In my last post for this series about creating a better roadmap to manhood, I stated that becoming a better man requires both hard skills and soft skills. During my introduction to this subset about the essential soft skills, I stated that strength in this area contributes to positive relationships, personal growth, and overall well-being for you and everyone you interact with throughout your life. Maybe the most important soft skill for men though is behavior management because it demonstrates maturity in how you show up in this world.
The Male Brain is Different
Let’s start with a very common assumption: men and women are different. Study after study will show that male and female brains differ from birth. Generally, females have two X chromosomes in their pair, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. A gene on the Y chromosome is responsible for the developmental events that cause bodies and brains to take on male characteristics; both physically and emotionally. This is the first major difference.
The next is that the male brain is about 10 percent larger on average in proportion to the body size of females. Science proves brain size does not impact intelligence or capacity for better decisions, though some may argue otherwise. Another difference is that the male brain is wired from front to back with few connections across the two hemispheres, whereas the female brain is wired from left to right, so the two hemispheres are more interconnected.
Men also process grey matter differently which helps our bodies manage information in the brain involved with muscle control and sensory perception. This could explain why men tend to excel at task-focused projects, while women are more likely to excel at language and multitasking. Sex hormones also drive differences in our behavior. For example, estrogen in women prompts maternal behavior, while testosterone in men drives aggressive, territorial behavior.
So while the differences in male behavior may come primarily from nature, the way a male is nurtured and how they interpret culture also play a role. Nurture is all the external or environmental factors that affect human development such as how someone is raised, socioeconomic status, early childhood experiences, education, and daily habits. Culture refers to gender stereotypes, societal norms, and socialization. All three factors impact how a male applies his masculine traits.
Myths of Manhood and Masculinity
The first step toward better manhood though is to unravel the myths and eliminate the excuses passed on from earlier generations. Some men have adopted these myths as being the “norm” and use excuses to help justify their bad behavior. But this must change to improve how the world views manhood.
Here are some of the common myths and excuses that get perpetuated as the normal for male behavior and the reasons to challenge men who believe them:
Myth: “Boys will be boys.”
Excuse: Downplays negative behaviors in boys and men, and excuses actions like aggression, bullying, and disrespect towards others.
Challenge: Encourage the understanding that behavior is not simply predetermined by gender. All individuals, regardless of gender, should be held accountable for their actions and taught to respect others’ boundaries.
Myth: “Real men don’t cry.”
Excuse: Society often portrays crying and showing vulnerability as a sign of weakness in men, which leads some men to suppress their emotions.
Challenge: Acknowledge that expressing emotions is a healthy part of being human. Promote emotional intelligence and encourage men to embrace vulnerability and seek support when needed.
Myth: “Men are naturally aggressive.”
Excuse: Some justify male aggression as a biological trait, suggesting that it is inevitable and uncontrollable.
Challenge: Recognize that aggression is not solely tied to gender but influenced by various factors such as your environment and socialization. Promote non-violent conflict resolution and communication skills.
Myth: “Providing financially is the only responsibility of a man.”
Excuse: Traditional gender roles place an unnecessary burden on men to be the sole providers for their families.
Challenge: Advocate for equal sharing of responsibilities within households. Encourage men to engage in caregiving and emotional support for their families.
Myth: “Sexual prowess defines manhood.”
Excuse: Some men feel pressure to prove their masculinity through sexual conquests or objectifying women.
Challenge: Promote respectful and consensual relationships with proper boundaries. Stop using pornography for sexual gratification. Emphasize that true masculinity is not defined by sexual conquests but by treating others with respect and empathy.
Myth: “Men don’t talk about their feelings.”
Excuse: There is a prevailing belief that men should be stoic and keep their emotions to themselves.
Challenge: Encourage open communication about feelings and mental health. Destigmatize seeking help for emotional struggles. Encourage men to support one another emotionally and to seek counseling when needed.
Myth: “It’s just a joke, don’t take it seriously.”
Excuse: Harmful jokes or comments about gender, sexuality, or race are often dismissed as harmless humor.
Challenge: Promote understanding that jokes perpetuate stereotypes and harm others. Encourage men to challenge and speak out against harmful humor.
These are just some of the myths and excuses for bad behavior. But improvement can happen when we men foster positive change and promote healthier expressions for how we use of our male traits for good. By challenging these myths and eliminating the excuses, we can help break free from the harmful stereotypes that have shaped male behaviors for generations.
What Behavior Management Is Not
It’s important to recognize that behavior management is not about suppressing emotions or conforming to traditional stereotypes of masculinity. It’s not acting macho to impress or intimidate others. Instead, it involves developing a better understanding of how actions affect us and others positively. It involves self-discipline and self-regulation that shows your mature approach that prevents negative behaviors. It means using your masculine traits in a constructive manner in your personal, educational, and professional settings.
Fostering positive change also creates a culture of empathy, understanding, and equality that allows men to embrace their authentic selves and engage in respectful and positive interactions with others. This helps improve relationships, resolves conflict and shows good leadership. It shows you can cope with stress, setbacks, and unexpected change more effectively now.
Lastly, we must also avoid the cultural pressure to adopt androgyny (the sameness of males & females) as the norm but must learn to embrace our differences while understanding what is acceptable proper, acceptable, and respectful behavior toward all people.
Managing Your Behavior
Although I could write entire posts on each, here is a list of the important behavioral skills that every mature man needs. Some provide more detail in the linked post noted but most will seem obvious. But know that understanding and proficiency in these areas can help you navigate life more effectively and help you form positive relationships with others.
- Manage Your Money, Time, and Stuff – See my earlier posts on Money Management, Time Management, and Organizing Your Belongings.
- Become a Good Communicator – I will cover this in an upcoming post.
- Regulate Your Emotions – Again, a topic for an upcoming post.
- Be Responsible & Accountable – Take ownership of your actions and be accountable for the consequences. Don’t blame others. Learn from your mistakes and take corrective actions when needed. Read more in my post on Confrontation, Confession, and Accountability.
- Maintain Your Integrity – Quit making excuses. Stop being vague in your communication. Complete your commitments quickly. Follow through because you said you would. Volunteer your time/resources because it’s the right thing to do. Act honestly and with moral principles, even when faced with difficult ethical decisions.
- Be a Man of Your Word – A mature man keeps his promises. He is also trusted and reliable. Follow through because you said you would. Check out this post titled 15 Maxims for Being a Reliable Man from the Art of Manliness.
- Be Confident – Look people in the eye when you speak with them. Assert yourself with proper composure and demeanor, presence, and a strong tone of voice but do not be demanding. Believe in your abilities and have a positive self-image.
- Maintain a Positive Attitude – Cultivate an optimistic and constructive outlook, even in difficult situations. Being a positive role model for others, especially for younger generations. Express appreciation for the positive aspects of life and the kindness of others.
- Develop Social Awareness – Be aware of your actions to avoid any social awkwardness in a group setting. Have the ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
- Use Good Manners – Be polite, show gratitude, and use good table manners. Read this post from the Art of Manliness to learn How to Remember a Person’s Name (And What to Do When You Can’t). Show respect to your elders and people in authority.
- Practice Proper Digital Life Skills – Don’t overuse your technology in the presence of others, especially in social settings. Avoid inappropriate websites and pornography. Maintain good passwords to keep your data safe and secure.
- Work Hard but Don’t Overwork – Stay focused and productive. Prioritize tasks. Do more than your job requires. Don’t waste time. Maintain time boundaries during peak workloads and take time away during the valleys. Recognize the importance of balancing personal and professional life to maintain well-being and healthy relationships.
- “Be Here Now” – This is a phrase commonly understood to mean be focused on the present. Do not ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Do not multi-task, especially when meeting with another person. Give them your complete and undivided attention.
- Keep Boundaries in Relationships – Especially with romantic encounters. Follow these Guidelines for Male-Female Friendships. Understand the importance of consent by respecting personal boundaries in relationships and interactions. Know that “No” means “No” in sexual situations.
- Show Respect for All – Treat others with consideration, valuing their opinions, and appreciating their differences. This includes people of all genders, ethnicity, beliefs, or background. Support and promote equality and work to ensure all individuals have equal rights, opportunities, and respect.
- Be Adaptable and Cooperative – Show flexibility and remain open to change. Learn to adjust to new situations and challenges. Learn to work collaboratively with others, share responsibilities, and achieve common goals. Support and empower others to achieve their goals and aspirations.
- Have Patience – Demonstrate tolerance and composure in the face of challenges, adversity, or delays. Don’t be overly critical of others since you have your own flaws too.
- Make Good Decisions – Make informed choices by weighing options and considering potential outcomes. Watch for more to come in a future post on critical thinking and problem-solving.
- Be a Peacemaker – Develop savvy. Become good at resolving conflicts and disagreements constructively. Promote peaceful interactions and problem-solving. Reject all forms of violence and promote calm conflict resolution.
- Be Self-aware – Recognize your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values, leading to personal growth and self-improvement. Show concern for the environment and make efforts to protect it.
Exhibiting good behavior and continuously working on your personal growth is the key to becoming a better man. It fosters positive relationships and creates healthier communities for all. It also helps men earn the respect needed to challenge harmful gender norms and provide constructive feedback, which is vital to promoting equality, improving mental well-being, and encouraging personal growth.
Godly men live to a higher standard and know their behavior is vital to living out their faith. They also know from Scripture that no one is perfect and that we all behave badly at times (see Romans 3:10-12). They acknowledge and challenge the harmful myths and excuses of toxic masculinity.
Knowing this, godly men also believe they are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They strive to eliminate sin in their life. They promote behavior that improves relationships for all men, women, and children. This can get us closer to God’s original design for peace, harmony, and unity in this world.
- What toxic behaviors have you seen in men lately?
- What did you learn about how a man behaves from your father? From your mother? From your friends?
- What can you do to reduce the perceptions of patriarchy and toxic masculinity in today’s world?
[Feature Image from Giulio del Torre – Two boys fighting (1927)]