Episode 48: Alison Armstrong: Making Sense of Men - Part 1
This is part 1 of a two part interview. Ever wonder why relationships between men and women so often start out like a fairy tale and end up like a horror story? Chip and his guest Alison Armstrong and learn more about what gets in the way of having the relationships we so deeply desire. Here is an opportunity for women to rediscover men, while also increasing your self-esteem and potency. In part 1 of a two part interview, Alison Armstrong, author of “Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care and Attention from All Men” and "Keys to the Kingdom", and creator of the "Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women" workshops describes her insights into men - what men want, need and desire. Listen in as Chip and Alison talk about a fundamental misunderstanding of how men communicate has created conflict and confusion in relationships. And keep listening for a terrific exercise that might transform your love life.
Woman 1: This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.
Woman 2: This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Woman 1: This is Part 1 of a two-part program.
Chip August: Welcome to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August, and today on the show, we have invited back one of my favorite guests, a fabulous guest named Alison Armstrong. We're going to be talking about women and men and communication.
Alison Armstrong: Men are what I call “internally motivated.” You're not nearly as susceptible to your environment as women are. Your actions come from within, your own compulsions and your own inspiration. This is why the way that women try to get men to do things doesn’t work because those methods only work with a woman.
When a woman’s feelings are hurt, what it means is that this vital organ in the middle of her chest has now shriveled, shrunk, and even hardened into like a [xx] in the middle of her chest. The life force that she normally receives through this organ, she's now cut off from.
I opened myself up to the possibility that men are responding to women. You're not just wonderful or just a jerk. There are actually ways that we interact with you that bring out the best or the worst in men, and the same is true for men with women. You can get the hag or you can get the queen. The problem is, by not understanding each other, we trigger the most primitive, instinctive, ugly, nasty responses in the opposite sex.
Chip August: I want to ask you something, if you're listening to this. Have you ever felt like you just don’t understand the other gender? Have you ever wonder why relationship between men and women so often start out like a fairy tale and end like a horror story? Well, Alison Armstrong is the creator of “Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women,” a series of workshops for women and men. She's the author of a new book, “Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care, and Attention from all Men,” as well as the author of the book, “Keys to the Kingdom.”
Alison has researched men for the past 17 years and knows lots and lots and lots about men and women and how to help us understand each other. Today, we're going to be talking about helping women understand men, interpret men, and get the relationship they long for with men. So welcome back, Alison Armstrong.
Alison Armstrong: Thanks. I'm glad to be here.
Chip August: Yes, I'm glad to have you here. So tell me, why did you write this new book?
Alison Armstrong: I wrote it because one of the biggest gaps in women’s education about men is understanding what inspires men to be what women would loosely call “wonderful.” [laughs] There are all these things that when a man is doing that and being that, we call him “wonderful.” Most women have had the experience of starting a relationship where the man was wonderful and then he changes.
Chip August: So now, you don’t think there are just some guys who are wonderful and some guys who just know how to do wonderful for two days?
Alison Armstrong: Actually, I don’t think so. After 17 years of listening to you, guys, and talking to you, my conclusion is that men are what I call “internally motivated.” So you're not nearly as susceptible to your environment as women are. Women are what I call “externally motivated.” So if you criticize a woman, it causes her to change. If you complain to a woman, it causes her to change. For men, your actions come from within, your actions come from your own compulsions and your own inspiration. This is why the way that women try to get men to do things doesn’t work because those methods only work with a woman.
Chip August: So basically, if you criticize me--I know this is true--I may actually change the behavior but I'll probably resent it and I'll probably do it for you rather than for us. Well, OK, but what if I have behaviors that just like don’t work for you? What do you do?
Alison Armstrong: Can I say something about the criticism part first?
Chip August: Please do, please do.
Alison Armstrong: She is [xx]. OK? In my observation, when anyone criticizes a man, what you do is, I mean, there’s a phrase, you cal it “consider the source.”
Chip August: [laughs] I actually teach men, this is a way to sort of discount the criticism that’s coming in your direction. That’s why I laugh.
Alison Armstrong: Yes, and it's a natural thing for men to be, you consider the source, if you don’t respect the source, then it just slough off. If you do respect the source, that doesn’t mean you buy the criticism; it means you now take the criticism seriously and you check it against your own internal meter, your own internal sense of self to see does it fit, does it have a basis, is it applicable?
Then, if it does, you may accept that the criticism as valid but deciding to act upon it is still separate. So it's all different stages that you go through and they're very thoughtful and it's always checking your own sense of self. Even the decision to act upon the criticism is a decision that benefits of acting upon it, are worth the effort.
Women go through a very different process. When we're criticized, to do other than what the criticism asks for, take an enormous kind of will, an enormous resistance to resist the criticism. To do other than what the criticism was implying, it takes an enormous amount of effort on a woman’s part because we are the master adaptors. We don’t even have to think about adapting, it's so much a part of how we survive. We do it naturally. So to not adapt takes a lot of effort.
Where a woman would hear that criticism, would not even occur to a man as being critical. We're that much more sensitive to what's happening in our environment. The other thing, though, that women really need to know, Chip, is the most likely outcome of a woman criticizing a man in a romantic relationship is not that he changes his behavior. The most likely outcome is that he keeps his distance. Then he calls back, “This isn't safe.”
Chip August: That’s just what I about to say. I have to say that, in general, when I work with couples, one of the things that I regularly tell people, criticism is corrosive. It corrodes a relationship. But the piece you're adding that I think I miss--this is why I'm fascinated by your work--is that I think I, as a guy, think I'm just telling you what I'm thinking; you, as my partner, feel criticized. You as a woman think you're just giving me some suggestions or you're just trying to make the relationship better; I, as a man, feel criticized. So even though we may acknowledge or premise that we don’t want to criticize each other, there we are still feeling criticized.
Alison Armstrong: Yes, deadend.
Chip August: Your way out of this is?
Alison Armstrong: My way out of it is--we like to teach women how to ask men for what they need. A criticism is a sneaky way of saying, “I'm not getting what I need,” and you should have already provided it. The basis of this is, again, men and women tend to think that we're alike. We tend to think that we're versions of each other; you're a kind of woman and I'm a kind of man. It's not true, we're so different.
So women are very--what I would call “preference collectors.” We're very sensitive to the preferences of the people around us and we store the information. Because we're preference collectors, we think that everybody is and the only reason you, as my partner, wouldn’t know my preferences is because you didn’t care enough about me to pay attention. So often, a criticism will be a reaction to, “I'm hurt that you didn’t already know I needed this and didn’t already provide it without me asking. If you loved me more, you would have done that.”
Chip August: Right, which is literally what I hear people say, “How could you say you love me and not know that this is what I want.”
Alison Armstrong: Yes, yes. I mean, in the Top Ten destroyers of relationships is that expectation that the other person could know what you want and should know what you want. Even if it goes further, we think you do know what I want and you're purposely withholding it. So then that’s where you get couples who will talk about their relationship as a struggle for power and control. When it's not actually that. It's just the other person doesn’t know, the other person couldn’t know because they don’t think the same, they don’t speak the same. They don’t use words the same way, they don’t listen the same way. We don’t even have feelings in the same parts of our body. That’s how different we are.
Chip August: Wow!
Alison Armstrong: Yes. My feelings and your feelings aren't in the same parts of our body.
Chip August: OK, so tell me more about that. I'm not actually even sure where my feelings are. [Alison laughs] I think my feelings, tell me because I think I'm a really sensitive guy who's in touched with his feelings. Even that, I think my feelings are really in my head. [Alison laughs] Where do you think my feelings are? Where are your feelings?
Alison Armstrong: Let me give you an example that’s really easy and fun to see. OK?
Chip August: OK.
Alison Armstrong: Women have I call it “extra vital organ,” and it's called “my feelings.” It's about the size of a salad plate and it's in the middle of my chest. So right smack between my bosom.
Chip August: Excuse me for being the guy here, but a salad plate is more like those little plates that they put next to the big plate when you're at a formal dining place. Right?
Alison Armstrong: Yes, about this, like the size of a woman’s hand. Not the size of a man’s hand, but if a woman put her hand in the middle of her chest, literally from nipple to nipple--that’s a good image--that’s where you would find her feelings.
Chip August: Got it.
Alison Armstrong: OK. It is in this place that we experience happiness. When we're happy, what we feel right there in the center of our chest is there's a feeling--to put a noise to the feeling--it could be like [makes sounds], you know, almost like electrical shock. It's like [makes sounds], there's expansion that happens in the middle of the chest. So there's [makes sounds] that happens when we have a feeling of happiness.
Now, that is of critical importance and there are all kinds of things related to it. But to keep to what we're talking about, when men feel happiness and it's so great with your reaction when we start talking about this because I asked men, “When you're happy, where do you feel it?” They’ll look at me like, “What are you talking about?” [laughs]
Chip August: Right, right. This is a trick question, isn't it?
Alison Armstrong: This is a trick question. They like to think it's a girl question, isn't it? But what happen and I was able to discover this and now, hundreds of men have validated it, when you're happy, where you feel it in your body is in your upper chest and across your shoulders. So it's like from one shoulder to the other shoulder, and even up into the neck. When a man feels happy, there's a swelling that happens in this area, you do what women call “pass up.” You literally look bigger.
What's really fun for me is when men have what I call a “moment of ecstasy,” so ecstasy is a big happy. Right? It's a big happy, then the feeling of happiness gets too big for the chest and it overflows and it rushes down your arms and out your hands. You'll see all these things that are completely familiar. Men will jump up and hit a beam. Do you know? They’ll jump up and grab the edge of the basketball hoop. They’ll spike a ball with all those energy going down their arm. They’ll do the Rocky, you know, the Rocky [xx] feet up on the air. So there's all these energy that [xx], down your arms and out your hands. That’s what happens when you, guys, have a big happy!
Chip August: I love it. I love it. So the reason I'm actually dancing around on the top of those steps waving my hands on the air is because it's my ecstasy expression.
Alison Armstrong: Yes, it's too big for your body.
Chip August: Got it. Got it. I want to talk more about this, but I like to pause and give our sponsors a chance to support us and a chance for us to support our sponsors. You're listening to Alison Armstrong here on “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” Just as we go to break, I just want to remind you, listeners, that you can get a free book from Audible or save 20% on Ice.com jewelry and more. If you go to the PersonalLifeMedia.com website and check out the links on my episode pages, and any place where they ask for a promo code, just use the promo code LOVE. We'll be right back after this message.
Chip August: We're back, I'm Chip August. You're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” We're talking to Alison Armstrong who is just written a book called “Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care, and Attention from all Men.” Before we took the break, Alison, you were talking a little about where happiness is located in men and where happiness is located in women. When you said the thing about women were sort of salad plate size over their heart area there and between their breasts actually, would you say there's a whole bunch of things related to that. Then we kind of went off and talk about where men’s happiness was. Tell me some of the things related to this.
Alison Armstrong: OK. Oh, boy, gosh. Well, it starts with one of the ways that men misunderstand women is that it appears to men that women make a big deal out of their feelings. We take something that’s peripheral or extraneous and we pull it into the center and make it the centerpiece. My point is it actually is the centerpiece; it is a big deal. This vital organ in the middle of our chest, you could think of as the down link for messages from the eternal. This is our connection to spirit; this is our connection to truth.
It's the reason why the word “honor” doesn’t fit to describe a woman because to be honorable is to do the right thing no matter how you feel. That’s an extraordinary quality of men. It's virtually impossible for a woman to do to be honorable because our feelings tell us the right thing. We don’t separate them the way that men do. Our feelings tell us the right thing, our feelings tell us the truth. Now, I distinguish this term “emotion.” Emotion is hormonal; emotion is--someone once described it as “energy in motion” and it is hormones moving throughout the system. Emotions are completely unreliable. Our feelings, these things that happen right in the center of the chest, women suffer when they don’t honor them.
Another thing to know about it, which is why I said we could save some lives, Chip, is when a woman’s feelings are hurt, and those are the expressions that express a woman’s word, “My feelings are hurt.” What it means is that this vital organ in the middle of our chest has now shriveled, shrunk, it may even hardened into like a [xx] in the middle of our chest. The life force that she normally receives through this organ, she's now cut off from.
Another way to say that is she's cut off from her own spirit. When that happens, it could take anywhere between 30 seconds and three hours, but her whole system can shut down. She can lose the ability to speak. She loses the ability to think clearly. Her eyes will become really sensitive to light and she won't shut like close them or she’ll be squinty. She won't be able to look at the person that she felt hurt by. That’s way, way, way too painful to do that.
What will happen is that the system shuts down, there's something I call the “rage monster.” All women can relate to this. When our whole giving life breathing system shuts down, this system fires up and the rage monster has access to the petty offense file. [Chip laughs] This is where things that mattered very little at the time, they were small insults, small injuries, really not worth mentioning, she's slough them off. When she was in good shape, she's slough them off just fine, having no idea that they’re being copied to the petty offense file.
Then when her feelings are badly hurt and she is--the expression, by the way, that men use when the same thing happens to a man, you call it “crushed,” and you see it in the same place where you're normally would be filled with happiness and power. It looks like someone broke both your collarbones and you caved in. Your shoulders cave in when you're crushed, just to relate it to your side of the story. So what happens is this voice in our heads, this rage monster opens the petty offense file and starts taking out all these little things and organizing them in the most devastating argument possible.
Chip August: Right. It's like a bad police procedural show, having arrested you, “We're not going to go back through your record and apply everything you ever did to this moment.”
Alison Armstrong: Yes, yes.
Chip August: Right. I got it.
Alison Armstrong: The thing that men need to understand is we're not in control of it. We're in there, we're in there crying. We're in there going, “Help! Save me” because this rage monster--and women do not talk about this because we're afraid we're crazy, we're afraid and that means we're crazy, so we don’t talk about this. When I do talk about it in our “Understanding Women Seminar,” women weeps. Tears just stream down their faces to find out that they're not the only one.
This rage monster is reconfiguring these offenses over and over again until it's the most devastating presentation. What triggers it being delivered, is the person who hurt our feelings has no idea they hurt our feelings. They didn’t even think that what they did could possibly hurt any with feelings and they’d never want to hurt anyone’s feelings in the first place.
They see you have this weird look on your face, and you're giving me the silent treatment and you've totally withdrawn, and it's, usually, in the tone of voice that is like, “What's wrong now?” That hooks the rage monster up to the mouth, and the invective starts streaming. The person on the other end starts defending themselves from those petty crimes, which gives more energy to the rage monster. The rage monster feeds off of that defense, and inside, we're just crying, thinking, “No, no. This isn't it at all. This isn't it at all.” [laughs]
We literally need to be saved. We need to be saved from what's happening to us. The way to save it there's, actually, magic words to save us. They're the hardest words for other people to say because to say them is a willingness to eat it, a willingness to say, “OK, I did something not horrible. You interpreted it as meaning I don’t love you and now I've to save you from the effects of your own interpretation. I should have to do that,” which is completely logical, and it's why most people won’t say the words that she needs to hear.
Saving each other from hurt feelings is one of the most important and generous things people can do for each other. It is that willingness to say, “I will take this all on myself.” The words are, “I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.” When we say those words and really mean it, which is not hard to mean it when you realize this person just got cut off from human spirit, you will really sorry I hurt your feelings. When you say that, it disconnects the rage monster. But you have to mean it, if you don’t mean it, that won't work.
The way you can tell it worked if a woman will take a deep breath to gasp for air because this whole time, she couldn’t breath. When it works, you can tell it works because she goes, “Aaahh.” We call it “rebooting.” There's a whole process that follows, you know, she will stop crying, and then there's what we call the “virus scan” for all those little petty offenses get wiped clean if you just keep going, “Oh, I'm sorry, honey. I'm sorry. Yes, I'm sorry I didn’t notice your new red shoes. Yes, I'm sorry for that, too.” Then, she's healed and the petty offense file is actually emptied. All that stress is not there.
Chip August: Yes. But it's very different than--what I notice most men really want to do is, it's that song from “Guys and Dolls”, “Sumi, sumi [sp]. All right, everybody, [xx] I'm a no good nick.” They want to push away the lift. It's like, “Oh, my God. Do I have to really tap to all of these because it pushes against my whole--you said it before--pushes against my sense of honor.” It's like, “Am I really that much of a crumb? Wait a minute, I think of myself as an honorable person and you're lifting this whole wrap sheet on me.”
Alison Armstrong: Yes. We do a couples of retreat and we were teaching the couples how to heal each other of this. What normally happens is a man will do something that a woman would never do and she interprets it as, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have done that.” That interpretation crushes him, “After all everything I do, how could you think I don’t love you?” So he’s crushed and she's hurt, and now you have two incapacitated people with our minds going wild. I mean, what I say is in a partnership, whoever can initiate this.
Chip August: Yes, that’s what I say, too.
Alison Armstrong: Yes. So whoever can apologize, whoever can say, “Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.” Then, you can get off that awful train.
Chip August: Right. I want to keep talking and I want to take a break for our sponsors here. You're listening to Alison Armstrong, I'm Chip August and the show is “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” As we go to break, I just want to remind you, at the end of the show, Alison is going to have an exercise that you can try at home that will improve your own love, intimacy, and sex in your life.
Also, I just want to say that my audience continues to grow month after month, thank you very much, listeners. If you think of someone who you know who might like the show, please would you send them a link to the show, send it their way. I think there's a lot more people who’d be interested in this kind of conversation. We'll be right back.
Chip August: We're back. You're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August. We've been talking to Alison Armstrong about men and about men and women and about understanding men. I've been listening to all these and I sort of came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s and there's seems to be a message that men were just broken. When you read “The Women’s Room”, when you read “The Literature of the Time” or was it “Women Need Men Like a Fish Need a Bicycle,” or was it [xx].
Alison Armstrong: I have that on a t-shirt.
Chip August: Yes. That was when I was raised with, and you seem to have a very different attitude about this. Can you say a moment about like why should men be celebrated? Aren't we sort of the villains of the 20th and 21st centuries?
Alison Armstrong: You certainly been painted that way and I used to think it myself. I had the t-shirt that said, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” I wore it and I was very proud of it. I was born in 1960, and our generation really grew up with the idea that we can and ought to be better men. It has had tremendous impact on our society and in our families. I bought it all until I started studying men because it wasn’t working out well with you, guys.
I opened myself up to the possibility that one, that men are responding to women. You're not just wonderful or just a jerk. There's actually ways that we interact with you that bring out the best or the worst in men, and the same is true for men with women. You can get the hag or you can get the queen. The problem is, by not understanding each other, we triggered the most primitive, instinctive, ugly, nasty responses in the opposite sex, and it's unnecessary.
If we can understand the way each other is put together, that really what we've got are Ferraris, gorgeous with enormous potential. We can have ecstatic partnership with each other by giving up the notion that you are like me, that it should be easy. There's something wrong with you if it's not easy, really embracing--gosh, we're not anything like, “Now, let's teach each other about how we work.”
When I started studying, then I thought it would be two or three months I'd learned everything that was worth knowing about you. I really did, I thought men were shallow and subhuman and that’s all the longer it take. To my great delight, I found the opposite, men are like deep, deep wells with motivations that are beautiful and powerful and really good. Yes, they can go haywire and yes, men and women are what I both call “calibrated” for a day when there was a tiger behind every tree. So we perceived threats where there are none, and become reactive in situations where it's not necessary.
If we understand that about each other, then we can go out of our way to make each other feel safe, and thereby, bringing out the best in one another. I love men, I have concluded that you are God’s gift to women. If we give up the idea that you're a hairy, rude woman with questionable relationship to your bodily functions--women think there's something wrong with men that you're not in touch with your feelings. No, your not supposed to be. There, in the nether reaches of your body, and you don’t trust them and you don’t act on them. You act on information you trust and your own values, and that is a good, good thing.
I've really adopted the point of view that we were meant to compliment each other. We weren’t meant to be alike. We're meant to have different strengths and different challenges so that we could be incredible partners for each other. By embracing that, I have the most fun. Greg and I just crack up at being girls and boys. We just laugh at how different we are and how from each our point of view, it seems like it's the only way to be.
Chip August: Well, I want to thank you so much for all this, and I want to continue this conversation on a Part 2. So listeners, this is Part 1 and there's going to be a Part 2. Before we end, a couple of things. First, Alison, if people wanted to come to your workshops or they wanted to get this new book, how can they find you?
Alison Armstrong: The best way is to go to our website, which is UnderstandMan.com. If you hear UnderstandingMan.com, that will work, too. We have articles and books and all the workshops schedules are there. The workshops for men and for women, more for women because that’s how where we started, which was straighten out my team. I think we're the one's on the offense in the so-called [xx] sexes, but lots and lots of great stuff there including the whole schedule.
Chip August: Terrific! Also, I want the listeners to know that if you just go to our website, the PersonalLifeMedia.com website, that’s all one word, you can find links from our show page to Alison’s site. You can also find transcript or text of this entire show, so if there were things you heard that you noticed you want to cut and paste, there maybe send to people, or if you want to put up on your wall, feel free to do that because we do transcribe every episode of “Sex, Love and Intimacy.”
Also at PersonalLifeMedia.com, you’ll have access to all the shows on the Personal Life Media Network. If you want to send me feedback, you can reach me Chip@PersonalLifeMedia.com. If you want to leave me a voice message, we have a voicemail system at 206-350-5333, please leave your name, please leave my show name and your question or your comment, leave a phone number and/or an email. When you leave a message, it indicates your agreement for us to use that message on air if it fits our need to do that.
We're coming to the end of this episode. Alison, is there a thing that you would recommend for women or for men and women that they could do at home that might improve love, intimacy, and sexuality in their life?
Alison Armstrong: To [xx] to what we've been talking about, I would practice saying the magic words. For men, it would be to say--if a man’s speaking to a woman or a woman speaking to a woman, “I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.” Those specific words. If you say, “I'm sorry, you’ve got your feelings hurt,” you will have a war. So “I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.” For a woman, it would be, “I'm sorry I hurt you.” He won't relate to the feelings. “I'm sorry I hurt you.”
If a couple wants to venture into this area and say, “My feelings were hurt in this moment.” The real amazing partnership thing to do is to assume that the person who it seems hurt your feelings, had a good reason for what they did. They didn’t do a bad or evil thing, it just happened to hurt your feelings. You're not asking them to defend what they did, you're just asking them, “Will you please heal me from the impact it had on me?” And you say the magic words.
Chip August: I have a suggestion for people who try this. You want to leave a pause in between--so men, when you say, “I'm sorry I hurt your feelings,” women, would you just take that in and have whatever reaction you're having. Men, it's OK, just be with the silence and be with whatever reaction happens. Women, when you say to men, “I'm sorry I hurt you,” then stop and be with the silence and whatever is going on in that moment. I notice, we feel the feelings and the tension and we try to fill it with words, and sometimes, the things we were trying to say doesn’t really land. [xx] little space.
Alison Armstrong: Yes. It's perfect what you said, it's as if you’ve just put this magical salve [sp] on a wound and you just kind of let it settle in.
Chip August: Yes, you kind of let it sit for a little bit, or it's not going to work.
Alison Armstrong: Don’t mess with it, just let it settle in.
Chip August: Yes. Alison Armstrong, I love talking to you and, in fact, listeners we're going to have her back in the next show. This brings us to the end of this show, but please join us again for “Sex, Love and Intimacy.”
Woman 2: This concludes Part 1. The interview will be continued in the next episode of this show.
Woman 1: Find more great shows like this on PersonalLifeMedia.com.