It can often seem that men express their feelings differently than women. And since this occasionally extends to how men handle conflict, there are some things you should never say to a guy when he's upset, if you want to have a healthy, constructive convo. That's not to say that men can't be reasonable, or that they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions when they're mad/sad/embarrassed, or even that all those who identify as male act the same way. But at the end of the day, there are just some phrases you should really steer clear of when dealing with anyone who is upset, because who actually wants to hear "calm down" when they're upset?
For one, thanks to outdated, but ever-so-persistent gender stereotypes of masculinity, men don't always feel comfortable sharing their emotions, so if you call them out on that, they may easily feel more upset. "A lot of this occurs because traditional definitions of masculinity discourage men from 'showing weakness' by expressing their feelings," relationship expert Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. Keeping this in mind when offering your support could make communicating easier.
These social constructs occasionally creep up on what men might want during conflict. "One of the biggest differences is that ... women tend to want to get to the root of the problem immediately, [while] men often want some time to cool off before actually working through the conflict," relationship expert Alexis Germany tells Bustle. This explains why men might shut down, or stalk off, when emotions run high.
While we shouldn't walk on eggshells around each other, there are ways to keep situations like these from getting worse — while still offering your support. Below, a few things that are better left unsaid the next someone you love is upset.
1"OK, You Need To Calm Down"
Nobody likes to be told to calm down when they're upset. "It’s hard for many men to verbalize that they are upset to begin with, so when you encounter a guy who can openly discuss how he feels, don’t shut him down," Germany says. Thanks to stereotypical expectations of masculinity, some men may not have been taught how to discuss their feelings, or were discouraged from it all together. Ask questions. Validate emotions. That's the best thing to do, regardless of someone's gender.
2"Stop Acting Like You're On Your Period"
This is a highly problematic thing to say to anyone let alone to a man when he's upset. Not only does it reinforce the gendered notion that emotions are restricted solely to women, it shames both men and women for having feelings in the first place. And that's just part of being human.
"Men are raised to believe expressing emotions is a privilege reserved for women," pleasure and sexual wellness coach Contessa Louise Cooper tells Bustle. "Purposely emasculating him when he is upset can feed into the idea that men shouldn’t be in touch with their emotions." So not only could statements like be embarrassing, but it could discourage further discussion.
3"Why Can't You Be More Like XYZ?"
If someone in your life is upset, the last thing you want to do is compare them to another person who may or may not be better at handling conflict. As relationship advocate Brooke Genn tells Bustle, "Not only is comparison going to add fuel to the fire, but the burn from comments like this can sting long after the heat of the argument has passed."
4"We Need To Talk About This Right Now"
When someone's upset, the best thing you can do is give them a little space. "Although it may be in your nature to push to work things out right away, give [the] guy a little time," Germany says. "It will lead to better conflict resolution."
5"You're Being Too Sensitive"
Avoid saying things like, "Ugh, you're being too sensitive," since it can invalidate their feelings, while also implying they're overreacting. Not only can this be frustrating and hurtful, but it's not up for you to decide. As NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, "In reality, someone cannot tell you what is an appropriate response to a situation."
6"I Can Tell You Don't Care"
Don't assume someone doesn't care, just because they're handling a tough situation differently than you would. "A man might truly care, but just have trouble expressing it," says Bennett. "By telling him he doesn’t care about you (or a situation) simply because he can’t express it adequately can be very frustrating, causing him to get defensive or pull away."
7"You Really Shouldn't Feel That Way"
Even if someone is handling a situation poorly, or being dramatic in the heat of the moment, resist the urge to point that fact out. "No one wants to be told how to feel about any particular topic," Bennett says. "By telling a man he’s not allowed to feel a certain way about a situation, it will only cause him to pull away and not share his true feelings in the future."
8"You're Completely Overreacting!"
If someone is overreacting, they likely already know it. So pointing it out isn't the most helpful thing to do — men included. "Very often we are aware that our emotions are not appropriate and sometimes we are actually upset because we are upset," says Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Web Radio Show.
By telling someone they're overreacting, you're not only invalidating his their feelings, but you can cause them to feel embarrassed, too. As Klapow says, this can turn into a vicious cycle of emotion that some guys don't know how to handle.
9"You're Being Ridiculous"
Any comment that challenges someone's emotions is a no-go, too. "No matter how or why they are reacting the way they are, the root of the way they are acting, or what they are saying is based in how they think and feel," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. "If we care about them, it is our job to get to that root, to help disarm them, to try to understand them, and where they are coming from." Not call them ridiculous.
10"Well, I'm More Upset Than You Are."
You know what's unhelpful? Turning your conflict into a competition. "The worst thing you can do is to try to one-up them, saying why you're even more upset than they are," says LA-based therapist Jane Reardon, founder of RxBreakup app. That'll just set you up for a totally unnecessary argument.
11"I Think You're Wrong"
It's also not much help to explain to someone why they're wrong for being upset since, again, it's not up to you to decide. As Reardon says, "That's a great strategy if you want to shut down the argument, but it's a total miss if your goal is to talk through it and get to resolution."
Because when it comes to dealing with someone who's upset, you want to be as understanding as possible — and this includes taking someone's very nature into account. While everyone who identifies as male obviously isn't the same, there may be differences between men and women when it comes to feeling upset, thanks to how we've been conditioned to deal with things based on our gender. The good news is, all constructive conversations, especially during conflict, come from listening and validating a person's feelings, and that is pretty darn universal.