Monday, October 08, 2012


Twenty years have passed since John Gray published his landmark book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. I have been thinking of late about how this book started a revolution in the way that men and women are encouraged to help each other deal with problems. There were probably others before it, but Gray’s book was the first one that got my attention because it spoke to both genders in languages that made sense to them. What’s more, it was focused on the idea of using these differences to build relationships. I have been telling my colleagues lately how the world of getting help for men has changed. I feel it strongly when I go to conferences. In fact, I’ve been to three this year that featured programs that speak directly to men in an attention-gripping way. It used to be that such speakers spoke to women. It’s a refreshing change, given the number of men who come to counselling certain that they will be blamed for everything and cast as villains. But now I’m off track. Back to John Gray’s book. Men, said Gray, tend to face problems by retreating into caves and paying attention to things other than the problem. This, he says, is a natural reaction to stress. Women, by contrast, want to talk things over right away and they become even more stressed when the opportunity is not available. I’ve never cared much for the idea of gender stereotyping, so when I first saw Gray’s book I was suspicious. But I have to hand it to him. Here was a man who could explain men to women and save thousands of relationships in the doing. It was a step toward a change in the helping professions that took several years to get a grip. But these days I see at conferences that there is a different kind of help for couples, a help that works better because it is more appreciative of gender differences in the way we naturally handle stress. That gives me a lot of hope.

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