“Mateship” is a concept that’s as fundamentally Australian as drinking cold beer or sniggering at England’s middle order. Long associated with the WW1 diggers, it’s an idea that suggests men providing support for each other during the toughest of times. And thinking up really dumb nicknames.
But mateship goes way deeper than beer and banter. When you’re facing a challenge, your friends are proven to make a measurable difference to your outlook.
Researchers at the University of Virginia conducted an unusual experiment where they stood at the base of a steep hill and asked passing students to help them. Some of the students were alone, while others were walking in pairs.
Each student was given a backpack filled with weights equal to 20 per cent of their body weight. While the students assumed they were going to have to climb the hill, the researchers simply asked them to estimate how steep the climb would be.
The students who were alone perceived the hill slant to be steeper and harder to climb while carrying the weighted pack. But students who were standing next to a friend viewed the hill as less steep and easier to climb. Significantly, the longer the two friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
Hill gradients aside, it’s clearly important to stay connected and look out for your mates. But it’s not always obvious how to do that. Starting a conversation with someone who might be struggling can be hard. Often we don’t know where to start or what to say – or we worry we’ll say the wrong thing.
To help you out, there’s now a free interactive online tool, Movember Conversations that offers practical guidance on how to start a difficult conversation, how to be a good listener and how to create a setting of trust and openness with someone who might be struggling.
Based on the ALEC framework (Ask, Listen, Encourage action, Check in) developed by R U OK?, Movember Conversations presents a number of scenarios particularly relevant in today’s world: job loss, social isolation and family pressures. It uses simulated conversations to explore and practise how you might navigate a difficult conversation with someone you care about.
Movember’s Global Director of Mental Health, Brendan Maher, says development of the tool was underway before the COVID-19 outbreak, but has been fast-tracked to help men with the unique challenges we’re now facing.
“Research funded by Movember tells us that people know it’s important to have conversations to support others; however, confidence and knowledge around how to do this with men is low. What’s making things even harder are the challenges thrown up by COVID-19, and its consequences of physical distancing, job loss, financial stress and strain on relationships.
“With this front of mind, we’ve developed Movember Conversations to be an easy-to-use, practical resource that goes a step further than a static conversation guide.
“The ultimate result is that the man at the other end of the conversation feels heard, connected and supported.”
As the COVID crisis rumbles on (and on), people are unable to rely on their usual ways of getting together. Team sport is out, gigs are cancelled and many pubs still have their doors shut. That puts greater emphasis than ever on conversations as a way of connecting with your mates.
“We invite people to jump in and explore the resource,” says Maher. “It’s not about solving someone’s problems or being a psychologist; it’s about being a good partner, friend or colleague. It’s about asking, listening and encouraging action to help change someone’s world for the better. The more we see people doing this, the better the outcome will be, not only for the men who are in a tough spot and need support, but for all involved.”
Movember Conversations can be found here