As a man who coaches other men to be effective leaders – in their careers, in their families and in their communities, I am deeply interested in the words my clients use to talk themselves, other people and the world in general.
Words, after all, reveal a man’s worldview. And a man’s worldview dictates what he pay attention to. And what he pay attention to dictates what he regards as possible.
In coaching, most men reveal almost immediately, and without knowing it, that the world they live in is some kind of a machine, that the people they encounter in that world are smaller machines, and that he himself is also a machine, but also a mechanic.
They tell me things aren’t working properly.
They want to know how they can fix a person or a problem at work or at home.
They want to know what is wrong with them.
They want to know how they can remove their hard exterior or toughen up their softness.
They want to be sharp.
They want to appear put-together.
Even when they don’t use these exact words, their way of working, communicating and leading reveals this dominant way of viewing the world.
While the machine metaphor is perfectly functional when the toilet is clogged or the car is on the fritz, it turn ridiculous when it comes to dealing with complex organisms such as, oh, I don’t know, your spouse, your kids, your body, your employees or your career.
Turns out, people don’t take kindly to being though of or treated as machines, or any object.. This metaphor we often live by is inadequate. It’s inadequate for forming meaningful connections with others. It’s inadequate for experiencing life as it actually presents itself – a mess of sensations, emotions and thoughts. It’s inadequate for resolving conflict. It’s inadequate for bringing out the best in others. It’s inadequate for finding joy and meaning in our lives – something that every single man I have ever worked with turns out to be very interested in.
So, how do we fix this problem, men? (See what I did, there?). We begin by coming up with a better metaphor. One that reveals possibilities instead of dead ends.
I’ve got one in mind – which I’ll tell you about in Part II of this post.