How to Comfort a Man

Three Parts:Understanding a Man Under StressShowing Him You CareCheering Him Up

Understanding how to comfort a man can be challenging because he doesn’t express himself the same way a woman does. In addition, he may not want you to know that he is upset much less, ask for help. By following these guidelines you will see that you can, in fact, comfort him by meeting him at his level.

Part 1
Understanding a Man Under Stress

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    Know how men tend to respond to stress. A man often responds to stress differently from a woman. Women tend to seek friends out to talk things out. A man on the other hand, may isolate or withdraw. For example, he may start watching TV more than usual or visit the gym for hours at a time. However he responds to stress, remember, every man is different. Some possible ways that a man may respond to stress are:[1]
    • Avoiding situations. He may try to stay away from places or people that trigger his stress.
    • Creating problems to mask stress. Although counterproductive, a man may create problems to avoid the real issue or to have a greater sense of control.
    • Being angry. Men tend to express anger more easily than other emotions since it is more socially accepted. He may become easily frustrated or start to yell.
    • Blaming others. Because men tend to externalize, a man may blame others for his problems to avoid the feelings of stress.
    • Increasing physical activity. A man may begin to exercise more, play sports or engage in other physical activities to release tension.
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    Don’t take it personally. If a man you're in a relationship with has isolated somewhat, it could be because there is something (unrelated to you) on his mind. Remember, don’t jump to conclusions such as, “He doesn’t like me anymore,” “I did something wrong,” or worse “He’s breaking up with me!” Many men are used to holding things in and not talking things out. Overreacting to his isolation could lead him to distance himself even more.
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    Don’t be overly helpful. Of course you want to comfort a man with whom you have a relationship and show him you care, but use caution. When you try to be helpful by offering solutions or doing things for him, this could make him feel emasculated. Asking him over and over again, "What's wrong" What's wrong? Why won't you let me help you?" will have a negative effect and he may begin to resent you. A better approach is to simply offer support and understanding without actually trying to solve his problem.

Part 2
Showing Him You Care

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    Offer support. This can be tricky because some men want support by having companionship while others just want space. Overall, a man wants to know that you are on his side. He also wants to know that he can count on you as a source of relief. Try offering to listen should he wish to talk. If you think something is bothering him, bring up the topic in a nonthreatening way.
    • You might ask, “I’ve noticed you seem a little preoccupied lately, is there something different happening at work?” Many will not volunteer to openly talk about their problem, but some will if asked.[2]
    • If he asks for space, don’t take it personal. Once he clears his head, he might be more willing to reach out to you now that he knows you are there for support.
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    Listen carefully. A man may or may not choose to share what’s on his mind. Unfortunately, some men tend to associate talking about feelings with weakness. If he decides to talk, listen openly without interruption. Try to avoid offering solutions or giving advice, unless he asks. Stay away from making trite comments such as, “You’ll get over it,” or “Don’t worry about it.” Comments such as these are non constructive and only hurt because they diminish his feelings.[3]
    • If he doesn’t wish to speak, sit with him quietly. A gentle question or two might help, but don’t badger.
    • Don’t bring up his struggles or stressors. If he wishes to discuss these, he’ll bring them up on his own.
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    Allow him to express himself in his own way. As mentioned earlier, some men react to stress by feeling the need to be strong or active. Such responses are okay so long as he is not ignoring the real issue. Give him permission to respond with anger, or to be more cognitive or analytical, or if grieving, to not cry. Don’t minimize his feelings but do point out realities and offer hope. All of these typical masculine responses may help him cope; there is no "right" way to express feelings.
    • Don’t set a timeframe on his feelings and don’t expect him to express himself a certain way. Let him take the lead.
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    Make it clear to him that it’s okay to not feel okay. Unfortunately, because of societal conditioning, many men believe that feeling sad or scared is sign of weakness. Reassure him by informing him that all feelings are part of being human. There is no "good" feelings or "bad" feelings. Remind him that you do not think less of him even if he doesn’t feel okay.

Part 3
Cheering Him Up

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    Build up his ego and point out his strengths. Let him know that you admire him and appreciate all of the good in him. Show him that you value him just as much, even if he is going through a tough time. Giving him unconditional positive regard will reassure him that he can count on you even when he’s not feeling his best.
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    Fix his favorite meals. Take his mind off his stress, at least for a short while, as he wolfs down his favorite plate of lasagna. Include dishes with protein and carbohydrates, as these increase serotonin levels and produce a calming effect in the body.[4]
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    Present him with a stress-relief gift basket. Include some of his favorite chips, nuts, and crackers. Consider adding chocolate as this tends to bring a smile to most faces. As an added bonus, include a bottle of massage oil with a gift certificate for a free massage.
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    Offer to give him a massage. He will be extremely grateful if you give him a relaxing massage to ease his tension. It is scientifically proven that a massage relaxes the mind by improving blood flow. Physical touch shows that you care and can help increase his low mood[5]
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    Invite him out. Many men like to cope with stress by staying active. Without ignoring his problem, suggest going for a walk, game, or any other social activity. If he refuses, gently insist. Distracting him a bit from his problems might go along way in comforting him.[6]
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    Stay in touch. If he is going through a crisis and wants space, it might help to keep in contact with him. For example, offer to call him once a week. Knowing that you will call might bring him comfort and lift his spirits. However often you decide to check in, keep your word and follow through.

Tips

  • Remember, you are not responsible to “fix” him. You can offer support, but ultimately, it is up to him to get better.

Warnings

  • If he threatens or attempts suicide, or is abusing alcohol or drugs, suggest that he seek psychiatric help immediately.

Article Info

Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions