1 July 2020

Putting conversation into practice

Cameron Daddo on the importance of conversation practice amongst men

It’s a scenario you may be familiar with…
I’d just finished eighteen holes of golf with three blokes I know fairly well. We’ve played a few times together. Today’s match was the tie-breaker in a best of three. My partner and I had managed to take their money on the seventeenth green. Conversation during the match was light, some good sledges to be had and the only tension came when the group behind us asked us to pick-up the pace. We hated that.
Back in the warmth of the clubhouse, “the losers” bought the drinks. We sat down to enjoy a rest from the wind and the hills, whilst watching our scores appear on the tv screen; our chat light as we bantered about missed opportunities.
Our conversation meandered from the golf course, to what’s for dinner, the footy, and then something about the news when I hear the words: "Australia copies everything America does. We didn’t have a problem here with #blacklivesmatter here before all that went down?”
The veritable record scratch. How did we get here? What to say now?
I love the company of men. I remember as a boy, watching my father with his mates - he loves his mates, and I wanted that feeling of mateship I saw them enjoying.
Yet I often feel lonely around men. I can banter and sledge but at the end of the day, I am often left with a hollow feeling.
On many occasions, I have allowed feelings of needing inclusion to direct what I will and won’t say when I’m with the guys. I want to be the guy that people want to be around, not someone that makes people uncomfortable… especially by instigating difficult conversations.
Typically, my discernment kicks into high gear and I will pick my moments and who I share my words with. That’s social survival, and I think it’s safe to say, we’ve all played that game before.
We learned to play it as kids, behaving in the ‘right way’ when we ask ourselves, “What’s gonna get me the treat?”
And here I am today, a public person of sorts. My heart is out there on my sleeve supporting causes I feel will make our world better and yet; I have often shied away from the lesser, everyday moments. Moments some argue, are the big moments because they’re unscripted, unplanned. Frightening.
Back in the clubhouse…
My response to the question went something like this: “Does it matter where the issue gets raised for it to be addressed by each of us? I think it’s a great opportunity for us all to look at where we are privileged, how we are racist…. I’m pretty sure this is the issue with Australia’s Aboriginal population. I know I can do better.”
And so the conversation began, easy as that. It never drifted into judgment, meaning I didn’t feel judged and nor did I feel as though I was judging them.
I didn’t have the desire to convince anyone of my point of view, only the desire to hear theirs and respond.
We sat there for another 45 minutes, bought another drink and talked.
Later one of the guys texted me: “I can’t think of anyone I would’ve preferred to be at a table with when a conversation heads toward racism and the power of language etc. I would certainly have changed the subject, but you took it on, so I was able to speak.”
A bigger compliment I could not have received.
But this is not about compliments or kudos, this is about having the wherewithal to engage in conversations; the prickly ones, the uncomfortable ones. In my experience, they often begin feeling that way, but when we listen and respond, we can find ourselves in very different territory.

“This is about having the wherewithal to engage in conversations; the prickly ones, the uncomfortable ones. In my experience, they often begin feeling that way, but when we listen and respond, we can find ourselves in very different territory. ”

I could not have experienced a more timely example of how MyMensTeam benefits me. I don’t know if I’d have been as well equipped to have had this conversation if I hadn’t already “trained” for it with my teammates.
“Did you have this conversation in your team?”, you may ask. No, not this exact conversation, but we have had many versions of difficult conversations and through practice and experience, it never occurred to me in that moment that I couldn’t engage with my golf mates.
Yes, I had trepidation, but it’s the practice of conversation, the emotional muscle memory of my TEAM work and the influence of others in my life, that has equipped me to engage with confidence and respect.
I am learning so much from teammates in MyMensTeam. It’s not therapy - we’re not experts so we don’t give advice - we’re regular guys who want to be better men. We come together at least once a month. We check in, we choose a topic to discuss and off we go.
What we are unconsciously doing is practicing ways to talk to each other, and the fruit of it is how we are able to then have a conversation with our loved ones; our wives, kids, parents and friends.
Because we’ve had the experience in our team already, we are rehearsed and better equipped to engage in "measured and enlightened and easy” conversations with others.
Emotionally and physically healthy men make better partners, dads, and mates.

- Cameron Daddo, Creator of Men's Team

To find out more about Men's Team visit mymensteam.org