Picture this – you are giving some work-related updates to your male boss and every couple of sentences, he interrupts you to explain something obvious or something you already know. This explanation or “guidance” comes in an especially patronizing tone, not one that your boss uses with equals or rather, other men. Men do this a lot, and often inadvertently, conditioned as they are to expect women to always be second-rung to them.
So how does one put an end to unnecessary mansplaining without having to resort to a job, team, or career change, or coming across as unprofessional? Since men often refuse to pick up on the nuances of these sensitive conversations, the onus to set things right often does fall on us. But we can’t just give up, can we?
Take your rightful share of the conversation
Speak up! There is no better way to get your voice heard. Remember, nothing is going to change if you keep quiet. You need to sound confident. So speak up more often, interrupt if you have to, but say your piece with authority. Replace the “I am not sure but I think…” with “Here’s what I think…” and see if that changes anything. Also, when interrupted, ensure you let the other person know you haven’t finished talking. Don’t let someone else take over your time or opportunity to make your opinion count.
Don’t react, respond
Maintaining a calm and professional exterior is important. Mansplainers, or anyone else for that matter, are unlikely to take too kindly to being yelled or shouted at. Take a deep breath, and compose yourself, mentally and physically. Politely point out the mansplaining while encouraging dialogue instead of resorting to a blame-game.
Ask valid questions
Given that most mansplaining often comes not from a very deep understanding of the subject but just a very momentary need to “be a man”, asking valid questions helps too. Ask for the source of their information and question their authority on the subject. If the mansplainer has his facts wrong, don’t hesitate in pointing it out. But a word of caution – take that road when you are sure about the subject. Else there is no harm in listening and learning.
Use the power of facts
Following up on the previous point, if you know the mansplainer is mistaken and you can back it up with facts and statistics, don’t hesitate to bring out the big guns. As mentioned earlier, mansplainers can frequently attempt to wax eloquent when being quite wrong themselves. Pointing out this flaw will not only help shut down the conversation, it will also do wonders for your confidence and credibility. Who knows, it might even stop other mansplainers!
When nothing works, make a joke about it
I’d probably start with this. Workplaces are no longer hierarchical, eerily quiet places anymore. Open plans have ensured a far more equal footing for individuals at all levels. Jokes and conversations abound. Use this to your advantage and make a joke about the mansplainers at work. Humour works much better than heated conversations when it comes to cultural changes or changes that require individuals to shed social conditioning. I am all for it!