Men influence other men.
The clarity and courage of women’s voices is compelling in this #MeToo era. As men, we may feel like we’re back on our heels, on the defensive, unsure not only of our actions but perhaps our motivations. Our confidence in the ways we relate to women may be shaken. If we hold a leadership role, these concerns may multiply.
So how do we lean in, move up onto the balls of our feet, and engage in gender collaboration in a new way? How do we make sure that women see us not as part of their problem, but as part of the solution?
Put another way: What can happen when men listen to women, in ways that establish trust? We also influence other men.
When we as men truly and deeply hear the pained voices of women, their stories echo in us even when they are not around. Empathy is about ‘being with’, and when we care enough to listen, we remember what we’ve heard, and that changes our behavior. We know women expect us to step up when other men misbehave.
Women grow to trust men when they discover that we are attending to gender when only men are in the room. We’re bringing up what we’ve learned from women, and we are learning to speak about gender among men. How do we do this?
- We find effective words when other men say things like:
“I’ll never understand women.”
“It must be a great time to be a woman, since they are getting all the jobs.”
“I can’t offer tough feedback, because she will cry.”
“This is why it’s better not to hire or mentor women.”
We speak up when other men comment inappropriately on a woman’s appearance, or interrupt her in a team meeting, or take credit or give another man credit for a woman’s ideas.
We help other men see and acknowledge the ways that the workplace is stronger and more caring because women work here.
Men need to help other guys see that now is the perfect time to build a reputation among women as a person to collaborate with. This is the worst time for men to go quiet and avoid becoming an ally – we’ve already been silently colluding by not responding effectively when other men hurt or disrespect women. That’s no way to lead.
What can happen when men listen to women to build trust?
Women are more likely to respond well and expect more from men who truly hear them. They will more likely step up and lead, collaborating with teachable men, who themselves influence other men.
These powerful outcomes call to all of us, in the midst of so many women reporting pain caused by men. Women are finding their voices and speaking with courage. As men, we can respond by committing to listen to them, so that we do our part to establish mutual trust.
Image Credit: WOCinTechChat.com