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The Man Whisperer

Rick Johnson

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Excerpt from The Man Whisperer: Speaking a Man's Language to Bring Out His Best

What is the difference between a traditional horse trainer and a horse whisperer? The difference is a whisperer gets a Ph.D. in animal studies, examines animals in depth, and communicates in the animal's language, rather than trying to get the animal to become more like a person.

The trainer simply demands the horse comply and fit into his world. In essence, the trainer creates an obedient, castrated, browbeaten pet. Some men who have been married a long time to ultra-controlling women can relate to these geldings. Stallions are often castrated to make them more gentle and compliant. But it takes away their fire and passion for life and leadership. Stallions, not geldings, lead herds. Just like men, not geldings, lead families. (I know, mares actually lead the herd, but I'm taking liberty to make a point here.)

Some women have been forced to be leaders in their homes because they're single mothers or they live with passive, apathetic men. Other women have wrested the mantle of leadership away from their men and clung to it tenaciously like a prized trophy. Either way, it tends to castrate masculinity. And castrated masculinity is never healthy masculinity.

The horse whisperer, however, quietly observes and listens. He takes notes, and then gently enters the animal's world to make contact that is full of trust, rather than fear. The horse whisperer is compassionate, wise, and tender, yet firm. The result is an animal that trusts the whisperer because the whisperer respects the animal. They form a pleasant, mutually giving relationship, and the horse and rider are both the better for it.

The old song "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?" from My Fair Lady can be turned around to say, "Why Can't My Man Be More Like a Woman?" This is subconsciously what many women are asking, but it is the wrong question. The right question is this: "How can I get a Ph.D. in my man, so that I know how to encourage him to be his personal best self?"

Nearly every woman I talk to in connection with our Better Dads ministry eventually asks me some variation of the same question: "How can I change my man?" Generally it's phrased something like, "My husband is driving me crazy with (fill in the blank). How can I get him to stop?" In fact, the most frequent complaint men have about women is that women are always trying to change them. (The most frequent complaint women have about men is that men don't listen.) Unfortunately, the real question isn't how can a woman change a man but can a woman change a man? The answer from every man I ask this question to is, in a word, no.

On the surface it might appear a woman can change a man. My uncle was a man fraught with demons of drink and misdeeds throughout much of his youth. As a consequence, he spent a significant amount of his adult life in prison. Upon meeting his wife, he turned his life around and lived the second half as a respectable and peaceful man. It appears she changed him. But I suspect the reality is she gave him a reason to change himself. She's long since passed on now, but when I asked him about it, he said, "It finally boiled down to having a greater reason to stay sober than to raise Cain. That woman was good for my soul."

I think what women really mean when they say they want to change a man is they genuinely want to know how they can positively influence their man to help him be the best he can possibly be. Perhaps I'm giving some women the benefit of the doubt, but let's proceed under the assumption you have your husband's or boyfriend's best interests at heart. After all, you chose him like he is. You couldn't have possibly made that big of a mistake, could you?

While you may not be able to change a man, you certainly have the God-given ability to influence and motivate him in ways that border on the miraculous. In fact, your capacity to influence your man is one of the most potent forces on earth.

But to be truly effective you must understand how and why your influence works.

A woman can be like a trainer or a whisperer with a man. She can either try to bend him and change him to her will, or she can use her talents and skills to learn about him and help influence him through trust and love to be all he was meant to be.

© 2008, Rick Johnson and Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group

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