for help because they have already changed it.
So the real key to helping other people make good changes then is a two part process:
Be honest about what you have learned and live in integrity with the lessons that you have learned. You don’t need to be outspoken, to proselytize or even to talk much about them, but when you see your friend or family member unhappy, say something. Tell them you care, and ask them if they would like some feedback. And in the meantime, live your life well. If you want to help a good friend have a better romantic life, then you had best have a good one yourself because you live according the the advice that you would give him.
Be an involved friend. All relationships are a constant work in progress. Every interaction whether good or bad, changes how the other person feels about the relationship. We feel good about relationships where we see the other person a lot, spend time with him or her, and where we have fun, meaningful contact, and do good things for the other person. We don’t really care about relationships where we rarely hear from the other person and don’t spend time enjoying each other’s company. And if a relationship is hurtful, when conflicts, friction, and disappointments outweigh the good things, then we tend not to care about that person.
And so be involved. Stay in touch regularly: have conversations, buy the person a coffee or a beer once in awhile. If you read something they might like, share it. Be as involved a friend as you need to be, and try to make those interactions a net plus every time you spend time together.
When the time comes and the other person is looking to make a change, they will come looking for that fresh perspective that you offered them earlier. Suddenly all the advice you offered, the books you lent them, the articles you sent them… those will all become very valuable. And when they are ready to get a fresh perspective they will ask you for yours.
Don’t expect them to take your every word of course. Once you have offered them a new perspective, shared a book that changed your life, told them some stories, or gave them advice, know that they are going to resist it for awhile. This has noting to do with you. This is natural human growing pains, after all any time you change what you were doing, you have to admit in your heart that you were wrong about something, and accept some responsibility for the pain you are in now. That isn’t easy. Be patient, expect them to try some other things first; this is their natural need to not be at fault kicking in. Let the pain do its work to motivate them, and they will eventually work up the nerve to try something radically different.