‘Listening like a close friend’
Felicitas Heyerick and Oliver Daume want men to be able to talk about their problems. That’s why these two Zurich-based actors are launching a new support service called ‘Männer reden’ – Men Talk. But they know all too well that their target clients are not exactly talkative.
You want Men Talk to be a counselling service for ‘straight, white, cis men’. Why did you choose this particular target group?
Felicitas Heyerick: It’s important to stress that Men Talk is totally inclusive. But unlike in the LGBTQIA* community, for example, there are very few places where straight, white, cis men can unburden themselves.
But do they actually need to?
Felicitas: Definitely – because people still tend to think men should be able to solve their own problems.
Oliver Daume: We men have been conditioned by society to believe we shouldn’t show weakness. I observe this constantly in myself and in my circle of friends.
‘There are still a lot of taboos among men.’
How do you mean?
Oliver: That men shouldn’t cry, that they should always be on top of things and never complain. There are still a lot of taboos among men – such as relationship problems and excessive pressure to perform.
Felicitas: We realise we haven’t exactly chosen the easiest target group. Unfortunately, men often leave it too late to ask for help.
What problems can men talk to you about?
Oliver: They can talk to us about anything – from precarious work situations to issues with their sexuality. It’s important that we’re there for them, even for seemingly minor problems. It’s a way of preventing the pressure from building up.
Felicitas: I don’t like to generalise but, in my experience, women tend to talk about their worries at a much earlier stage. This lightens the burden. We want to give men a way of experiencing this too – listening is a way of relieving the pressure. That’s precisely what we offer.
‘We focus on the person and his story.’
So you just listen to your clients?
Felicitas: We give our time and attention to those who need it. We’re not doctors or psychologists. We both work in the arts scene and are used to dealing with all kinds of people. The fact that we’re good at communicating and reading people is simply a result of our experience.
Oliver: We don’t believe our lack of professional training is a drawback, quite the opposite in fact. It’s easier for men to come to us, because they don’t have to worry about getting a diagnosis right away. It would be good to work with men over a longer period, but of course, one-off consultations are fine too.
How have you prepared for these coaching sessions?
Oliver: We have been interested in the issue of toxic masculinity for many years. We have read lots of books and discussed it with family and friends. But of course, we don’t have the perfect method for dealing with toxic masculinity.
Felicitas: We have a simple approach – we focus on the person and his story. We talk to the men and draw on our wealth of personal experience. It’s like talking to a close friend.