Eight Surefire Ways To Tackle The Office Mansplainer
Ever been interrupted whilst talking? I unfortunately know that the answer is yes and will share with you some insights on how to stop it and feel empowered whenever you face any of these rude interrupters.
The introduction of "mansplaining" as a word may be new, but the phenomena of a mansplainer has existed for much longer. Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 article, Men Explain Things To Me, brought the term forward, and although its meaning has been disputed and reinterpreted, the term, as Solnit uses it, deals with patronizing men.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary editors, mansplaining is “to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing." Lily Rothman, in her Cultural History of Mansplaining piece, elaborates it as "explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman." In other words, mansplaining is the prehistoric and eternal phenomenon where men talk down to women by explaining simple concepts as if to "enlighten" them.
Although, mansplaining can happen anywhere and at any time. You can be mansplained at home, at school, even with your friends. However, most frequently, mansplaining happens to women at work. In fact, according to Kristin J. Anderson and Campbell Leaper’s study Meta-Analyses of Gender Effects on Conversational Interruption, men are more likely to interrupt, particularly in an intrusive manner.
Another study by Adrienne Hancock and Benjamin Rubin also showed that compared to men, women are more likely to be interrupted, both by men and by other women. It was shown in a 2014 study at George Washington University that when men were talking with women, they interrupted 33% more often than when they were talking with men.
So, why do men do this? People tend to dominate conversations and interrupt when they feel more powerful than others in the room or when they want to signal power to others. According to world-renowned gender communication expert Deborah Tannen, men speak to determine and achieve power and status.
When you are being mansplained, it is usually from someone who thinks they are more powerful than you, and especially in a workplace. So what you want to do is disempower them. We beta tested some techniques that could be useful for you. Here are a few steps on how to disempower a man at the workplace in the smartest and subtlest way possible, and without needing to poke the bear.
1. Be patient and don’t lose your cool- be methodical and be timely.
2. Pick up the phone- if he begins his tedious efforts of enlightening, just pick up your phone and begin using it. Show him that you are jaded- that you know this information already by responding every now and then with, "I knew this," "Of course," "Doesn’t take a genius," while scrolling through your Instagram account.
3. Another way to shut a mansplainer without causing aggravation, is simply to remind him that you are smart and on this. If someone at the workplace tries to enlighten you with how to do your job, just simply say something along the lines of, “Don’t worry; I’m already ahead of you on that one.” And give more information: use their own tactic on them.
4. Imagine you are presenting, and this mansplainer decides to interrupt you so that he can enlighten us with some information you already know and are getting to, your solution is simple: raise your voice and lower them down. Lower their volume with your open palm and raise your voice to overpower them.
5. Another way to deal with an interrupting mansplainer in a presentation is through using your eyes. Maintain eye contact with the mansplainer as he is in the midst of the interruption, and keep talking to your audience nonetheless. This will signal that you are noticing the mainsplaining and that you will maintain your role as main speaker despite the attempt.
6. If you are dealing with a chronic mansplainer, and you already know what is going to happen the moment he opens his mouth– just simply make sure he doesn’t get the chance to. Give him something to eat beforehand, keep his mouth busy so that he doesn’t get to open it.
7. Mansplainers usually lack the expertise and the knowledge on the subject-matter at hand, so provoke that. Ask detailed questions to make them question their own knowledge.
8. Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. A proven way to gain attention is to say in a dramatic and assertive way, ”You are right..." and then reclaim the conversation back. A suitable sentence would be, ”You are right, and that is exactly what I wrote in my previous report." Or similar expressions that showcase that you had these original thoughts and that you were indeed right to begin with.
While it would be ideal to stop mansplaining as a whole, in the workplace and elsewhere, the reality is that such a phenomena exists because of realms way beyond our control. Culture, tradition, upbringing, superiority complexes- these are some of the few rationales behind the life of the patriarchy. However, what we can do as women is to realize the strengths and power of our voice, and dictate that to whomever challenges it. Noticing the problem is a great step- now, take action against it.