Last week I broke down guys into five basic modes: Playful, Middle Ground, Serious, Upset, and Explosive. In general, people want to feel understood, which means misinterpreting what category a guy is in leads to us moving down to a worse category. For instance, if you’re Serious and you’re thought to be Upset, that will make you Upset, and if you’re Upset and thought be Explosive, you’ll want to go Explosive. Guys also have a tendency to shut down and distance themselves when they know they have things to process and/or they’re at risk of going Explosive. Unfortunately, this silence tends to drive women crazy, which can add to them pushing to find out what’s wrong and causing the guy’s Explosive mode to happen.
To add to this discussion, this week I made a social blunder (I like to make life harder on myself). After getting home from my late night jog (streets are so peaceful after 11), my wife was busy doing things around the house to take advantage of the girls being in bed. For whatever reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to share a thought I had. I will say I was a little distracted from my right thinking because I was tired and trying to get to something I remembered I needed doing on the jog (yes, I’m trying to make excuses for what I’m about to say). Half paying attention, I said, “Tonight I passed an older guy who was wearing a weighted vest walking the streets. It was only twenty pounds. Maybe that’s what you need. You could lose weight without having to exercise. Plus, if you had any thoughts of having a third baby, you’ll be reminded of what it’ll feel like.” Now, I’m assuming you just cringed reading that or laughed thinking this guy’s an idiot. I’ll be honest; neither of those were my wife’s response. She definitely didn’t laugh… as you probably guessed. There was bursting emotion, but it wasn’t joy. To give my wife credit, while I flippantly shared this fact – and proud of this great idea because I know she hates exercising, but wants to encourage muscle growth – I had no idea how upset she was… at that moment. I figured that out later – good times. After finishing my task, I went back to my wife who was silently working. I didn’t notice her “chosen” silence because when she’s focused on something, she doesn’t talk. Having ADD, she gets hyper focused and doesn’t talk, so I didn’t give her silence any thought… but I should have. Interrupting her work, I asked a question she mistook as me asking for sex. Now combine that with my previous comment and you probably have a good idea of what she was thinking. Nice words or how lucky she was to have me in her life were not included in those thoughts. Suddenly, she no longer “chose” to remain silent. She strongly shared how crazy I must be to want sex – something that threw me off because that wasn’t what I was asking. I was then further surprised when she pointed out that my earlier comment was so insensitive. My earlier comment? Do you mean the brilliant idea I shared so you can lose weight? Oh, there it is. That’s why you’re upset. I see it now.
What will baffle most women is even in that moment realizing what upset my wife, I still didn’t get why she was upset. I understood how she would be (I’m not a total idiot), but my comment was not me saying she was fat – that’s twisting what I said to make me look bad. I wasn’t actually commenting on her in any way, but rather, I was offering her a solution to a problem she mentioned several times in the last week – she wants to lose a few pounds, but hates exercising. My belief is she wasn’t angry at my offering a solution (other times that’s what gets a guy in trouble). She was angry that I made her remember something she’s very insecure about and I was casual discussing it. Where she saw me being casual as insulting, I saw casual as the reality: “Here’s an idea. Take it or leave it. It makes no difference to me. I don’t treat you any different because of your weight.” What drives a guy crazy is I was accused of being something I wasn’t – mean. There was no hidden message or ill-intent to what I said, yet here I am being assumed to be a jerk. I often hear women say their man is manipulative or purposely mean, but that’s very rare. For my weighted vest idea, you can argue I was incentive, but if my wife had shared the exact same thing to me, someone who is 20 pounds heavier than my ideal weight, I would’ve simply said, “Huhn, I never thought of that. Would you be okay with me spending the money on it?” Facts are facts. We don’t have to be hurt by them. Similarly, sharing ideas should be something we feel safe to share because ideas lead to growth, other ideas that lead to growth (aka brainstorming), or to realizing we’re fine the way we are. Neither facts nor ideas are meant to be personal attacks, but some people will twist them to be because they want to feel attacked – anger at someone else is a safer emotion than shame. Women often think a guy is being mean, however, because they’re used to other women being mean or they know they have a mean side themselves, so they assume their husband is doing to them what they’d to their husband.
What might be a surprise to some (mostly women), is part of my problem was I was feeling safe with my wife. I shared that idea because I felt like I could trust her enough to share something and not have it twisted and used in a mean way. As soon as we had that situation, I was put in the Serious mode, which is where a guy goes when there’s limited trust and security. Women want guys to share more and to be more open communicators, but moments like these shut us down. As hurtful as what’s said might be to the recipient, when there was no intention to be mean, it destroys any desire for the sharer to share anymore. Women often get angry at guys for not being more open, but sometimes it’s because we don’t feel safe enough to share. Other times we need a good question to get us thinking while the odd time the guy is just a knob. Generally, guys don’t share because we’re afraid or don’t have anything in our heads to share (aka The Middle Ground). When a guy says he’s not thinking about anything there’s a good chance he’s not, so he needs a reason to think, which is where a good question can help. Like I taught last week, guys are simple. Women, on the other hand, not so simple (this will be discussed next week).
Another way to look at this is through the five basic categories of men.
- The Jerk: Is belligerent, rude, a bully, or tries to be intimidating; he’s someone you generally want to see get punched in the face.
- The Doucebag: Is a show off and oozes arrogance. They are someone you really want to see screw up and fall flat on their face because that feels like justice.
- The Loser: Is someone who seems “off.” Their social skills and chooses leave most people feeling awkward. This person likely doesn’t have any friends or if they do, they’re a small group of social misfits.
- The Decent Guy: Most guys fit into this category. They’re decent.
- The Awesome Guy: This is a title for a guy who stands out as really fun or caring.
These five kinds of men are basically broken into groups based on how caring we are of others. I would say I’m The Decent Guy who wants to be The Awesome Guy and I work hard to try to move towards that end. My wife seeing me as mean in this situation makes me feel like I’m The Jerk, which is the opposite of what I want to be; thus, it made me Upset.
What’s interesting is some people might see success as a reason to categorize someone as The Awesome Guy, but quite often financial success means the person was terrible to someone. For instance, Steve Jobs will have people who see him in most of these categories. If you get put on the night shift because you won’t wear deodorant and your social skills cause everyone to feel awkward around you like when he worked at Atari or if your own company fires you, there are definitely people who will put him in the negative categories. Meanwhile, others who don’t know him often see him as The Awesome Guy because of creating and making Apple and Pixar the dominant forces they are today. For me, how your family sees you is more important than your accomplishments… which is strange for this recovering workaholic to admit.
This week may you consider what kind of guys fit in the different categories in order to better work with them.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)