As a researcher and educator around men’s emotional well-being, Brendan Kwiatkowski is here to help break the stigma around men’s emotional expression. Unfortunately, men have been taught to suppress and restrict their most vulnerable emotions, leaving them disconnected from themselves. 

Join us as Brendan shares about the social pressures that men face, the impact of connecting with your inner child, and the importance of emotional intelligence. This conversation is full of eye-opening insights that everyone can benefit from and is a must-listen!

In this week’s episode, we discuss:

[02:04] About Brendan Kwiatkowski

[03:20] What led Brendan to become a researcher and educator 

[06:25] Suicide and hopelessness

[08:41] The amount of pressure on men

[11:54] Emotional expression in men and women

[15:51] The 3 different masculine pressures to fit in 

[21:43] Tapping into your authenticity 

[26:08] Navigating gender roles in society

[31:25] Connecting with your inner child

[36:17] The importance of checking in with ourselves

[40:31] Holding space for distress

[44:26] Emotional dysregulation around past wounds

[47:22] Emotional intelligence

[54:19] One of Brendans favoirite dates

About Brendan Kwiatkowski

Brendan Kwiatkowski is a researcher and educator focused on the social-emotional development and well-being of boys and men—and how that intersects with the well-being of others. His PhD research investigated teenage boys’ experiences and beliefs about being male and compared their experiences based on their levels of emotional expression. He is passionate about positive-focused and person-centered research that humanizes and empowers participants, as well as research that is transformative and practically useful for people in the real world. He lives in Vancouver, BC, where he teaches at a local university.

What led Brendan to become a researcher and educator 

Brendan was a high school teacher when he found the statistic that around 81% of all students diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders are male. This led him down a path of education where he developed a program for male teenagers with behavioral needs. Knowing that there is so much complexity around emotional expression, he wanted to research this complexity as part of his PhD. He has also been led to this area of work because he has been impacted by male suicide in his life. 

Suicide and hopelessness

Brendan shares that there was a study in the UK that found that 91% of middle-aged men who died from suicide sought help one month before that. So even though it is difficult for men to seek help and show their emotions, this feeling of hopelessness mixed with life circumstances seems to exacerbate the situation. 

The amount of pressure on men

Men and women have different pressures placed on them. Sometimes men put pressure on themselves to be the breadwinner. Even though women are working more and doing a lot at home, there is still a lot of pressure on men to have their finances and emotions in check. Many men feel as if they are vulnerable with a woman they will use that against them so they bottle it up instead.

Emotional expression in men and women

Through his research, Brendan found that the boys who were most emotional preferred to talk about their more vulnerable emotions such as sadness or fear with the women in their lives. Brendan shares that women are often a huge source of an emotional connection for men but women often wish that it was more reciprocated instead of being a one-sided sounding board. Women do more of the emotional labor in a relationship.

Brendan also found that the boys viewed their male relationships differently than their female relationships. With their male friends, they wanted to have fun and only share things that they were angry about vs talking about deeper things with their female relationships

The 3 different masculine pressures to fit in 

Brendan found that the transition from elementary school to high school was a pivotal period. By grade 12, all of the boys said that the masculine pressure to fit in was at its highest. The ways that you fit in are by restricting your emotions, being physically tough, and not letting things bother you. Brendan identified three different categories of responses to pressure.

The first is the willingly adhering boys. When they are faced with the pressures, they look up to their father and say “This is how I become a man and I do not see anything wrong with this”. Then there is the reluctant adherence where saw the flaws in adhering to the pressure and wished that they had more of an emotional connection to the males in their lives. The last category is the internal and external resistance to pressure. To resist these pressures, they internally felt like something was wrong and it felt inauthentic. 

Tapping into your authenticity 

Celeste shares how important it is to tap into your authenticity but it is not always easy because many men have not grown emotionally since being a teenager. Brendan shares that the most restricted teenage boys all knew when and why they started to restrict their emotions. Each of them remembered why and what was going on around them to do so. He says that the longer you have been disconnected from parts of yourself, the more difficult it is to get reconnect with them. 

Navigating gender roles in society

We need to find a balance between traditional roles and what works for you and your partner. What works at a personal level may not work at a collective or societal level and vice versa. Brendan shares that he likes the perspective of Dr. Richard Rohr where he talks about society’s movements going from order to disorder to reorder. If you look at traditional gender roles, we are currently in disorder – working to reorder and see where we all fit in. 

Connecting with your inner child

Women want men who know themselves and to know themselves they have to spend time with themselves. Many little boys are cut off from their emotions because of fear of judgment, fear of being a burden, and fear of experiencing trauma. He recommends that the first step of reconnecting with yourself is to be with your inner child. There you can cultivate a sense of safety and you can hold your own in a gentle respectful way. 

The importance of checking in with ourselves

Brendan shares that men can often be in a limbo state and not know what is best for them. For example, going to the gym could be a way to disconnect after a breakup or it can be a source of embodiment to get connected with yourself. It takes honesty and reconnection with yourself to know this. He shares that sometimes we need to set aside everything on the internet and just check in with us. This is not always easy because the longer we have been disconnected from ourselves the more difficult it is to reconnect. But this is possible and men can know themselves on a deeper level. 

Holding space for distress

Brendan wishes that when anyone expresses their lived experience other people could hold space for their distress and discomfort instead of being logical. This could save so much in relationships. If women feel seen and heard in what they are trying to say, then it is also easier to hear men and what they are doing. We can learn a lot by listening to others’ stories while feeling and facing what is coming up for us. 

Emotional dysregulation around past wounds

When we get activated or triggered by a situation, we get tunnel vision. Brendan shares that he has learned how dysregulation feels in his body and can now recognize when this is happening. He shares that when you are triggered, internally reflect and ask yourself “What is this saying about me?” For example, if a woman says that a man is not doing enough and he gets triggered by that, it may be because of a past wound of feeling not enough. When we learn to get back into our bodies and start to notice these sensations, it will improve our lives. 

Emotional intelligence

Brendan says that emotional intelligence contains four different attributes: Identifying your emotions, understanding your emotions, regulating your emotions, and navigating your emotions. Identifying your emotions might start as a physical feeling in your body because our emotions are attached to our bodies, not in our heads. So we may think that men who shut down their emotions don’t have them but research has found that men have a higher body reactivity to emotional stimuli, even though their faces are not showing that. 

From Brendan’s research, you could argue that the boys who were highly emotionally restricted were emotionally aware because they were able to hide their emotional states from others. Even the highly emotionally restricted boys were very aware of their emotions, it’s just that they have been taught to ignore or suppress them. 

One of Brendan’s favorite dates

Brendan’s favorite date was the first one with his now-wife. They went canoeing to a waterfall, had a picnic, and just sat outside in nature and talked. He loved that they got to go on this adventure together and he feels as if he set the bar really high with this first date. 

Connect with Brendan:



Tik Tok


Exploring Masculinity and Emotional Intelligence with Brendan Kwiatkowski

March 25, 2024