Mansplaining and Manterruptions
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s Words We’re Watching, “Mansplaining is, at its core, a very specific thing. It's what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does.”
Manterruption is not a word on Merriam-Webster’s watchlist but according to Time.com, is the “unnecessary interruption by a man.”
To be honest, I struggled a bit to write this article because my experiences with mansplaining and manterruptions are limited to date. I have seen and experienced unnecessary explaining and interruptions often, but truthfully, they are often a conflict between those that are more senior/more vocal and more junior/less outspoken. Plenty of times in finance, it’s man vs. man.
I do feel that the manterruption is less hostile than the mansplaining. Male colleagues tend to think they are “helping out” when manterrupting and actually have good intentions by providing more data/background info, etc. What they don’t realize though, is the inadvertent effect of lowering the confidence of the original speaker (often times, a woman) that can cause her to clam up, not just in that situation but for future meetings as well.
Regardless of which situation you may face, here’s my take on how to handle both:
When you come across a mansplainer…
Remain professional and let him finish what he had to say. If it sounded similar to what you just said, you have two options: (1) Pick your battles and don’t bother re-asserting that you just made that same exact point. Trust me, there are PLENTY of times where others in the discussion noticed and he’ll just look silly for doing so; or (2) Do assert yourself by saying “I couldn’t agree more as that was my point exactly.”
When you come across a manterrupter…
If he’s a well-intentioned manterrupter, thank him for adding his points but make sure to bring the focus back to you. If he’s doing it to hear the sound of his own voice, be assertive, DON’T thank him, and refocus the conversation. To refocus, you can phrase something along the lines of “Going/circling back to our main point...” or simply, “Moving on…”
I’ve also come across mansplaining when it comes to assigned projects or tasks. When given a task where I have gone back for clarification, I’ve experienced moments where it’s almost like the task gets “dumbed down” just because I asked follow up questions. I am not asking because I didn’t understand the ENTIRE assignment, I asked because I needed help with specific parts that the assigner did not fully explain or the directions were unclear. The best approach to resolving this has been to approach the assigner with some ideas to hash out and suggest a brainstorming session so that the (likely more senior) assigner doesn’t respond in a mansplaining fashion!
What have your experiences been with mansplaining/manterruptions? Share below!