Mansplaining. Is there anything more frustrating than having a man talk to you in a patronizing way? Hell no. Unfortunately, I think many of us encounter this on a regular basis. Every time is equally annoying. And it’s also difficult. My instinctive reaction is to become snappy and tell the other person what I feel about it. However, this is not a strategic way to handle the situation as it will damage your relationship and may cause problems in the future.
My overarching strategy is this: decide for yourself to always be the bigger person. Always be polite. Always be graceful. I think this will benefit you in the long run. But how do you do this? Here are my two main tools for tackling mansplaining.
Your power is in your response
Even though you would love to cut the person off and put a stop to the condescending comments, don’t. Let the person finish the sentence, and then be constructive. This is key to moving the conversation from him patronizing you, to you and him having a conversation on how to move the project/assignment/problem forward.
First, I quickly say something like “Yes, I already have that information” or “Yes, I know”. This is for the sole purpose of making the other party aware of the fact that he’s saying things I already know, and thus deem the mansplaining unnecessary. Second, I focus on the next step. Follow the previous statement with something like “What do you suggest we do next?”. This forces your counterpart to be concrete and focus on the problem, rather than mansplaining you. Because mansplaining consists of repeating information you already have and know, forcing the other person to talk about the next step is pretty effective.
Work on your body language
Our body gives clues as to what we’re feeling. This means you unconsciously shift your body language depending on your feelings. If you feel annoyed or treated unfairly, chances are you sit with your arms crossed before you. Because all humans do this, we get affected not only by our own body language but by others’ as well. This means that if you sit in a defensive position, the other person will probably pick up on this. This might lead to a more strained atmosphere than necessary.
Instead, be intentional with how you move your body in situations that frustrate you. Skip crossing your arms in defense and choose to open up and pull your shoulders back. Don’t play the mansplaining game of being small and unknowledgeable. Exude confidence by keeping eye contact and placing yourself to be physically on the same level as your coworker. If you sit down, either lean towards the person or stand up. This is a great tool that will help you handle the situation better, without uttering a single word.
Do you have any other suggestions on how to handle mansplaining?