382: What The Newer Generational Men Need & How To Help – An Interview With Sulonda Smith

By Posted in - Podcast July 25th, 2023 0 Comments

Understanding and connecting with the evolving needs of newer generational men has become a crucial aspect of modern relationships.

In this enlightening episode, we shed light on relationship dynamics and the shifting nature of modern masculinity, providing valuable insights and guidance for fostering meaningful connections.

The discussion delves deep into the complexities of relating to younger generational men, emphasizing the significance of vulnerability and open communication. Amidst the impact of technology and social media on relationships, striking a balance between tradition and progress emerges as a key theme, unveiling powerful tools and strategies to strengthen bonds.

Join this transformative journey into the heart of modern masculinity and discover how to enrich your relationships with the younger generation of men by embracing their unique perspectives and desires. Gain a deeper understanding of their needs and experiences, and pave the way for more fulfilling connections in your relationships.

Sulonda has been a licensed psychotherapist for 27 years who also focuses on helping people in long-term committed relationships and married couples. She helps couples improve their communication skills and specifically helps men to communicate in a way their significant other understands.

In this Episode

6:51 Generational differences in men’s experiences.

12:42 The damaging effects of confining oneself to a narrow window of acceptable gender expressions and the need for a more inclusive approach to emotions and experiences.

17:46 Finding your tribe and embracing authenticity.

21:37 The fear of experimenting and self-doubt.

26:42 Breaking free from societal expectations.

31:48 Changing trends in partnerships.

37:15 Seeking happiness and being in flow of everything.

42:01 The importance of healthy parent-child relationships and supporting younger generations, particularly young men.

48:35 How to ask instead of assuming.

55:00 The power of a hybrid course.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Create a safe space for dialogue and encourage honest conversations about emotions and needs.
  • Show genuine interest in understanding their perspectives and feelings without judgment or interruption.
  • Be willing to share your own emotions and vulnerabilities to foster deeper connections with newer generational men.
  • Balance tradition and progress: Recognize the importance of traditional values while embracing the evolving nature of masculinity in today’s world.
  • Set boundaries on the use of technology and social media to prioritize meaningful face-to-face interactions.
  • Demonstrate love and care through gestures, such as physical touch, compliments, and acts of kindness.
  • Rather than making assumptions about their experiences, ask questions to gain insights into their unique perspectives and desires.

Mentioned

Today’s man is different from Yesterday’s man | Sulonda Smith | TEDxLSSC (*Youtube video)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Connect with Sulonda Smith

Websites: thecommunicationsninja.com | sulondasmith.com

Facebook: facebook.com/ShesaidHeheardThis

YouTube: youtube.com/user/sulondas

Instagram: instagram.com/sulondasmith

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sulondasmith

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Sulonda, thank you for joining us today.

Oh, you’re very welcome. I’m happy to be here with you.

I’m happy that you’re here. I’m really grateful for you and your work in the world, and just the longevity of your career. I know many therapists get burnt out. So just to have someone that’s been in the industry for a time period, that that’s just a testament to your work and the sustainability of what you do. So I really love that. 

Thank you. 

Yeah. I know that we’ve decided to talk about the newer generation, or how the man’s experience, if we’re looking at heterosexual relationship more specifically, is different than perhaps previous generations. I’m just curious, what got you interested in looking at the generational differences and the upcoming generation’s needs and what their experiences might be different? How did you start to get interested?

Yeah, this is like a passion for me. Interestingly, before I talk about the two paths, when deciding who I really wanted to work with in the second half of my career, it was interesting. Because everyone always noted that when I talked about men, I lit up. Not to say I didn’t love working with women as well, I had worked with them for quite a while. And because of what I’ve witnessed, seen, heard, felt from men over the last 15 years, that’s really positioned me to really want to help them. 

The two paths is that I have seven brothers, and seeing their struggles and relationships is definitely important for me to address. Because it was brutal, sometimes. Those conversations were really deep. Then secondly, over the last 15 years, in my therapy practice, there were more men making appointments, and it wasn’t their girlfriends or wives making them come; they were making them on their own. Many times it was the same questions they were asking in the beginning, but then the questions got a little bit more introspective. Lik, who am I in the world? How do I show up? How can I be my best self and ignore who I’m supposed to be, like my father or my uncle, who are 20 to 40 years older than them? So there was a challenge to fit in. So that’s what began my tract and my interest in working with men in the way that I do. 

Wow! Well, I find that fascinating, and I know that it’s often true that people will gravitate towards certain people. It just seems like you have a keen ability, whether or not it’s part of your conditioning growing up with, did you say seven brothers? That’s so fascinating, I love it! That’s a unique experience to have that many brothers, and just to have that kinship of understanding the masculine experience and being witness to the journey of developing in that way. Also, just your love and really feeling like you get some of the ponderings, and then even as clients are scheduling and the new questions that you’re hearing emerge. 

I’m curious, do you find the people that are asking these questions of who I am in the world that might be different than the way I was encouraged or even conditioned to be, are they of a certain age group?

Interestingly enough, they’re probably between 19 and even 45. The sweet spot is around 30s, the early 30s. Lot of questions of: I just don’t fit anymore. I don’t like that I can’t be the man for her, or nobody really gets what I’m into, are quotes that I hear from men.

And what are you seeing, if you’re open to sharing, what they’re straddling. My first perception, as you’re talking, is that they have intended to operate in certain ways. But then whether or not it’s their career, or relationships, or friendships, or even family, there are parts of themselves that they don’t feel are welcomed or acknowledged. So it’s almost like there’s other parts of themselves, or they don’t know how to integrate into those spheres. But help me with what you’re seeing around the disconnect or the challenge of being more fully expressed.

Absolutely. That’s the word, express; their expression of themselves. Because many today, they’re interested in things that we probably didn’t think men should be, or would be interested in, in those days, which could be something like very, very bright colors. Men wouldn’t be caught in a pink shirt 30 to 40 years ago, or neon, or much less like today, wearing a skirt. I don’t know if you get GQ Magazine. I do, because I want to stay up on what’s happening. They’re wearing skirts. It’s not a kilt, or you have Scottish ancestry. It’s like, this is part of fashion. They’re wearing nail polish, piercing different places in their ears or their nose or any place, they’re experimenting with different hair colors. They’re even experimenting sexually. So there are so many tangents you can talk about in terms of their self-expression. For this, many people in your family do not understand, because he doesn’t represent them as a traditional male. Or what they would say is that you’re not a man. So they would just lump him into this space and say: “If you’re not clean-shaven, if you’re not wearing dark, earthy colors, if you’re not standing straight and waiting to protect your woman, much less putting on nail polish, then you are not a man.” And they feel that.

Yeah, and I’ve even heard that referred to as gender abuse almost, that there’s such a narrow window of existing in the human spectrum of emotion and experience. That that’s pretty limiting and damaging for someone to be so locked in to one way where you’re valuable, and if you’re not that, then who are you, and what’s your value?

Absolutely. The suicide rate is up really high, it’s like 34% right now, in teens and young adult men. Because they do not feel accepted. I believe that we’re shifting so much, not only the planet, on three degrees’ different axis than it used to be, and if you believe in climate change. But I do believe that we’re shifting in human beings as well, in our consciousness; some people are able to handle the shift and be present. And what that means is, I’m not trying to talk in woo-woo words.

No, I’m with you. I’m very much in agreement. But yes, please spell it out.

Okay. So there’s a shift in consciousness, where it’s a global occurrence of what is acceptable and what isn’t. If you liken it to where, in the 70s, we wore bell-bottoms and they were accepted, and then they went away, and then they came back again, and then, now they’re here again. It’s this consciousness and being able to accept yourself with how you choose to show up in that consciousness. Do you lock yourself in and try to be like the masses and most people of the older generations, or do you experiment with what’s happening now? I always say that each prophet, person who came that’s noted in religious or a way of life books, were persons who came for a specific group of people to help them out of the place they were in.

To elevate, to help show a different way, and to help develop and grow. 

Absolutely, and many of the young people I talk to today and talk about are experiencing that consciousness. It’s like, the way they think is very much outside of the box. It’s very global, and it’s very we-oriented, saving-oriented. So it’s this consciousness where they care about other people. They no longer have to share the same bloodline to say I love you, or that I want to do something for you. This side of men is starting to show even more; they’re tapping into or expressing more of their feminine side. And we know that femininity and masculinity is different from male and female or men and women. But they’re becoming unafraid, or more expressive with their feminine self. I’d love to see it. Because I see it in my nephews, I see it in people who are younger now. So that’s what I mean by the shift. It’s something that we can’t exactly put our finger on, but we can see that it’s happening. It’s in the masses.

Yes, and you’re here to share what you’re able to see and be witness to in your work, and there’s a collective body. I know that maybe you’re not working with thousands and millions of people, but there is a collective, and it’s representative. You’re saying there’s something really notable happening in the way in which people are identifying, the way in which they’re expressing, the way that they feel themselves as a person in time and space. That that is unique, and there’s something to be said about that. Just collectively, we’re opening up to new ideas, and we’re having new understandings, and we’re making welcome. I do believe each person, each individual has masculine and feminine. So how we’re really giving space and room for that. 

I mean, speaking of space, it sounds like you’re holding such a beautiful place for people, these individuals, to really have wandering, to have self-reflection, to be in a safe space to really ponder these things. Is that right?

I hope so, at least that’s what I try to present. Helping them realize that they don’t have to fit into a box anymore, and just because something is labeled tradition doesn’t mean it needs to carry on for eons. Tradition fits that time and space to help people function to their optimum capacity. So now we’re in another space, and we’re creating another tradition, where 50 and 100 years from now, people will look back and say: “Do you remember, in 2023, when they used to wear, and they used to say, and they used to do?” Then they’ll say that’s a tradition. So I remind people that the one thing you can always count on is change, and if you can adapt to that, and not get stuck and think things are supposed to be the way you see it in your mind and expectation, rather than creating a goal a path or an experience, then you have less suffering on your journey, and you find your people. Like, there are people. 

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“The biggest problem that I find with a lot of young men is that they haven’t found their people, which are other people who want to express and be like them. They don’t know where to look, or they feel embarrassed about looking, or shameful or made to feel shamed, for wanting to be with this crowd instead of that crowd of people.”

Or even fear. I’m sensing that so much of what you’re holding light to is possibility and even in the unknown. Many people, it’s kind of a human tendency, when there’s so much unknown or uncertainty, that that can be scary.

Absolutely. And with COVID, what I found in a lot of people after COVID, not only that they go inward and realize that where they were living for the last year or felt trapped in for the last year or two years before, that they now have a choice. That there’s a freedom in being able to make choices, and there’s a lifted amount of fear to try that choice.

Do you have any examples, just as people are listening? 

Oh yeah, absolutely. I have one client that returned, a couple had returned for coaching, because now I offer more coaching than I do therapy or counseling. They returned for work because they said that they just really learned things about themselves over that year and a half or so, that they didn’t know existed. And/or they ignored because they did not have long conversations about it, they couldn’t be exposed. That’s a really good word, they couldn’t be exposed about it. And what they’ve discovered is they created a very comfortable way of interacting with one another, but it really wasn’t what they wanted. They didn’t want to ruffle each other’s feathers, or they didn’t want to offend each other. 

And when COVID happened, and they had these deep conversations, they learned that they really were open to having an open marriage. The woman, she kept her hair very long because her husband loved the traditional way of looking. She ended up shaving off one half and creating a Mohawk with the other. He actually, I was shocked by this one because I don’t see it that often in men, but he pierced his belly button. So it was all these opportunities for courage that were sparked in so many people to just try different things. That’s the word. Just try it, and if it doesn’t work out, then you can go back. Now of course, you can’t erase the hole in your navel. But at least you tried to see if it will work for you. But that’s one example. 

Another example is someone who just left their job. The job switched them to working remotely, so no problem, no threats of it being taken away or of him being terminated. But after COVID, he called me and said, “I need to talk. I need a session, because I’m thinking about quitting my job and being a vagabond for about two years over in Bali.” So he quit his job. He went to Bali. I think he had a spiritual experience, honestly. Because the way he spoke, the way he shifted his self, his consciousness, all of those things absolutely changed for him. In Bali, he actually found a wonderful woman, and he started a business there, and he’s still living there. So just huge transformations in people, and really realizing there are more parts of you that are willing to come out if you just take a look and allow them to come out and play.

Right. I love that just try, or even a word that comes up for me is the experiment. I know people get stuck here sometimes, not only in what you’ve already mentioned, that will it be approved of, will I still belong with family, friends, or certain people, my people? That we will restrict or even hold back before even trying or experimenting. The other place that I feel like people get stuck is this question of self-doubt. Oh, is this just me wanting? I don’t know, it’s almost like the discernment between: “Is this a real spark of something true and genuine that I want to give voice to in life? Or is this a reaction, am I just reacting?” People get into doubt around that. Is there anything that you do to help people discern here?

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“I always say, if it’s coming up in your consciousness, if it’s a thought, then it’s something worth exploring. It wouldn’t come up if it wasn’t something that your deep down self wanted to know more about.”

Even if you read a book about it, and then you’re satisfied. Or then if you take actions in the book, or if you have the experience yourself, at least now you know. I think we pin ourselves down out of so many reasons. Big one, fear, like you said, not knowing what others will think, what if we fail at it and then I’ll feel terrible because I’ll think I’m not as good as I thought I was, fear of getting hurt. There are so many things. I’ve been taught, and maybe you think differently too, and share this. But there’s only two things that we’re naturally afraid of in life, and that’s the fear of falling and loud noises. Now, loud noises, I know that I have and other people have conditioned themselves not to respond to loud noises. But the fear of falling, that can be a long conditioning. Because you’re out of control, and then there’s nothing you can do when you’re falling. 

So let’s just say that’s a fact; we’ll just pretend that’s a fact. If that’s a fact, then everything else in our lives we’ve created, or has been created for us with our caregivers, people we’ve allowed to come into our lives, and the beliefs that we’ve created about who we think we are while we’re here on the planet. It’s always the mind. I tell people, you know, your world really is in that three to five-pound master that sits on your shoulders, it’s just you and what you put in there. So everything you think is your experience. It’s difficult for people to think that, because we always want to blame and say: “Well, if he wouldn’t have said this or she wouldn’t have said that to me, then I wouldn’t have done this and I wouldn’t have done that.” 

This is probably not the best example I’m going to give, but I’m going to give it anyway. Whenever we are pulled over by a police officer, what goes through our mind? “Oh my God, will I get a ticket, will they take my license?” Then for other people, it might be, will they arrest me, will they abuse me? There’s so many different ways. But when that police person walks up to your car, more than likely, you’re probably a lot calmer than you were when you first heard those sirens go off. Some people have choice words about being pulled over and the police officer approaching you. But in that split moment, you change your reaction. And when you can do that, that means you can change your reaction even in situations with people who are closest to you that you take for granted, that will still love you after you treat them like crap.

Yes. So I think if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re bringing light to how we are able to respond and have choice around how we react or how we respond. To the question around discernment, you’re saying, perhaps, this might be a way of saying what you’re saying too, is that if we get into experiment or try, we’re going to get a lot more information, and we’re going to be able to use that for further exploration, further understanding, further self-reflection. Let’s just say, for the part of this question that’s fear-based or self-doubting is like, what if I’m just reacting, what if I’m going to blow up my life? Okay, well, let’s just go there. That that still has lessons and learnings, and there’s still something there that’s being expressed, that perhaps is in reaction to or coping with or something. That still, if we choose to turn towards that, it can be a great learning and opportunity. I don’t know if you would agree. 

Yes, absolutely, Jessica. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. Sometimes we do need experiences to help us practice being out of our trained bodies and minds. Like Tony Robbins, he takes people on these excursions and asks them to jump off a cliff into a moccasin that’s in water. Like, I don’t know if we’ll go that extreme. But things that also influence and shift what’s happening in the body. Because the mind is one thing when we hold all of our fears and our doubts, but then the body also is a part of that contraction. This is what I believe. Not to say this is how it should be or how it is, but it’s just for me, and anyone who can embrace this, if your audience can embrace this. It’s like, we’re a soul, or something that controls this body; there’s something else that controls it. So if we say that’s the soul, the soul controls the mind, the mind controls the body, the body controls the behavior that elicits the action. So if that’s true, then our mind does not control us, and we can no longer blame it on our minds, or even this education or poor education about anything. 

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“There’s an infinite amount of knowledge here in so many places on the planet, different perspective to see things. If one perspective doesn’t work for you, go look for another perspective someplace else, so that you can really live freely and love.”

That’s what happens with a lot of the young men that I encounter. They’re feeling this need to really be self-expressive and not be bound by roles or expectations of what others think they should be any longer. Like, they really want to live and explore. Because of the media, the type of movies that we produce, the music that we listen to, from emo to rap, from bullies. Because bullies, they are fierce today! I remember bullies, when I was in school years ago, they were nothing like they are today. So there’s a lot that these young men go through and deal with, just for people to see them first as that soul or that spirit, or just a being trying to thrive and survive like everybody else on this planet. Then with how the person looks, from the hair, to the skin color, if they’re thin, if they’re bulky, if they have a mustache, if they’re bearded, if they’re locked, if they’re straight, there’s so many aspects. If you’re blonde, red, brunette. All of those are sort of like boxes that people have learned to put you in if you identify and look like that, before they even get to know you. 

I had the pleasure of doing a TEDx talk, and the TEDx talk was titled: Today’s man is different from Yesterday’s man. I spoke about the differences in young men. I always like to say, encroach comes up on my mind because encroaching is like: “Yeah, I want to know more about you, I want to get closer to you. Yeah, I’m all into you, what is your jam?” They need that. They need to know that they matter, that they should be accepted as well. It’s not just the young men. It’s like I said, usually 45 is the cut-off age, but I also have some men in their 50s who are just saying: “Things are just not the way they used to be, and I don’t want to be stuck in living this way anymore. I want bigger dreams.”

This is past due to give myself this opportunity.

Like, my father moved to an island, because he’s retired and divorced from my mom. He moved to an island two years ago, living his best life. He’s doing something different. 

Well, thank you too. I know I could ask a lot more questions about what I was mentioning before around discernment. But the thing I really want to focus on here is that you’re touching in and really helping people identify whether or not you’re saying big S higher-self soul, that there’s an inner wisdom and inner knowing, and there’s intelligence. And there’s so many things that we can resonate with if we’re seeking to have guidance or support, like you said, different perspectives. That is something I think if people begin to pay attention and listen to, that will be qualitatively different than just reacting or being in fear or coping in ways that are harmful to themselves or something that people might be worried I’m like, again, blow up my life or something. So if we’re speaking in these terms, blowing up one’s life in service of the soul, maybe not such a bad thing. 

Yeah, absolutely. Really working past all of the stereotypes, the roles that we’ve been given. In no way am I saying the roles that we take on are not beneficial in our families. Obviously, we need some roles to make sure we’re running a household that perpetuates love, care, compassion, life.

But conscious agreements. If there’s a real structure around we’re choosing this, not just doing what everybody has told us to do for however long.

Yeah, I love that. Absolutely, I love that. Yes, conscious agreements, absolutely. So no matter what body you show up in, there’s something that you said you would do for the family, regardless of how this shows up. I think that’s where we’re getting to. A lot more men want partnerships. Interestingly, though, a lot of men are choosing non-partnerships too, they’re choosing singledom. I remember reading a study maybe about seven years ago, in Japan. This effect was happening in Japan, where a lot of the younger men were opting out of marriages or coupling. Most of the time was spent online on pornography, or either they had money to buy machines, sex bots, and they just didn’t want to have to deal with the emotionality of a female being. So they’re opted out. 

Now I see that coming to the US now, with all of the articles I’m reading in the medical journals, the mental health journals. They’re opting out, and women too. They’re just not finding what they need in physical relationships anymore. Pornography, I have a certification in sex addiction, and one of the main stats that we learned is, especially if you’ve had abuse in your life growing up, 13% of those people would more than likely have some type of addiction, and it will be sex addiction too. That number is growing, because people aren’t getting the help that they need when it happens; they’re waiting years and years and years. As you know, Jessica, people can get stuck developmentally in whatever year that thing or that event happened. 20 years later, you’re still functioning in the mindset of that time when it happened. 

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Even in China, a lot of the women now are rooming together. They’re like, by 32, if they don’t have anybody, they’re getting houses together, and relying on each other. So this phenomenon is happening in so many different places. But here in the US, if your population is here in the US, and even in the UK, it’s going to be an interesting ride for the next 50 years to look at partnerships and what that means for people.

I mean, I just really hear your permission for different choices and how people want to engage or not engage. Because I think in past episodes, I’ve even heard somebody mention the phenomenon that you’re describing around choosing pornography, or rather going down that route and masturbating, versus engaging, if they’re heterosexual, with a woman. That it’s just easier, it’s more convenient. I don’t have to confront all of my own anxieties, I don’t have to engage with this other person. Now, I’m hearing you just say, I don’t hear a lot of judgment in the way you’re presenting this. Is that right?

I have no judgment to how people choose to live their lives. I have concern how an environment supports or doesn’t support an individual trying to figure things out while they’re here. I’ve been challenged to say, well, don’t you care about the dwindling population numbers, X, Y, and Z? Yes, and sometimes I think, well, how would the planet be years ago? We didn’t have these many people thousands of years ago, and everything seemed to be okay. So what’s the difference now? Like, are we dying, will we die if we don’t continue to populate at our same number and our rates, what happens? If you can’t show me a qualifying or even a quantitative number that we’re going to be extinct, then I’m like, I’m okay for now. In all honesty, even if we were going extinct, because I believe we’re more than these bodies. It’s just me, I’m not putting this on anyone. Because I believe we’re more than just these bodies, we’re not leaving; we’ll be in another form. That’s just me. So I don’t want to disrespect anyone who’s listening, or I’m not against anything else. That’s just my thoughts.

Thank you, I appreciate you just offering that very openly. I understand various people have different perspectives and ideas, and you’re offering with a lot of respect as you describe this. So the voice I’m hearing you say is a lot of non-judgement, a lot of acceptance, and just a wondering about one’s growth or development. Also, so you’re speaking about the individual, you’re also speaking about relationship and family, and you’re speaking about the bigger collective, and there’s perhaps evolution and growth in all of that.

Absolutely. I’ve been blessed, and I’ve had the honor of working with teachers from a traditional perspective from all around the world. And when they talk about life, they talk about this place as a vacation spot. Like, this isn’t the end, that’s just how they see it. I’ve adopted that same philosophy because of some experiences that I had, that leads me to believe that the soul is infinite. They talk about like, this is like a place to come and hang out and greet other people. Like, we’re all puzzles, and when we come together and put our pieces together as a whole, we do a lot better; we’re more steadier, we have a foundation. But when we’re just our little pieces, we’re just kind of lonely. When will we be connected? Because we’re designed with all the ridges or the edges to be connected with something else. So ultimately, this might sound silly, or maybe frivolous. But I truly believe that a life purpose here for people is to seek happiness. Just to have fun, to laugh, to be in flow of everything good. 

Now I get there’s duality in everything, I get that. So I’m not saying that it’s not okay to be unhappy or sad or get your heart broken. I’m just saying that those are not places to stay and live, like many people do. We have to learn to shift. If you want to be on the planet, let’s say that if you plan to be here, if you want to be here, then why not create the best experience that you can? 

Lovely. Oh, I know we’re rounding this out, and we’re getting back to our topic, because I want to talk about a few things. But I just so appreciate the love and the wisdom that you’re sharing and your experience, and just having really collaborated with other thought leaders in the world, and just offering this here for us to contemplate. So thank you for going there. 

So is there anything you want to say specifically about newer generations and the male experience and their needs?

Oh, absolutely. It’s really important, one, not to judge. Because we only judge from our own limited framework and perspective, because we haven’t seen the world; we haven’t been in Einstein books of infinity, and we only have a certain point of view. But when we start to consider that there’s other point of views, that’s when we can open up and that’s when the judgment becomes less and less and less, and then you’ll find yourself just saying: “Oh, that happened, okay.” Then you adjust yourself in the way you want to be. 

Having conversations. Just even if you don’t know what to say, say that. “I’m really interested in you, you have this look going on, or I see that you like so and so, and I’m really interested to know more. I don’t really know how to even say that or talk to you. Are you open for more chat?” You can be honest about your doubts or your fears, or considerations. I liked the word you used earlier, discernment. Discerning that this situation doesn’t have to end poorly because of how you currently or in past thought about a certain person and how they experienced themselves in their lives. 

So starting conversations sparks interest. Everybody, most people, let me not say everybody, but most people like to talk about themselves. Most people, we like attention, we like to know that we can connect. Women especially, because of the oxytocin, that’s the bonding hormone. Well, what I’m experiencing is men, I haven’t seen the scientific numbers yet in terms of hormones and things like that, but men too are wanting to connect in that way. They want to bond more; they want to have conversations, they want to express their feelings, they want to know how to express their feelings, they want to be loved on too. And while still, the biology and the physicality, the physiology, the hormones, all of those still define who we are, as we show up as a man or a woman, or the sex is still defined by that, however, it’s shifting. I can’t imagine that also, the chemical balances are shifting within us as well, not just with the choice to elect to change your sex, but just naturally happening as well. So open up your mind, and don’t be afraid. 

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“Usually when we’re questioning on that deep level, if we’re judging, or we’re fearing, or we’re pushing something away, there’s a fear within ourselves that we haven’t looked at, and we’re projecting it onto someone else.”

So open your heart, open your mind, ask questions, embrace them, don’t just dismiss them right away. If you talk to them and you don’t like what they said, then you can say: “Okay, yeah. I appreciate the conversation, but I’m going to stop there.” That’s really okay to do that. Because of our communication skills, just literally knowing what to say or not to say or when to say something, it stops us from having probably one of the most greatest experiences of our lives here on this planet. I mean, it’s really a fantastic thing to watch how the inner mind is working based on a lack of effort on the outward.

No kidding! One way that I’m hearing you describe or invite this way of relating is to perhaps even notice if there’s a little bit of a stick or a judgment, and that there’s still space. That perhaps you can challenge or one can challenge the judgment and go slow, and to be able to just say, “I’m not sure, but I’m open to exploring a little and then see how that goes.” Then perhaps, it’s opening up something that we would have never encountered had we not said yes and leaned into a little bit of challenge of the old, which is kind of what you’re talking about too is traditional, which has had its purpose and serves, and there’s a lot of good, and we don’t necessarily always need to throw everything out. But that there’s an evolution and an opening and a further developing. So to just give some room for that, to challenge those judgments and those projections.

Yes, absolutely. Rigidity really doesn’t work for us anymore, we have too much at stake. People leaving for the simple fact they don’t feel appreciated, or they’re given the attention that they really want, or even loved. And the struggle of what the external forces do to our children’s minds, like video games. The excessiveness in video games, let me clarify. The excessiveness of video games, which has been a statistic we proven point, and the content that they’re consuming in the video games, and what’s happening in our world, even just our backyard as the US, because of that. We can’t allow devices, and I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes or judging, but just a suggestion. We can’t allow devices to raise our children. That interaction is super-important; the conversations, the questions, the inquiries, the scolding. Children, as we know, teens, they’re out of control. Their hormones, because they’re changing and shifting and doing all that sort of stuff. So they really want someone to be there to say: “Hey, no, you’re not doing that.” Whether they pop off at you or not, or have an attitude, they really do want you to come in and help them navigate that space. So don’t ignore them when they have blow-ups or they’re argumentative, there’s something else going on, and that’s just the natural order of biology reordering itself as they get older.

So there’s this human connection you’ve talked about, not only in romantic relationship, but also in parenting and just humanity, period. That when we’re not so rigid, and we can enter into relating, there’s so much to be learned, and also children, need to feel that connection. That healthy bond is so critical for their growth, brain growth and every part of their development, and to feel supported in how to navigate maybe very complex things that are going on. Or even things that the parent didn’t deal with, when you add in social media, the games, all the excessiveness of various things that are hard to find and navigate through. So this is a real place of health that if we can be connected, that there’s something really beautiful that can emerge. Not only be connected, but what comes from those conversations is deeper connections, perhaps.

Yes, absolutely. We need more time with each other. Individuality, it just doesn’t work.

Yeah. I mean, I’m just thinking, I don’t want to take time to share my own stories here. But that the times that I have dropped in to real relating, even if there’s some agenda or something I’m super-rigid or fixed on. Then if I let that go and just stay present, if it’s a child, or even with my husband, if I’m feeling threatened or fear about something, and I have questions, and then I just pause and just stay in the wondering and get to know and understand and let there be some space, I will say, many times, things that I could have never crafted in my brain of what my best version was of whatever I wanted to see happen, something far greater happens when I engage in that not knowing and the wandering and the connecting. It’s quite profound. So I appreciate your message here and just showing up for the masculine and the man’s experience here, too, specifically. So thank you.

You’re welcome. Thank you for that input, because that’s powerful. That’s the first step: we have to own our own stuff, or really take a good look at who we are. 

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“All the things we try to keep in the closet or avoid or don’t like hearing about ourselves are exactly the things we can work on. It doesn’t have to be arduous, it doesn’t have to be embarrassing, it doesn’t have to feel like a failure.”

That’s what a lot of young men feel. Because they have higher levels of testosterone than women do biologically, that hormone makes it feel like they’re failing if they’re not getting something, or if they’re not getting accolades for doing it, because that’s how they measure their identity, their selves, their output. There’s a way to tell him: “No, how about we try it this way?” Instead of walking on eggshells about hurting what we call the ego, which is a healthy part of us, but we just have overinflated it. It’s important to have the language to know how to speak to them. Just like I teach men what to say to women, and different kinds of women, because not all women are the same, and I help them decode their behavior. Same with young men. It’s important that we understand, at least try at first to understand what they’re going through, and stick around. Because you might not get it, you might not understand why they’re doing that. But that’s not mostly most important, what’s most important is that you at least listen to what they’re going through and not judge it; you don’t have to agree to it. 

Thank you. As you’re talking, I’m imagining that the needs are very connected to the types of support. Is that right? Is this synonymous, they’re similar?

Yeah. If you have a son, a brother, husband, or a person showing up in a male body or identifying as a male, you just don’t get them; you just don’t understand what they’re doing. The best thing to do is ask, instead of assuming. Because your assumptions come from how you were trained with whoever raised you, from whatever you watched on television, and from the experiences you’ve had with other people in your life serving in that capacity. So just when you ask, they’re like: “Oh, she’s interested, okay.” And how you ask is important. 

I’m just sharing, I never want to say this is the ultimate way to do it. It’s worked for me, and it’s worked for my clients. I take why out of the vocabulary. I’m sure that you probably practice the same thing, being in this profession. Is there a reason you did that, or you want to tell me more about what happened with that thing over there? Saying it that way helps them feel at ease and like they’re heard from the beginning. So then they’re not throwing boundaries up or walls, and then next thing you know, you’re in an argument because he’s not being open, and he thinks you’re prying or talking to him disrespectfully. “Tell me more about what happened with that. You forgot to take the trash out this morning, it’s still here, what happened?” Instead of like, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe, they don’t come again for a weekend, it smells?”

Why didn’t take out the trash, right?

Yeah, what’s your problem is how we usually approach them. That also, when you approach them in a different way and asking them differently, it also encourages them to do better or to do differently, or to at least do what they’re asked to do without feeling like they’re pressured or that they failed at doing it. Now, some people will say that I have a soft hand with men, and that men need a stronger, firmer hand. I’ll say, well, that may be true. But is that all they get? There has to be a balance between the two, and that’s what I provide. They’re getting all the rough stuff, and that’s mostly why men come and see me. Because in their relationships, or with their parents, they’re getting the rough side, or the world. So they can experience that other side, the feminine aspect, and then allow for their feminine selves to come through, which is so super-healthy. Femininity for man, just for anybody who’s like, “Oh my God, a feminine man?” If anybody’s thinking that way, femininity for man is him being hugged, him allowing himself to be hugged, to be touched, to be spoken to softly, to be taken care of, to be smiled at, to be told Thank you, a kiss on the forehead, to be allowed to complete and do something without ridicule or control. That’s what it looks like for him. Sometimes he just wants to come lay up in your lap and be stroked, all those are feminine aspects, and they’re missing that. Because a lot of women think if they show that side of themselves to a man, then they’re weak and the man will then run over them or try to control them or take advantage of them. 

So there’s just a lot. As I’m sure you’ve seen, Dr. Jessica, there’s just a lot of living in our heads. Like, we have what 70,000 thoughts a day, something like that, and for some people, double. They’re random thoughts. “Oh, now those yellow shoes do not go with that polka dot yellow skirt.” And most of them are also repetitive. 

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“We’re always in our heads, and we’re blocking the opportunity to really listen and feel to what somebody else is needing. Because it’s not just about us, we complement each other that way, with a knee, like two gears when they’re working together.”

Oh, I feel like we could spend so much time with you. I know you offer a lot to help assist in the landscape of these types of communications and conversations. I just want to say on a personal note, and professional, I’m very grateful that this isn’t prescriptive around it only looks this way. There’s so much that can be held in what you’re offering, like so many people could have different experiences and this is still so relevant and really helps bring health, and again, the happiness and the soul and the growth. So I appreciate that it’s not “Oh, men need this specifically,” that it’s super-prescriptive in that way. So I appreciate that. 

How do people learn to connect with you or what you are offering, what would you invite people to?

Absolutely. The easiest way is to go to my website, which is SulondaSmith.com. People can also sign up, I have an audio on the three powerful phrases to stop blow-ups. Not only just to stop blow-ups with fights or disagreements or perpetual arguments that sometimes couples have, but it really teaches communication tools. So people are welcome to download that, and you can get on the mailing list for anything that I have upcoming. I do have a course that I’m launching for men next month. It’s a communication course, so they can learn about women; how to watch your behavior, understand what’s happening, and most definitely, what to say, how to say it and when to say it. Also, there’s a mindset module in there for them too, for those who aren’t just quite feeling themselves or feeling competent. It also offers live coaching. So I’m excited about that program. If you get on the mailing list by downloading the audio, then you’ll definitely get updates if that’s something that your audience is interested in. And I’m also doing individual coaching for people right now.

Lovely. I love that your course is hybrid. So many people value all the tips and tools and practices and exercises and research-based curriculum, and also to have the opportunity to get the guidance and the hands-on coaching in a bigger group. I’m not sure how you structure that, but it allows for the integration and that real application of some of the things. So I think the hybrid can be really powerful. So wonderful. 

Well, I’ll make sure to have your link to your website. It sounds like there’s so much to be found on your website, whether or not it’s your free videos on how to stop blow-ups, and also the course, and then also people who want to engage with you in coaching.

Yeah, thank you so much. This has been so fun! I love talking about this stuff. They say what are you doing on a Friday night? Well, we got some conversation, it’s all good. So I appreciate you so much for allowing me to share and be on your podcast.

Oh, it’s been a great privilege and honor, and I feel truly blessed by what you’re sharing. I’m grateful to share this time with you. 

Thank you.

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching