Episode 49: Alison Armstrong: Making Sense of Men - Part 2
This is part 2 of a two part interview. Welcome back 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 how women can be strong without scaring away men, how to move past blaming each other and towards seeing each other as “wonderful”, how women can get men’s attention, affection, and love. 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 2 of a two-part podcast. If you'd like Part 1, you'll find it at PersonalLifeMedia.com.
Chip August: Welcome to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August, and we are talking to, on this show, with Alison Armstrong. This is Part 2 of an interview that we've just recently done. Alison 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 “Keys to the Kingdom.”
Alison researched men for the past 17 years and knows lots and lots about men and about women and about how we communicate and about how we don’t communicate, and lots of helps to understand each other. Today, we're continuing our conversation, talking about helping women understand men, interpret men, and get the relationship stay long for women and men [sp].
Alison Armstrong: Men love strong women. You just also need her to need you, which is different in being needy. Nobody likes a needy. Needy is the whiny and snibbly [sp] and victimy and yucky and gross. But it's OK to need other people, it's OK to need support. It's OK to need help, it's OK to need and appreciate advice, it's OK to do that.
The kind of attention we've been taught to get from men and that appeals to our instincts the most is to get sexual attention. The things that appeal to men’s physical nature are what we tend to emphasize. What we don’t understand is that with these qualities, we're just appealing to a man’s physical nature. When the real goodie show up, when we appeal to man’s spiritual nature, emotional nature, and that’s when we get not only his attention but his affection.
A man will behave in a way that a woman never would have. She takes it personally and figures only [xx] if he was that if he didn’t love her or respect her, and he doesn’t love her or respect her because there's something wrong with her. Her self-confidence takes a hit, immediately tries to change into something he would love more, which means she's now less authentic. So she stops inspiring in him all the yummy, juicy behavior, and then she wonders why he doesn’t do the things anymore. She figures it out on her own because there's something wrong with her. She has lost self-confidence, and then she inspires less of the juicy behavior. She wonders why and she thinks there's something wrong with her. It just goes right down into the toilet.
Chip August: So welcome back, Alison Armstrong.
Alison Armstrong: Thank you.
Chip August: I really appreciate you making time for this second interview. There is so much more I want to ask you. When last we talked, we talked a lot about men and feelings and where men’s feelings are and where women’s feelings are. We talked a lot about just the healing power of “I'm sorry that I hurt you. I'm sorry”--you know, like the healing power of a heartfelt apology and compassion for the other person rather than blame.
I want to stay on this subject of blame for a little bit here just because there's a moment sometimes when I'm reading your book where I wonder--it feels like for 25 years or 30 years, women just blamed men. It felt like for centuries, there was no conversation. Then, forward kind of turn the whole conversation into its psychology and everybody is just neurotic. Then like the ‘70s and ‘80s and ‘90s, it felt like the conversation became, “This is what's wrong with men.” Now, I read your book and I sometimes wonder are you just turning it around and just sort of blaming women? Is that what's going on here?
Alison Armstrong: Hm, interesting. Well, no, I'm not blaming women.
Chip August: Oh, good. [laughs]
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] I actually learned to love and appreciate women from men, one of the things that men taught me was to see women through the eyes of men. Men have such admiration and appreciation for who women are and how special and unique and magical we are as beings. I never noticed it until I started listening to men talked about women, and now I see it all the time.
Now, I see the--one man put it, “Women are the unicorns in the forest.” I see that now, I see that about myself, in my daughters, in the women that I get to work with and teach. It's a really, really special thing. We have challenges; women are challenged by--that we can't see men. When women look at a man, we see a hairy woman. So how it appears to women is that you know everything a woman knows and you're not behaving right, and you're choosing to not behave right.
That’s what it seems like. It seems to women, men appear to be misbehaving. We assumed you see what women see and think what women think, you feel what women feel and you're choosing to not to act on that information the way every good woman would. The sort of [xx] behind the male bashing is that we take it personally. We think if you loved us more, you would do the right thing. We're sure you know the right thing, just you're choosing to not do it because you don’t care about us, so you don’t really respect us.
So my work isn't about blaming men or women; my work is about giving power to whomever I'm speaking to. So in making sense of man, a woman to guide trough a lifetime of love, care, and attention from all men, it's about having women understand what is it that they do that men are responding to and behaving the way that men are behaving? What are we inspiring in men? What natural compulsions in men are we appealing to by our behavior?
Instead of complaining about the results because that’s what women do, we're just mad at you for not acting right, understanding what are we doing to elicit the behavior we don’t want. What could we do to inspire the behavior we do want? So it's not about blame, it's about responsibility and it's about power. It's about being able to have the largest effect on the quality of our own life.
Chip August: You use a great term in your book. You talk about a frog farmer.
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] Yes.
Chip August: I love that in the joke. “Instead of keeping frogs to make princes, I'm kissing princes to make frogs.”
Alison Armstrong: Yes. Usually, what we do is kicked princes then they turned into frogs. Before I started studying men--and it was instigated by my friend being called a frog farmer--I just thought that men or like mean. You know, that men were mean and nasty and grumpy and selfish and distant and I had no idea that I was actually causing that. My way of interacting with men, that was their response. I learned, to my great delight, to find out there's a way for me to interact with men that brings out the opposite, that brings out the prince.
Chip August: Now, I notice, say in my personal practice, I deal with couples, I deal with individuals. One of the things that I hear from women a lot is that when the women show up strong, when they show up really competent in the workplace, when they show up as completely knowledgeable, when they show up not seeming needy, it seems like men run away. They get terrified of strong women. Yet, the thing you're advocating feels like really strengthening women, not weakening them. So how can women be strong without scaring men away?
Alison Armstrong: This is one of the beautiful paradoxes of men, that men love strong women, you absolutely love strong women. You just also need her to need you, which is different in being needy. Needy is gross, nobody likes a needy. Needy is the whiny and snibbly and victimy and yucky and gross. But it's OK to need other people, it's OK to need support. It's OK to need help, it's OK to need and appreciate advice. It's OK to do that.
Because women are so adaptable, we become whatever is valued in a relationship or in a culture. In our culture, what's valued is productivity, which is a masculine expression. So we've become very masculine and we've adopted along with that, other masculine values, one being self-sufficiency. What happens is you have a strong capable, intelligent, amazing woman proving her self-sufficiency. “What I need you for? I can do everything.”
Not knowing that she's interacting with are people who admire her and would continue to admire her even if she needed something from them. In fact, they are hoping she’ll need something from them so they can be her hero, because that’s the coolest thing to be. So that’s the paradox is it's time to be strong and successful, you just don’t have to prove it at every moment.
Chip August: So, I get it. I think, that’s true. Men want to be heroes, and I get what you're saying is women can be strong and still can leave a space for men to be a hero.
Alison Armstrong: Yes. That’s the perfect way to say it, leave the space, because that’s the problem with needing to be a hero and wanting to be a hero, is someone has to let you. You cannot force heroism on someone, someone has to leave the space, and that’s actually the definition of femininity. Femininity is space, it's a creation of space. That’s what it is, to be feminine is to leave space. It's part of who women naturally are, that we have left undeveloped in the last 30 years or so.
Chip August: So if the definition of woman is to leave space, please tell me the definition of masculine is not to take up space.
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] Well, it is to fill space.
Chip August: It is, huh?
Alison Armstrong: Yes. Masculine and feminine energy is it's just like our bodies, that’s the best image - our sex organs, masculine is all about that, “Make way!” Feminine is the space for that, the space for that generative force and it can be the most beautiful dance when we recognize the power in both sides. That’s one of the problems in our culture right now, we only recognize the power of degenerative. We don’t recognize the power of the receptive.
Chip August: God. So basically, women have to push against the cultural norm of productivity and generative. They really have to see that there's a work culture that’s really different from what's going to create good, successful relationships.
Alison Armstrong: Yes, and our graduates have been discovering incredible success by bringing what we call feminine forms of power to the workplace. They're critical in romantic relationships and in families, amazing in the workplace, what starts to happen and how, especially, men will respond by giving their best.
Chip August: Yes. I notice when I listen to you both in the last time we talked and this time, I notice that the advice you're giving and the ways you're talking about men and women, I think would be extraordinarily helpful to people in their love relationships, in their work relationships. I think even raising children, I think, if you can understand it's about your male children and your female children, it seems to me the application is broader than just men and women falling in love. Yes, it's just broader than that.
Alison Armstrong: Absolutely, and it was one of the things I was most surprised by because for the first four years of studying men and women, I was really painted as a romantic. When we started our workshops, it was our graduates who came back and told us about the amazing things that had happened with their brothers and their sons and the men that they worked with. I'm like, “Wait a second, we didn’t tell you to apply this to them?” [laughs] I remember Dawn [sp] and I looking at each other, “Great. This is much bigger than we thought.” [laughs]
Chip August: [laughs] That’s good, actually, that’s really good.
Alison Armstrong: Yes.
Chip August: We're going to take a short break and give a chance to let our sponsors to support us and let us support the sponsors. Listeners, have you listened to these messages, I just want to remind you that you can get a free book from Audible or you can save 20% on Ice.com jewelry and more. Just go to the PersonalLifeMedia.com website and check out the links that are on my episode pages and on other episode pages. Whenever you're using one of those links, instead ask for a promotion code, use the promotion code LOVE. We'll be right back.
Chip August: Welcome back. You're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August. I'm talking to Alison Armstrong, the author of “Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care, and Attention from All Men.” Alison, how do you think it's best for a woman to get a man’s attention? You know, some woman is out there in the work world [xx] somewhere and they see a man. What's the best way to get a man’s attention?
Alison Armstrong: Oh, boy. It depends on what kind of attention you want. That’s the biggest mistake that women make, I'm one of them. [laughs] I have probably 50 biggest mistakes. But the kind of attention we've been taught to get from men and that appeals to our instinct the most is to get sexual attention from men. So the things that appeal to men’s physical nature are what we tend to emphasize. We talk about this in the book - shiny hair, shapely body, sensuality, sexual energy, a lot of skin on display these days, not necessary. About 4 sq. in. of skin are enough to remind men of how delicious a woman skin is.
What we don’t understand is that with these qualities, we're just appealing to a man’s physical nature. When the real goodie show up, when we appeal to a man’s spiritual nature, emotional nature, that’s when we get not only his attention but his affection. That’s when he--the way we is that’s when he want to take care of you versus to take your clothes off. Those qualities, they're simple but not easy because of how women are built.
As we talk about it in the book, the most attractive quality in a woman is self-confidence. [xx] to what you were just talking about being strong, self-confidence is such an incredible quality and I madly in love with towards confidence is actually means with faith. So when a woman has faith in herself, how she occurs to men is wonderful; a self-confident woman is irresistible to men.
And then, right next to that, and they often go together, is authenticity. The more authentic a woman is, and the word that men use--God, I love men. [laughs] You have such a rap [sp] for being insensitive, and the opposite is true. I am [xx] that men are more sensitive than women and men will talk about women being authentic and almost always use the word “courage.” When a woman has the courage to be herself. When a woman has the courage to put who she really is out there into the world. When a woman has the courage to be direct and say what she wants. I mean, it causes enormous admiration in men, not to mention workability in a relationship, and then passion.
Lastly, which we just talked about, receptivity. A woman can have the top three and if she is not also receptive, it will fall apart because, as we were talking about, that means there's no space for men in her life. Self-confidence and authenticity and passion will draw men to her, and then there's no space for men to give their gifts and there's no space for men to give themselves; and you, guys, have to go away. So all four qualities are really important, and when a woman is those, it brings out the best in men. There's an expression you, guys, have, “She makes me want to be a better man.” It brings out--you're literally compelled to take care of us and spend time with us and contribute us and protect us. All those heroic, princely qualities that a woman would wrap up by saying, “He's wonderful.”
I started it out by saying they're simple but they're difficult for women. You know, where self-expression and authenticity and passion and receptivity are all expressions of human spirit. They're not instinctive, they're not who a woman will be when she's tired, for example. We need more sleep to have all these qualities than most women are getting these days. We need to be touched, it's one of the things that allows us to be those amazing qualities. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to take care of our spiritual self, and then men respond.
Chip August: I assume this but maybe you don’t that there's also a sort of mirroring that I see in all good relationships, that you're being self-expressive and authentic and courageous. I'm appreciating that and inviting more of it, I'm being my honorable and protective self and you are appreciating that and inviting more of it. It's really hard to do the stuff in a vacuum.
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] I'd say impossible. What it brings to mind, Chip, is actually I encourage women to be with men not of their peer group, because being the same age tends to instigate competition. When we feel competitive like we have to prove ourselves to a romantic interest, then all of that receptivity or mirroring, that you're talking about, disappears. I'm also for stacking the deck in the person’s favor.
Chip August: Tell me more about that. Peer groups just cover a lot of ground here, what do you mean?
Alison Armstrong: What I mean is the dynamic, for example, where one of the partners is significantly older than the other, and it could be the man or the woman. When there's a significant age difference, let's say about a decade or more, then there's a sense that the person who's older is so much further ahead on the path. I don’t have to try to catch up to them, I can just appreciate what they have to offer from being ahead. I can just admire them. And then, the person who's ahead in the path by being admired, they don’t have to keep proving themselves to the younger person. They can just be a space for the other person, to encourage them. They can just want the other person to win as big as they can.
Chip August: I've notice this with my own partner, it's not that we have a big age difference, we're only about four years apart. We're both successful in very different fields that she has a whole realm of success in her area that it's just not that I can only barely understand it. Then, she watches me be very successful in what I do and it's something she actually can do really well, but it's not what she chooses for a living. But I notice that it has that quality of we're peers in the sense that we're both really powerful, but we're not actually competing in any way.
Alison Armstrong: It’s great.
Chip August: Is that kind of what you mean?
Alison Armstrong: Well, that’s another way that it can work. But the point is really that whenever we felt competitive or that we have to prove to our partner, oh boy, it goes downhill fast.
Chip August: Now, I notice that I hear a lot of couples, “Well, at the beginning, he was so great, he was so attentive and then he just became a flob. I don’t know what happened. He used to take me out dancing. He used to take me out to--and now, he wants to sit around and belch at the TV and watch baseball and scratch his balls in front of people. Where did it go? What happened?” I've always heard that as the guy changes.
Alison Armstrong: Right.
Chip August: Right. But I don’t know, that seems like too simplistic an answer to me.
Alison Armstrong: I thought that that’s [xx] too. I thought you, guys, changed and they tracked it down that you changed when you caught us, and so I figured it was all a con. You're on your best behavior until you pinned us down and that really made me mad. Then I found out that men perceived that women changed as well.
Chip August: Absolutely.
Alison Armstrong: How can women turn out so wonderful and then turn out into this nibbly, bitchy nags. I call the toilet, and we describe it making sense of men, that what happens usually is a man will behave in a way that a woman never would have. She takes it personally and figures [xx] wish he was a dead man only if he didn’t love her or respect her and he doesn’t love her or respect her because there's something wrong with her. Then her self-confidence takes a hit, and she has less self-confident, immediately tries to change into something he would love more, which means she's now less authentic.
So she stops inspiring in him all the yummy, juicy behavior. Then, she wonders why he doesn’t do these things anymore, and she figures it out on her own because there's something wrong with her. Then, she has less self-confidence and then she inspires less of the juicy behavior. She wonders why and she’ll think there's something wrong with her. It just goes right down into the toilet.
An alternative is, he does something she would never do and she thinks he's a jerk. So she's no longer receptive to who he is, which means he stops doing all the yummy, juicy things, and it goes down right into the toilet. Either way, it ends up in the toilet. But it begins with the expectation that the other person knows what they want and knows what they think, and is doing something other on purpose.
Chip August: Right, right. “If you really love me, he wouldn’t behave this way.” “If she really loved me, she wouldn’t have said that.”
Alison Armstrong: Yes. One of the biggest things we don’t know--and this should be for women--is you--men is what I call a “calorie conservers” in the universe, that you, guys, will only do things that score big points. If you do something and it scores big points, you do it again, and you'll do it for as long as it scores big points.
Chip August: I hate being this transparent.
Alison Armstrong: I think it's wonderful. Women aren't like that, women will waste energies. We'll spend it on things that don’t have a big yield and it’s why we are exhausted. You, guys, just spend it on things that you think are going to make a really big difference. The problem is that women won't give enough points. If I can do what you just did, then it's not worth very many points. That’s a big mistake, because I can take out the trash but I don’t want it. Greg gets so many points for taking out the trash that I maybe the only woman on earth that has to tell him, “Please, don’t take it out yet. It's not ready.” [laughs] He gets so many points for it, he's like, “Can I take out the trash?”
Chip August: “If they come tomorrow, can I take it out this morning?”
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] Yes, he is the best trash taker out in the world, and because he gets a lot of points for it and it contributes to me. I might say I feel like I'm a princess and he's my hero saving me from the disaster full of trashcans, and it works. It's a simple example, but it's actually one of the biggest complaints that women have.
Chip August: Yes, yes, that’s a big one.
Alison Armstrong: If he's sitting on the couch--I love that image, watching television, scratching his balls--it’s because you haven’t given him the opportunity to do something more meaningful. Or, he's resting, until he has the opportunity to do something meaningful, which is a complete legitimate thing to do and I'd offer him a beer, [xx].
Chip August: Right. Conserving those calories for the moment when you can do the big thing.
Alison Armstrong: Yes.
Chip August: We have to take another break. You're listening to Alison Armstrong here on “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August. When we come back from the break, Alison will have an exercise that we can do at home. I do want to remind listeners that I love it if you think you know someone who might like this show or you heard something on the show that you think is interesting, please, please, please, let people know about the show. Send them a link, I would really like to reach more people.
We'll be right back after this.
Chip August: Welcome back. You're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August. I'm talking to Alison Armstrong, the author of “Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care, and Attention for all Men.” Alison, if people want to get your book or if they wanted to do a workshop with you or just want to know more about you, how would they find you?
Alison Armstrong: They can come to UnderstandMan.com, or if they want to have fun, go to YouTube. Go to YouTube and search Alison Armstrong. We have 10 clips on YouTube from our “Understanding Women” DVD. It's awesome.
Chip August: This is great, I'm going to do this. I love looking at YouTube clips. This is great!
Alison Armstrong: [laughs] The other place, UnderstandMan.com or go to Alison Armstrong in YouTube, it's just one L.
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Alison, we're running out of time. I hate that we're running out of time. I don’t know where the time goes when I talk to you, but it goes by so fast. I thought so many more questions to ask you, but we've been talking a lot about men and women with the assumption that really people want to get together and really want to fall in love and want to make relationships. Yet, I notice that when I ask this actually, many at my workshops, I just ask people, “Close your eyes, say the first thing that comes to your mind. Women, what a man want?” Almost always, the largest loudest voice in the room says, “Sex.”
“Men, what do women want?” Almost always the loudest voice in the room says, “Money.” Sometimes they say security, sometimes they say a house, but it's so common. I notice--I do this on three continents now--and it's the same in Australia, it's the same in England, in Germany. It's the same in Japan, it's the same in the United States. That the first answer is men want sex, women want bluff. Women want security, women want financial security. How can a woman know if a man’s really interested in her or he just wants to fool around?
Alison Armstrong: By what he ask for or by what time he calls.
Chip August: OK, so tell more about that.
Alison Armstrong: First of all, I want to say it's completely legitimate for men to want sex and need sex.
Chip August: Oh, thank God! [laughs]
Alison Armstrong: Completely.
Chip August: I'm not blaming on stopping one [xx].
Alison Armstrong: Yes, and once that they need it, one of the biggest things women can find out is what does sex provide for men? We do an exercise with couples where they share with each other what sex provides for them, and all different kinds of sex. You know, drive-bys and long sessions. At the end of that exercise, there's so willing to provide sex to each other because they had no idea it made such a big difference. Some [xx] more important information that people can share
So I don’t have any have problem with men wanting sex and I think we'll have a transformation in our society when our men can just say, “I'm looking for a lover, that’s all I really want. Anybody want to be a lover?” When he can say that out loud without shame, that will be a really good time that we finally understand and [xx] men.
Women, their response, money. Money really does, for most [xx] it sees the security or status or shiny mag pie kind of things, but it's more about security. Money makes women feel safe, and women crave safety probably the way men crave sex, and it's also completely legitimate. When we don’t feel safe, we are greed and mean. When we feel safe, we're generous and wonderful. A lot more can make us feel safe than money. You know, a man with integrity makes us feel safe even if he doesn’t have two dimes [xx].
Chip August: I often say to people, “It's not the amount of money that this person feel whole and they feel secure in their life.” Are they in integrity in their life, because you're going to fall in love with the Peace Corp worker just as easily as you're going to fall in love with the Corporate Vice-President. It's not the number of dollars, that’s just not the answer.
Alison Armstrong: A cave woman is looking for the number of dollars, she's looking for “Do you have more dollars than I have? If you don’t, there's no advantage in being with you.” But that’s cave woman and she doesn’t know what a happiness is.
Chip August: Right, right. She knows what survival is.
Alison Armstrong: Yes.
Chip August: All right. We've come to the end of another show, I really hate this. I mean, I love talking to you, I just hate that we've ran out of time. Do you have an exercise, something that people can do at home?
Alison Armstrong: Yes.
Chip August: That will be great.
Alison Armstrong: Yes. This should be an information-sharing exercise. If they don’t want to do the one I already said about what sex provides for you, this should be amazing. OK? For women, if you finish this sentence for the men in your lives, “It makes me happy when.” So finish that sentence as many times as you can. “It makes me happy when.” It makes me happy when Greg takes the trash out, and that’s why he does it because happiness, a big point on the board [sp].
Chip August: Right, right.
Alison Armstrong: So finish the sentence, “It makes me happy when.” For men, if you want to do something extraordinary, and women, you'd have to take this as sacred information, answer the question, “What I need from you that I've given up on getting is.” This is priceless information, “What I need from you that I've given up on getting is.” As a woman, if you'd be open to listening to the legitimacy of that need and figuring out what do you need to be able to provide it, you could transform your relationship.
Chip August: Wow! Those are both great. Those are great. Thank you so much.
Alison Armstrong: You're welcome.
Chip August: It has been, as usual, a pleasure talking to you and I really appreciate you making the time available for the interviews. I just want to say you're a great guest.
Alison Armstrong: Thank you, it's my pleasure. I love talking to you, Chip.
Chip August: Thank you. You’ve been listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” I'm your host, Chip August, and please listen in again next time.
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