Tears OK at times

first_img Don’t bury your son’s handkerchief just yet. Crying in public has damaged many a career, but that may be changing. Consider the tears shed by a couple of our fearless leaders. In February 2003, President George W. Bush had tears in his eyes when he reported the loss of the space shuttle Columbia to the nation. Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican who spoke out against one of the president’s controversial nominees, choked up on the Senate floor. Acceptance of men crying is growing, says William H. Frey II, author of “Crying: The Mystery of Tears” (Harper, 1985), who attributes the change to evolving attitudes about leadership. “Back when President Kennedy faced off against Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Cuba and Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table, Americans thought we needed politicians who weren’t going to blink in heated discussions,” Frey says. “What we learned in the decades since is that if people were hiding their feelings in those situations, they might also be hiding them from the American public.” The growing acceptance is a good thing for men, 50 percent of whom never cry (compared with 6 percent of women). “Most men from the time they were 12 or 13 have suppressed their crying. Because it’s difficult to get really upset and not cry, men have to detach from their feelings,” says Frey. “We know unalleviated stress can damage your heart and your brain.” People feel better after they cry because it helps reduce the harmful effect of stress on the body. Furthermore, the taboo against crying has sexist roots. Here’s the logic: Since more women than men do it, crying is behaving like a woman. Behaving like a woman at work is generally not considered an asset. But as Frey astutely points out, in the current business climate, short on employee-employer loyalty and human connections, any signal that you are emotionally invested in your work could be a big plus. “Wouldn’t it be a good sign if someone who processed a mistaken health insurance claim, or who had to fire a slew of employees, shed a tear?” he asks. Obviously it’s not going to help your son to carry his heart on his sleeve constantly. Have a frank discussion about when it makes sense to express feelings and when it might be better to keep them to himself. Then pat yourself and him on the back. A teenage boy who is not afraid to shed a few tears may grow into a man who is honest with himself, open with his colleagues and emotionally wrapped up in his occupation – the kind of person we’d all like to supervise, work for and buy things from. OK, folks, this calls for another contest. Males only! The first two male readers (one responding by mail, the other via e-mail) who share an example of when they cried at work, or when they felt like crying but didn’t, will win a free copy of my book. A confession: The book includes a couple of pages on – you guessed it – how to keep from crying. Leslie Whitaker is co-author of “The Good Girl’s Guide to Negotiating.” Write her at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Dear Leslie, I am worried about my son’s ability to succeed in the working world even though he’s still in school. He’s smart and a hard worker, but he’s very sensitive. Even though he’s a teenager, he still cries from time to time. On the one hand, I want him to express his feelings, but what if he cries on the job? If I want him to succeed in the future, shouldn’t I start encouraging him to be less emotional now? Dear Reader, last_img