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By Bernie Dixon

There is still a lot of talk about it. Since going viral in 2018 and hitting Wikipedia about the same time, mansplaining, the so-called incompetence assuming, maybe patronizing, always condescending act of a man (hence the word mansplaining) going to extreme lengths to explain a topic or concept to a woman is still a “thing.” What makes these unsolicited explanations unwelcome is that they rarely lead to a consensus or productive discussion.

Executive women and women business owners want to be recognized for their leadership and their value. It is critical to their career trajectory and the credibility of their businesses.

Executive men, likewise, are concerned about their credibility, leadership, and careers. Any hint of gender bias can instantly send them off track.

Are you biased by calling it mansplaining? You may be. Gender bias in any form, has no place in a high performing work environment. We all like to think that we treat people fairly. And yet, accusing a man of mansplaining is really no different than assuming women are less competent. Both are gender related, both are stereotypical misconceptions, and both can be construed as biased. Calling out someone for mansplaining is exposing your own gender bias.

What to do about it? Woman or man, If you are the target of an unsolicited explanation or diatribe about how you can do better you can take a number of steps to ignore, neutralize, confront or advise the guilty party. Many women are simply polite and ignore the episode or even repeated episodes and then later seethe because they did not face up. If you want to be prepared, here are a few approaches to have at the ready.

The friendly tap: This act is not overly aggressive. Men do this all the time. They give a quick “signal” about their territory. A quick, “Thanks, Jim, I got this” or “Let me continue and if you still have a question, I’ll address it.” If you need a little more heft in your approach try, “Oh, you make me wonder if I need to let you in on my background.” These comments will probably be enough to give the other party pause and allow you to continue.

The witty remark: I want to credit former Texas Governor, Ann Richards for the collection of witticisms she employed when she was pioneering as a female leader. Remember the, “Now, Jim, you know I’m not going to give up the floor till I am done so you may as well wait.” Brilliant. Have your own witty or humorous remark prepared for next time. If you are faced with a repeat offender? How about giving a big smile and say, “Jim, I thought we had such a nice conversation about you interrupting.”

Your command voice: When faced with a roomful of loud people or if you are confronted with a rough and tumble culture of people talking over other people, you are going to have to adapt. If you are the CEO, you can do something about the culture by insisting on a different decorum. If not, you will have to work on developing your loud “command voice.” I had to learn that one as an Army officer. Learn to project your voice to be heard over other noise. You may think that you are screaming. That is not what I mean. Simply lower your voice and talk loudly. Think of a Drill Sergeant. There is no backing down in this type of culture so learn how to win with a commanding voice. You will gain respect.

Interrupt and Redirect: This approach requires a bit of prework. Know who your advocates are. Have an agreement with a peer or advocate. When someone starts with a diatribe, you can simply state, “Hold-on, Jim, before we go there, I’d like to hear what Jordan thinks.” Be prepared to do the same when you need to advocate for someone else.

Private Feedback:  I can’t stress enough that calling out someone in a meeting is not good leadership and will dilute your credibility. When necessary, you can call them out privately for their behavior. “Jim, I want you to recognize that your comments during the meeting came across as condescending. I want to ensure we have productive meetings and are respectful of all the attendees.” Use examples if necessary, to communicate zero tolerance of the behavior.  Letting the other person know that they are impacting your ability to get done what’s needed may be all you need.

Having these approaches in your pocket will boost your confidence in dealing with unwanted interruptions comfortably and in a highly professional manner.  It is a good step in developing your own leadership abilities.

about it. Since going viral in 2018 and hitting Wikipedia about the same time, mansplaining, the so-called incompetence assuming, maybe patronizing, always condescending act of a man (hence the word mansplaining) going to extreme lengths to explain a topic or concept to a woman is still a “thing.” What makes these unsolicited explanations unwelcome is that they rarely lead to a consensus or productive discussion.

Executive women and women business owners want to be recognized for their leadership and their value. It is critical to their career trajectory and the credibility of their businesses.

Executive men, likewise, are concerned about their credibility, leadership, and careers. Any hint of gender bias can instantly send them off track.

Are you biased by calling it mansplaining? You may be. Gender bias in any form, has no place in a high performing work environment. We all like to think that we treat people fairly. And yet, accusing a man of mansplaining is really no different than assuming women are less competent. Both are gender related, both are stereotypical misconceptions, and both can be construed as biased. Calling out someone for mansplaining is exposing your own gender bias.

What to do about it? Woman or man, If you are the target of an unsolicited explanation or diatribe about how you can do better you can take a number of steps to ignore, neutralize, confront or advise the guilty party. Many women are simply polite and ignore the episode or even repeated episodes and then later seethe because they did not face up. If you want to be prepared, here are a few approaches to have at the ready.

The friendly tap: This act is not overly aggressive. Men do this all the time. They give a quick “signal” about their territory. A quick, “Thanks, Jim, I got this” or “Let me continue and if you still have a question, I’ll address it.” If you need a little more heft in your approach try, “Oh, you make me wonder if I need to let you in on my background.” These comments will probably be enough to give the other party pause and allow you to continue.

The witty remark: I want to credit former Texas Governor, Ann Richards for the collection of witticisms she employed when she was pioneering as a female leader. Remember the, “Now, Jim, you know I’m not going to give up the floor till I am done so you may as well wait.” Brilliant. Have your own witty or humorous remark prepared for next time. If you are faced with a repeat offender? How about giving a big smile and say, “Jim, I thought we had such a nice conversation about you interrupting.”

Your command voice: When faced with a roomful of loud people or if you are confronted with a rough and tumble culture of people talking over other people, you are going to have to adapt. If you are the CEO, you can do something about the culture by insisting on a different decorum. If not, you will have to work on developing your loud “command voice.” I had to learn that one as an Army officer. Learn to project your voice to be heard over other noise. You may think that you are screaming. That is not what I mean. Simply lower your voice and talk loudly. Think of a Drill Sergeant. There is no backing down in this type of culture so learn how to win with a commanding voice. You will gain respect.

Interrupt and Redirect: This approach requires a bit of prework. Know who your advocates are. Have an agreement with a peer or advocate. When someone starts with a diatribe, you can simply state, “Hold-on, Jim, before we go there, I’d like to hear what Jordan thinks.” Be prepared to do the same when you need to advocate for someone else.

Private Feedback:  I can’t stress enough that calling out someone in a meeting is not good leadership and will dilute your credibility. When necessary, you can call them out privately for their behavior. “Jim, I want you to recognize that your comments during the meeting came across as condescending. I want to ensure we have productive meetings and are respectful of all the attendees.” Use examples if necessary, to communicate zero tolerance of the behavior.  Letting the other person know that they are impacting your ability to get done what’s needed may be all you need.

Having these approaches in your pocket will boost your confidence in dealing with unwanted interruptions comfortably and in a highly professional manner.  It is a good step in developing your own leadership abilities.

Bernie P. Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO accelerator training program for women entrepreneurs. Find her on LinkedIn.

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