It has long been said that “real men don’t ask for directions,” but only recently has it been shown that this behaviour hits guys hard in the wallet.
According to a 2010 study by British insurance company Sheilas’ Wheels, one quarter of guys avoid asking for directions for at least 30 minutes, with one in 10 refusing to ask for help at all. All this driving around while lost wastes a lot of gasoline — 444 kilometres worth of it each year on average — which reportedly adds up to more than $3,350 over a guy’s lifetime.
Just think: If we would just let go of male expectations and ask for a little help from passers-by, we would save some serious time and cash.
Not asking for help hurts
This brings us to an interesting question: WHY don’t men ask for directions? Research reveals that it may have to do with the way society teaches us not to seek help or show weakness. A set of 2015 studies, for instance, found that when men asked for help at work they were seen as less competent and confident. The same perceptions did not apply to women.
Of course, when we DO ask for help, it’s usually so we can be better at whatever we’re doing, from using heavy machinery or computers to getting from A to B. So NOT asking for help costs us by preventing improvement. This, in turn, holds us back from promotions, salary increases and job satisfaction. It also isolates guys who may be having trouble at home or outside of work, and shows how gender roles affect mental health. Never reaching out to others also causes stress and pressure to build up, which in turn can result in aggressive and self-destructive behaviour.
All that said, refusing to ask for help is just the tip of the missed-opportunities iceberg.
The benefits of being a “good guy”
Do you want to be seen and remembered as generous and agreeable, or as cold, boastful and argumentative? Beyond the happiness and relationship benefits of being a good guy, it can also make you better at your job. But again, society conditions us to take the low road.
Take modesty: On one hand, a recent study shows that modesty makes better leaders. On the other, men who were more humble in expressing their qualifications were evaluated as less likeable and weaker than modest women. In the hiring process, meanwhile, men who were more humble were seen by employers as lower in competence and less desirable to hire, compared with modest women.
Then there’s empathy, which means being open to the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of other people. Like modesty, displaying empathy has been shown to be an important leadership trait, yet men don’t seem to be given the same credit for it as women. A recent study found that empathetic female leaders were seen as being less likely to face career problems than empathetic men.
You do you, and the rest will follow
If none of this sounds fair, there are two pieces of good news: One, these societal injustices aren’t your fault; and two, no one is forcing you to go along with them. Be the good guy you want to be and see what happens. Will gender roles ever change? They will if guys like you are part of that change. Chances are you’ll be healthier, happier, and maybe even richer, as a result.
Are you trying to get a handle on your health? If so, we’ve got your back!
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Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. He’s been covering men’s health for over 20 years. As well as researching and blogging for Don’t Change Much since 2015, Adam’s award-winning work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post newspapers.