Imagine being in a meeting, and your male co-worker interrupts you, then condescendingly explains something he thinks he knows more about, then continues to take over the discussion.
In another meeting, a male co-worker dominates the discussion and goes on and on and on. Taking input only from other male co-workers and disregards any information from female co-workers.
These are frustrating situations to experience, yet common ones that most women have faced in the workplace. Mansplaining, manologues, and manterrupting explain various communication issues that occur between men and women in the workplace. Let’s take a look at the meaning of each term.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines mansplaining as “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.” A famous example of mansplaining occurred in 2009 at the VMA awards when Kayne West jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift and explained why Beyonce deserved the award and not Swift. Studies show that men speak more in meetings, are more likely to interrupt, take over the conversation, and less likely to concede the floor.
The manologue is exemplified by giving words and advice not asked for, views not solicited, and arguments unwanted with the female co-worker as the intended target. The man assumes that people listening are interested in what he has to say. He is likely to dominate the conversation and go on and on about a subject, typically highjacking the conversation. In the 2016 presidential debates, Trump aggressively interrupted Hilary Clinton 51 times in the debate’s first 26 minutes then proceeded to dominate the discussion.
Manterrupting is a scientifically proven issue and occurs when a woman is interrupted by a man simply because she is a woman. A University of California-Santa Barbara study found that 47 out of 48 interruptions in mixed-gender conversations consisted of men interrupting women. A research study discovered that men are three times more likely to interrupt a female than one another. The same research revealed that men were likely to talk over women in meetings in a dominant, aggressive manner that silenced everyone else in the room.
Not every man that does mansplaining, manologuing, or manterrupting is intentionally doing this behavior on purpose. He may be unconsciously biased and ignorant of his behavior. These actions are a cultural issue that needs to be addressed, especially in the workplace, because it is rooted in inequality. The positive news is work to abolish this behavior can begin immediately.
Stand up for yourself
Women need to call out the offender at the moment the offense occurs. Like Kamala Harris did to former Vice President Pence. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” said Senator Kamala Harris. When Vice President Pence continued to talk over her, she, with a smile, repeated once again, “I’m speaking.” Immediately handling the situation allows the other person to see his behavior and possibly grow in self-awareness. Standing up for oneself establishes a boundary that declares that you respect yourself and will not be subjected to poor behavior. The issue with not immediately speaking up is that the other person has no clue their behavior was disrespectful and will never change it. Also, if one is constantly interrupted, it eventually leads to one not bothering to speak up. After all, why bother speaking up if you’re going to get silenced?
If one is not used to speaking up and defending oneself, it can be challenging to start. Perhaps using a bit of humor can help. Start by using these terms and say, “You’re mansplaining me.” Then explain what happened to draw attention to it. One can be diplomatic and pleasant about the situation. Humor can make the other person less defensive. Of course, if the person does not get the message, then a one-on-one discussion is necessary.
You deserve respect
Women deserve respect and equality in the workplace. It is up to us to change the way we are treated so others will respond accordingly. We need to tell others what is and is not tolerated by setting boundaries. Speaking up communicates those boundaries. Not speaking up allows the behavior to continue. Maya Angelou said, “I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.” It all begins with us. We need to teach others how to treat us.
Self-awareness, diversity, and unconscious bias awareness training programs in the workplace can educate employees and eliminate these behaviors. Managerial training needs to occur so leaders can be alert to these issues and be taught how to deal with them. The combination of decisive action by us and support from company leaders can shed light on these communication issues and eradicate them in the workplace.
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