Today I saw five grown men cry. The first caught my elsewhere attention. The second made me stop what I was doing completely. The third made me sit down and listen. The fourth tugged at my heart strings and by the time the fifth man cried, my eyes were full of my own tears.
You might think, given the work that I do, that I was in a group therapy session – or that I had made them cry – but no! In actual fact I had accidently caught a screening of ‘Undercover Boss’, a daytime programme in which a boss of a large company goes undercover to see what their employees are really up to. What the particular boss I was watching had discovered, however, was that her previously anonymous, long-standing and long-suffering employees were ‘going above and beyond’ for her company on a regular basis. Some overcame constraints such as heat, time factors, no useful tools to do their jobs, etc – which many had dug into their own pockets to buy. And admirably, others had overcome serious accidents and illnesses such as cancer, and carried on working regardless (not seen or looked at).
What provoked all the tears, however, was not the disclosure of the trials and difficulties the employees had endured, but the moment they were called up to head office to be told the truth about the undercover operation. In the meeting, all of the employees were given a bonus, but what really started the tears flowing (and in one man’s case, sobbing) was when they were told how much they were appreciated; how all their hard work had been noticed and recognised, and how much, on a personal level, they were truly valued. The disclosure ensured there was not a dry eye in the house – well not in mine anyway.
The programme was a reminder. Men and women are very different – as we are supposed to be. It is in our opposite weaknesses in which we have an opportunity to support each other, and in our opposite strengths in which we have an opportunity to be an invincible team. Women communicate largely by feelings and men communicate largely by action. Both men and women cry in states of despair; when we cannot fathom a future beyond the difficulty we have encountered – and the way the male mind works ensures they often find envisioning beyond the moment more difficult. In our society, that often seems to put men under enormous social expectation, it is easy to forget that men also secretly suffer often scary emotions and life experiences that can cause more than a wobble. Many men don’t speak about their feelings at all, and yet, just behind the masculine image are the real little boys, who, just the same as the little girls, really want to be noticed, appreciated, welcomed and acknowledged. And that’s why grown men really cry … at the recognition that someone else truly sees and values them for who they are.