While mansplaining is typically discussed as a phenomenon occurring exclusively to women by men, the truth is that it happens to all of us—regardless of our gender identity or leadership level at the office.
At best, mansplaining can be brushed off as something an overeager, socially unaware colleague says when they’re trying to show off how much they know about a particular topic.
At worst, mansplaining can feel like an attack on your intelligence or an offensive assumption about your ability to perform your job well.
Above all, it’s frustrating to feel as though someone is talking down to you or assuming you don’t have common knowledge about your profession. In these moments it’s all too easy to feel caught off guard, unable to respond for fear of overreacting, or being perceived as overly sensitive.
The good news is that there are direct and professional communication techniques you can learn for responding to “mansplainers” without jeopardizing your reputation or career.
The key is to practice and prepare these phrases before the situation happens. That way, when you find yourself in a less-than-ideal conversation at work, you’ll have the skills necessary to handle any mansplainer like a pro.
First, make sure you don’t laugh it off. When you laugh off uncomfortable comments, you subliminally tell your opponent that you’re a willing target for future attacks. It’s best to draw clear boundaries right away with anyone—whether they say they’re kidding or not.
Practice the following responses:
Neutral Responses for Mansplainers
Neutral responses are best when you’re not sure if the talking down is intentional.
“Perhaps you’re unaware of my role in … “
“Thanks for affirming a belief I’ve held for most of my career.”
“Thanks for recognizing a discipline I’ve always embraced.”
Direct Responses for Mansplainers
Direct responses are best when there is absolutely no doubt.
“I’m going to need you to clarify that comment. In what way do you see me not comprehending this issue?”
“I want to clear up a potential misunderstanding about how my intellect is being conveyed.”
Do you have any persistent challenges when it comes to communication at the office? Send me a message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.