Caught in the Act — the best time to address a mansplain moment
As a project manager for various teams across one company, I run meetings for a significant portion of my job. Each week I must meet with the teams via zoom and while most of the time they are relatively uneventful meetings, there are occasions when a contentious situation occurs. This can range from someone not agreeing with another person’s idea to more personal digs such as the oh so famous Mansplain.
Here’s exactly how I, as a woman leading teams, address a mansplainer. And honestly, this is going to be a short read because it’s really pretty simple:
Hear something, say something
From my experience, the most effective and efficient way to address a moment of mansplain is to say something immediately. As soon as the mansplain occurs, I stop the meeting and call attention to what just happened.
Here’s a brief example:
During a Marketing strategy meeting, team members are offering up a variety of ideas. Each person is given a chance to speak. A female team member presents an idea. Many team members nod and agree that this could potentially work, but we want to hear from everyone first.
Male team member who is slightly senior to the female cuts off the discussion and chimes in.
The male team member lets us know he has found a potential solution that no one has thought of….anyone want to guess?? Yes, he did it. He reworded the female’s idea and presented it as his own brilliant idea. And of course, presented it as arrogantly as possible, letting us all know his idea was the best so far. Female team member says nothing as she does not want to be perceived as combative or insubordinate.
STOP. RIGHT. THERE.
This is the moment the meeting is paused.
This is how I typically handle this:
“Thanks Mark. Before we move on, I’d like to call attention to what just happened. It sounds to me like you just negated Ally’s comments and re-presented them moments later as your own. Ally, was your idea what Mark also presented?”
I then open up to the rest of the team and ask if they can confirm what happened. Usually it is a resounding yes.
The male usually offers up a half hearted apology.
As a third person, I place myself in the neutral position to call attention to the situation without being emotionally invested as the offense did not occur to me directly. It is often hard for the person involved to call out her own mansplainer. It helps if another colleague or a team leader can step up here. Of course, I attempt to use language that does not attack or accuse the man in an aggressive way. I don’t want him to go on the defensive either. I just want an open and calm discourse around what happened.
It’s about re-training the mind as the situation is occurring. When the trigger hits, that’s the best time to re-pattern ourselves because we are just seconds removed from the original situation. If I were to wait until after when the meeting is over, there will be the burden of providing proof and a potential for denial. A “I don’t remember it that way” or “I didn’t Say that.” When it’s fresh, it’s hard to debate what just happened. When everyone else who heard it is also present, we can clear the air quickly and calmly.
I then thank everyone and remind the team about deep listening and making sure we don’t tune out during meetings. Then that’s it’s, no need to drag it out further. Case closed…unless it continues to occur weekly which requires a more in-depth approach.
Mark is given a chance to see his mansplain in action so that he is aware of what it looks like. Ally is given recognition and won’t harbor negative feelings towards today’s meeting because she feels seen and heard. Then of course, the team can continue to collaborate and work together without resentment.
That’s how I’ve been dealing with Mansplaining during team meetings. So far, all team members are happy with how it’s handled. The women appreciate the ally and the men appreciate that they are not berated for this but spoken to in a compassionate but clear manner.
Sometimes, a dude is just a prick. Other times they seem to genuinely not realize what they did and they truly mean no harm. We’re all learning and un-learning. We all need a little help along the way.
Living and Learning,