How to Deal with Mansplainers Like a Boss
Do you know this feeling when you have spent months (or years) working on something and you are really the subject matter expert and then someone (most likely a guy) who really doesn't know much about the topic starts explaining it to you as if you were a little child or slow-minded? You feel embarrassed, frustrated, angry or maybe at loss of words. Smile! You've been mansplained. Mansplaining: "the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing." (source: dictionary.com) is a well documented phenomenon at this point. There are tons of articles (like this one) written about it. One clever woman even made a chart to help men understand if they were mansplaining.
Now that we all know what mansplaining is, the challenge is: how to react to it while maintaining a professional conduct? Every situation is different but here are some ways you can approach your mansplaining encounters proactively rather than reactively: 1) Keep calm: Mansplaining is a form of passive aggression. Naming the behavior, even if silently, can help you see the situation from the outside and act more objectively. Whenever it happens to you, keep calm and don't let the person destabilize you. 2) Choose your battles: Evaluate the importance of setting the person straight. Sometimes, by strategically letting the person feel good about himself, you can negotiate something that's more valuable to you. Other time, he is being a jerk and you need to set your boundaries to ensure that the behavior doesn't repeat itself. 3) Segue: You can use the mansplaining to your advantage by creating a segue to the point you are trying to stress. For example: “James, thanks for reiterating the benefits or challenges of my suggestion to do x, let discuss the next steps..” 4) Reclaim your expertise: you can reclaim your authority by correcting them and/or adding to the argument: “James, actually, what I meant to say is xyz, and I know this because abc (something related to the work you did to get there and he didn’t) 5) Take the conflict outside the room: if someone is a repeat offender you can have a conversation with him about this (many times he may just be insecure about something else and it's much easier to iron this out behind the scenes). Never make this about you, but rather about the negative consequences to one's work outcomes. “James, I know you’re trying to be helpful but when you do xyz, it leads to such and such negative results for the team” 6) Get a mansplaining buddy: It's always good to alert a trusted colleague about this and ask him or her to have your back in meetings.When someone tries to mansplain to you, your buddy can defer the discussion back to you and take the power away from the mansplainer. What about you? Have you developed any other strategies to deal with mansplaining?
p.s. if you want to get better at elegantly dealing with interruptions in meetings, check out our Executive Presence Lab.