Skott Taylor of Evryman
SKOTT TAYLOR OF EVRYMAN
The state of the world as of late has been anything but normal. Many of us have suffered major personal, professional, and financial losses over the last several months often on top of pre-existing feelings of sadness, loneliness, or disconnection. Learning to process and talk about our emotions without the fear of judgment is a huge help.
We spoke with Skott Taylor, a founding partner of Evryman HKG, to share with us why having a safe and accepting environment for men to express themselves, which challenges the contemporary notion of what being a man looks like, is so important so that they are able to gain perspective, get support, and build the confidence they need to succeed in life. Everyone’s problems are different, but by bringing awareness to this health issue that affects men by encouraging them to actively maintain not only their physical but mental wellbeing, men can thrive during the challenges. Evryman is an organisation that helps men feel comfortable talking about their thoughts and emotions rather than pushing them aside, through group sessions.
What is Evryman and how did you get involved?
Evryman is at its core a men’s group and a space for men to come together, connect deeply with others and step into their feelings to challenge the norms of what society has taught us what a man should be. I first found the Evryman movement through an old business coach of mine. She sent me a link one day and said, ‘I think you’d really like this’. I went to the Evryman website and saw they hold outdoor retreats for men, which is something I’ve been working towards starting for a while, and immediately knew I wanted to explore this further. I was excited and scared as I had never done any form of men’s retreat before though am lucky enough to work at an amazing company that invests in our personal and professional development.
A couple of weeks later I was flying out to San Francisco for a weekend MELT (Men’s Emotional Leadership Training) retreat from Hong Kong and it’s really changed my life. From there I knew this was something that was needed in Hong Kong and I wanted to start a group here when I got back. I teamed up with two of my friends – Mac Ling and Owen Montgomery – and we founded Evryman HKG in September 2019. It’s been quite the adventure since.
What makes Evryman different and effective?
What I love about the Evryman model most is that it’s not a space for one man to fix another, to offer solutions or advice. As men, we’re so programmed to think we have to have it all figured out, that we have to have all the answers. What makes Evryman different and effective is that it has a simple framework and format to follow, built around the ROC (Relax / Open / Connect) framework, and multiple rounds of ‘check-ins’ to keep the sessions tight and focused. There’s also a strong curriculum built for the first 12 weeks of a group to help establish it, foundational agreements that hold each man accountable, and an international community to tap into for support.
At the end of the day, it’s about creating space for men to feel vulnerable, to be ok with not having all the answers, and have it all figured out – and in sharing your vulnerabilities, you realise you’re not alone. There’s another man out there that’s going through what you are.
At the end of the day, it’s about creating space for men to feel vulnerable, to be ok with not having all the answers, and have it all figured out – and in sharing your vulnerabilities, you realise you’re not alone."
During your time volunteering, how have attitudes changed towards men seeking to improve their well-being?
I think there’s a general consciousness shift of well-being that’s happening around the world that’s normalised self-care, mindfulness, diet, sleep and exercise a lot more than it’s been in the decades past. Because it’s so mainstream now I feel it’s given men the permission to try something they would not have before because of its much more part of the conversation. Mental well-being is such an important topic these days and I think it’s shifting that perception that it’s ok to be not ok – especially during this pandemic.
How does Evryman forge connection and vulnerability amongst complete strangers?
I’m continually blown away at how close a group of strangers in Hong Kong have become some of my best friends, who I know have my back and are pushing me to be the best version of my authentic self. The big thing with the group is that it becomes a leaderless group where each man is leading by example.
A big part of Evryman is being vulnerable, and when you see it modelled before you by other guys – and being called out if you’re not – it creates a level of trust I’ve yet to find anywhere else. To have that balance of emotional and physical safety while really being challenged to go deeper into your experience is something really unique. I also believe the whole ethos of holding space for men, not trying to fix them, is so powerful and further helps men step into that opportunity of understanding themselves better. That being said, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok too. It’s hard (emotional) work which in itself, through hardship and shared experiences, forge these deep bonds.
What is the philosophy around not giving advice in your group meetings?
As men, our tendency is to fix what seems to be broken, analyse a problem, reduce it to its key parts, and put it back together. In Evryman we actively avoid giving advice to other men in the group as we’re not there to fix any man, we’re there to create space to be seen, heard and spoken authentically to. We ask each other questions to help the other man get back to their feelings – to articulate what they’re feeling, not the narrative they wrap around their feelings. For most men this is a challenge as instead of being present, living in our bodies, we spend so much time in our heads – in our stories. We’re there to feel, not fix.
Have you experienced any personal breakthroughs through Evryman or witnessed any with others?
Personally, I’ve witnessed men’s skin change a healthier colour after going deep in a session – their physical posture looks like a weight had been released. I’ve seen confidence return and safety created by knowing they have a group of men that support and love them for who they are and who they want to become. For me personally there’s been a number of breakthroughs, especially around better understanding and being able to articulate my core emotions. I had a powerful experience around my relationship with anger in San Francisco that has helped me create awareness that there is more work to be done. From that awareness you can create intention and action to be a healthier version of myself.
Also, being able to do this in a safe and accepting environment has been huge in helping me in my personal development as a husband, father, son, brother, and colleague. Seeing the men in my group come into their confidence to share their vulnerabilities has been a really powerful experience and every week I’m grateful to continue the work.
How does someone tap into their emotional intelligence and what are some of the hardest barriers to overcome to achieve EI?
The core framework that Evryman uses is the ROC formula. There’s a strong foundational belief of using the somatic experience (what we physically feel in our body) to help men enter into their emotional experience. One of the hardest barriers I see in this work is the emotional atrophy most men have in their vocabulary, in how they are able to express or acknowledge their foundational feelings of sadness, shame, fear, anger and joy. So, every session at Evryman starts with a guided meditation, to help men slow down – get out of their head, where we love to live – and into their body. Our body physically feels our emotions before our brains can process it, so the more you practice noticing where you’re holding tension and stress in your body the more you can go deeper into that feeling and explore what is creating that tension in your life.
The big challenge here is that we’re master storytellers and can often try and trick ourselves from deeply feeling something by telling a good story. The beauty of the group as it evolves is the trust and love in the system to call that out and help bring the man back to his feelings. For a lot of men, sitting with their feelings is a foreign and uncomfortable place – and in discomfort is where we grow.
Why do you think emotional accessibility and success are so closely linked?
The more I unpack the emotional leadership skills and practice that Evryman has introduced me to the more I feel I have perspective, support and the confidence I have to succeed in living the life that I want for myself. I really believe that a core capability of creating authentic connections (which leads to trust and opportunities to apply the best version of yourself) is being able to both emote and empathetically connect with other people. When you are seeing and hearing others at a level deeper and speaking vulnerably and authentically I feel you’re able to experience more of the spectrum of life, of being alive – therefore being able to show up consistently to pursue your dreams.
The more we realise that we’re not alone in our struggles, our fears, and our challenges, the more we can take on the more meaningful conversations, relationships, and challenges in life."
What is the key to destigmatizing male vulnerability and emotion?
I think the first key is to realise that we’ve been brainwashed into believing the contemporary version of what it means to be a man. What we see in the media, movies, social media – of what it means to be a man – is really starting to show its cracks.
I think the key to destigmatizing male vulnerability and emotion is to look at it in the same way as how men look at their physical health. The amount of work and dedication to become emotionally strong to lead yourself, your family, your business, or your job is the same as our physical health. We need to put the work in and give ourselves the time and attention to learn what it means to be a more balanced version of what being a man is. Everyone feels because it’s part of the human experience. The more we realise that we’re not alone in our struggles, our fears, and our challenges, the more we can take on the more meaningful conversations, relationships, and challenges in life.
How, as supportive partners, can we encourage the men in our lives to find others to talk to and open up?
For me, the biggest support my wife gives to me is the space and time to commit to going every week to Evryman. We talk so much about self-care and prioritising what we eat, what we drink, how we exercise – having the space to have that time for me, away from the family, makes me a better husband and father when I’m back. I also feel that a lot of men just don’t know where to start with this kind of group. There’s not a lot of groups that I’ve found or heard of that focus on the emotional leadership that Evryman does. I also find that the format and the structure of the group is simple and really helps men go deep, fast. Keep supporting your men to go; though at the end of the day it’s up to them to really show up.
What advice would you give to men who are curious but unsure they want to dive into their emotional health?
Reach out to myself or the Evryman community here in Hong Kong, come out to an open session and see what it’s all about. See if you like it and connect with the other men. Like I said before, it’s not for everyone - though it’s open to every man.