How to Manage Men ~ The Conversation Starter

Mother and Me in Contemplative Mood! Photo: Frank Tubridy
Mother, Me and Tiffany in Contemplative Mood!
Photo: Frank Tubridy

A red hardback book called How to Manage Men lived in my mother’s glass-fronted bookcase in every house we inhabited. I began to delve into it when I was about twelve and was thrilled to see that it had chapters covering: fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands, fathers-in-law, sons, grandfathers, grandsons, nephews, male bosses and quite a few more ‘roles.’

Over the years, I consulted it when issues with ‘men’ arose and, in general, the advice was pretty sound, though a little antiquated in places.   It was written around the late 1940s so wasn’t quite up to speed with stuff like women’s rights and equality. Having said that, it seemed to have taken on board the massive changes in the role of women that was associated with two World Wars.

However, its author whose name I forget, as the book has mysteriously vanished without trace, seemed to have a very good insight into the kinds of issues and tensions that can arise between men and women and I’m not so sure that these have changed all that much.

Anyway, the book was playing on my mind the other morning as I brought puppy Stan for an early morning walk in the sun. I saw a well-dressed, middle-aged couple coming towards me and they were full of greetings and joie de vivre.

The sociologist in me  seemed to come alive and I found myself telling them about the book and asked the pair what they thought the secrets are to managing men.

If ever there was a conversation starter, this was it! They let me into some of the secrets of their 39-year old marriage and one thing that amazed me was the way they told me almost in unison that they go for a walk every Sunday morning even if they are in the middle of a mega row.  I just couldn’t imagine doing such a thing!

They were firmly of the view, like the author of the book, that men and women are very different and that the art of managing men, is something that few, if any women, could ever be expected to master.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s a lot to be said for the following:

# Always allowing a man to think that he has come up with a good idea that a woman (including onself) actually proposed.

# Recognising that sensitivity means something completely different to men than it does to women.

# Never, ever trying to engage with a man when he is in ‘switch off’ mode. 

I would be thrilled to bits to learn your secrets about how to manage men as it’s a pretty fundamental requirement in this crazy world of ours!



Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

28 thoughts on “How to Manage Men ~ The Conversation Starter”

  1. In a workplace, people being managed are expected to commit to the directives of others, accepting the authority to have right to their will being priority in consideration for wages and salaries. And as all of us who’ve ever worked in a hierarchy of any size, we realize some are just compliant to some degree, with little or no commitment at all.

    Outside of circumstances where time is sold for consideration, people often translate being managed to something closer to being manipulated. And is situations where a person feels quite aware of the attempts to manipulate, sees some of it to be either a condescension, or a miscommunication–that they have somehow caused someone else to feel a need to “manage” them.

    As a sociologist, Jean, you are familiar with motives within cultures, and within individuals. You also know these motivational factors can be quite diverse. The idea that a man can be managed by a template of the generic man is a misconception, unless the process of it is tied to their fears–in other words, simply to manage their perceptions of good/bad; pain/pleasure. And when a woman is attempting to manage a man without understanding him as an individual with temperament, social style, a belief system as well as belief disorders, levels of aptitude that cause him to feel more or less worthy and significant, orientation to his external world, as well as his preferences and likely response to sexual maneuvers, she will probably risk alienating him rather than “managing” him.

    But the risk is small, because most men aren’t even paying attention to a woman when she’s trying to manage him, unless they have a co-dependency problem. And in that case, they are using each other as drugs.

    But all that having been said, I can remember occasions where women did manage to get me quickly exposed to the elements, without ever my noticing the weather at all.

        1. Interestingly, I think it could well have been my late King Charles Spaniel, Sophie, who simply loved to eat old hardback books. ( I hasten to add that she lived to a great age, was very wise and had no digestive problems!)

  2. The only thing I know about men is that you want something from them, you have to ask them. I think the big mistake women make is expecting men to automatically know. Once you accept they don’t, it makes life a lot easier, and when you do ask, they do it with a heart and a half – in my experience at least.

    1. Hi CT, I suspect you probably are lucky, though the book extended way beyond husbands. Have to say I’ve met a few men in the broader scheme of life that have been impossible to understand, cope with, or even ‘manage.’

  3. I have found there is no way it is possible to manage men, if you try you just cause yourself a lot of grief!! I have given up and after 43 yrs I think I know my man is unmanageable!

  4. Of course we’re “manageable.” It’s a two-way street where communication, connection, courage and compassion intersect. Being proficient at the art of communication and conversation often contributes to mutual management arrangements.

    1. Eric, good to hear from you. I like your 5 ‘Cs.’ I agree wholeheartedly that men, at least the vast, vast majority are ‘manageable’ and in lots of ways your 5 ‘Cs’ correspond with the main thrust of the red hardback book. Whether or not we use the word ‘manage,’ the interaction between men and women in their various roles is one that seems to require different amounts of each of these ingredients depending on the individuals concerned.

      The two-way street metaphor is interesting, too. It makes me think of everything from narrow lane ways where ‘giving way’ is essential unless one is to have a head on collision; to secondary roads with a hard shoulder which allows for flexibility, different speeds, closeness; and motorways which may appear most efficient but which don’t allow for easy ‘turning’ back and where heading off in diverging directions can happen in a heartbeat.

      Of course, it depends what kind of vehicle one uses to navigate the street. Lots to be said for walking and talking; or a tandem which requires plenty of teamwork!

  5. I have always had more male friends than women and was more tolerant of men than I was of women. However in recent years I have found myself really enjoying female company to a greater degree than ever before.
    I understood men more than I did women, which for years I never thought was unusual, it was just me.
    I am not sure about managing a man, but I am fairly sure within my own marriage of over twenty years, I think in many ways we ‘manage’ each other. Sometimes actively, and sometimes passively.
    I was intrigued to read about the book. I’d have loved to have read it.

    1. Tric, interesting points about your changing tolerances and the fact that you understood men better than women. You seem to imply that you see differences between the genders?

      The notion of ‘managing’ each other within a marriage is interesting and it brings me to the fact that my father had a book (of 1940s vintage too) about ‘men and marriage.;

      The How to Manage Men book was a great read and full of wisdom, especially in terms of opening up factors which might or might not need to be taken into account when dealing with the various male roles a woman could possibly encounter. It was by no means only about husbands but extended to men at work and in everyday interactions. The main thesis was that men and women are different in some regards and being aware of these differences would/could enable a woman to handle interactions with men more effectively. I suspect a book called ‘How to Handle Men’ would have been banned back then!!!

      1. Yes I do find differences in genders.
        I perhaps lack a lot of what I see as fairly typical female tendencies, and therefore understood and related to men better
        However being a woman and over time I have relaxed and become better able to enjoy, communicate and tolerate both genders.
        I can’t imagine a reprinting of those books today. I wonder is the book ‘Women are from venus and men from mars’ a modern day equivalent?
        I’ve not read it, but listening to them interviewed when it came out it sounds as if it explores difference and how to copel
        I’d say your name would have been called out from the pulpit if you wrote such a book back then.

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