I like to identify universal themes in the work that I do with men in counseling, so this blog post is no different. I find that guys tend to operate in relationships the same way that they do on the job – with linear, solution-focused mentalities. Although it’s these very tools that make them so successful at what they do professionally, often times inappropriately utilized when creating relationship success.
When shopping for a car or house, when crunching baseball statistics or weighing the pros and cons of a decision to be made, the there are certain left-brain skills that are employed. Reasoning and critical thinking skills are necessary. Weighing costs-benefits is surely a solid solution to use. But, when it comes to relationships, men often fumble because they don’t realize that they’re trying to solve a situation that can’t often be solved with those left-brain skills. The matters of the heart require more attention to the powers of emotional intelligence.
Employing emotional intelligence (simply, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self or of others) is a skillset that is often deperately needed in men, yet deficient. Being able to “solve” relationship problems (interpersonal, relationship or self) with one’s emotions is something really hard for men to do.
A couple of factors come into play here. Historically, men will mimic the lessons of emotional intelligence (or lack thereof) from their fathers. If there is a lack of emotional intelligence from father to son, and, more likely, that learning has been supplanted with criticism, shame, and education in avoidance, then men will continue to carry on in their adult lives and relationships stunted and emotionally unaware. They will bring those deficiencies to their intimate relationships.
Cuturally, it is reinforced that men invest a lot of their energy in building up their identities from their professional lives. Men get so used to using these left-brain heavy skill sets in careers that predominate their time and attention, they forget to turn them off when they leave work and have a hard time navigating in their intimate relationships and their marriages.
So, it’s not that men aren’t capable of developing emotional intelligence, because they can. I don’t belive in the “old dog, new tricks” cliche, which is tired and antiquated to me. Men have the ability to develop emotionally. Whether they want to or not is another matter.