Why It’s So Powerful for Men to Admit Their Faults

Many find it nearly impossible—but it can be transformative.

A man in contemplation.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by benzoix/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

On a recent episode of Man Up, Aymann Ismail tried to figure out why so many men—including him—feel uncomfortable asking for help, even when they badly need it. His guest was Dan Doty, co-founder of the men’s group Evryman. Over the years, Doty has helped countless men get more comfortable asking for help—and he has a very blunt way to get started. In the interview, Doty challenged Ismail to make an unfiltered list of his shortcomings, and things got complicated. Below is a small excerpt of their conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

Aymann Ismail: This is where I get tripped up. It’s acknowledging that you have your own shortcomings. This is really, really hard for me.

Dan Doty: Can I share what helps?


What helps other men is hearing other men go first and lead by example, and I believe this to the bottom of my heart. So, some of my shortcomings are I have a really rocking dad bod right now, and I feel ashamed of it. I help people be vulnerable and I help others sort of get true with themselves, but I still have a lot of blind spots myself. I still hurt my wife’s feelings a lot, and it sucks because I don’t always know when I’m doing it, and I’m certainly not trying to do it. But I’m kind of like a bull in a China shop, and I kind of trample on people. It’s just because I’m not aware. Another shortcoming is that I’ve been an entrepreneur with my business, and I was super naive coming in, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and my financial situation has struggled because of it. And I could keep going. I could probably fill the next half-hour with shortcomings.

All right, let me try. I think the secret here is we’re just going to say it and nobody’s going to judge anybody. That’s the secret. I feel like I can be a little antisocial sometimes at work. I just kind of put my head down and put my headphones on. So that’s something I feel shameful about. It seems like everybody is so friendly but me. I also feel like I could be a lot in my own head. I’m speaking my own language sometimes, and that’s something I feel shameful about. I play a lot of video games, and I feel like as an adult I really shouldn’t be doing that. You know? I feel like I really just want to sometimes, even when I’m hanging out with friends, just go home and play video games instead. That goes counter to—

You’re doing great.

It’s so hard. It’s so hard man.

It is, but as I’m listening to you, I want you to hear what’s happening inside of me just so you get that feedback. As you shared those vulnerable things, I immediately felt like I knew you better. I felt a sense of compassion and closeness. I felt more drawn toward you and I felt like our conversation now from this point out can be more deep and more direct and more to the point. These are the things that truly build relationships quickly. This forthright, vulnerable place. I’m not blowing smoke here. I’m being real. I feel closer to you now than I did before you shared those things.

Wow. It feels like everything that I was afraid of didn’t happen, and that’s reassuring.

Isn’t it wild?

That’s what I want. I really want that part of my ego to be gone. So that I can have the courage to talk about my own shortcomings with anyone. I’m really disappointed in myself that it took a lot out of me to address that. That sucks. What are some things that I could do to practice? How could you get someone like me to get to where you are?

We’ve actually done a lot of it in this call already, and the first step to any of this is you got to slow down. To catch up with what we feel and our truth and what’s actually happening in us, we can’t get there if we’re moving at a digital speed. We’ve got to unplug the phones, earphones, we’ve got to take a little time. We’ve got to actually make space to notice what we feel and what’s true for us. So we have this three-step process called the ROC formula. The first is relax. What that actually means is slow down. We’ve got to get out of our normal flow and we’ve got to get out of our head really, that’s part of it. We need to move out of our head and get down more into the body and the feeling state and notice what’s going on.

I need to do that so bad.

So the first step is relax. The second is to open up and that means open up to what you feel. It’s that step of awareness.

So first on a big level, but then on a moment-by-moment level. And it’s like: my feet are cold, my belly feels tense and tight, my shoulders are uncomfortable. Actually I’m feeling really alive and joyful right now. I love talking about this. So that’s a process you can start to do. You can start to do little check-ins with yourself where you’re like, “All right dude, what’s actually going on?” Then the third step is see or connect. And what that means is speak up. Just say what’s true. That little three step process, that’s what we train and practice. Getting practice to slow down, feel what you feel, l and be honest about it to other people. That simple process is revolutionary.

To hear the entire episode, subscribe to Man Up on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for the episode “A Man Learns to Cry Again.”