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Mansplaining your privileges

Jury Room, Norman Rockwell. Also known as mansplaining

Last year I created this video “How to stop mansplaining - For men.” Today, I’m revisiting the points I shared and looking at them from the perspective of our current events.

If I turned this into what it represents for our workplace or society in general, I wondered how this could address all minority groups. So, as you read this about men and mansplaining, substitute the words, man, woman, masculinity, manhood, with privileged or minority groups, and see how it resonates.

Here we go.

What is mansplaining? It’s when a man explains something in a manner that feels patronizing or condescending, particularly when addressing women.

Why do men mansplain? At the core, it is a fear-based need to project competency. And before I talk about ways to stop this, let me share what psychologists explain about this behavior.

Men doing this often speak as if they are the expert on a subject when they usually are not. They can also have condescending perceptions of others, like thinking that women are not as intelligent as they are.

Men tend to do this, especially if the subject of the conversation is related to professions where generally men are mostly employed.

Why men do this more than women? Well, partly because since childhood, our society has trained boys to suppress their emotional expressions and project confidence, above all else.

You know, showing “real manhood” instead of connecting in authentic ways with everyone.

With time, as we grow, men are finding solidarity in environments that represent masculinity and become more accustomed to using mannerism and language that conforms with these environments and circle of competence.

They are not only sharing common interests; they also share competency around these interests. Basically, as a man, having knowledge over something means having status in the group. So, men grow up having to demonstrate that competence, which, when brought to women, does not land the same way.

Indeed, it’s not that men believe they always have to show their knowledge; it’s that there is a fear of failing to give that impression, which means losing status.

Oh boy, is this a fear of fragility?

Look, you’ve heard about men not asking for direction, right? Why? Because somehow, we were brought up to show that we must pretend we know everything and don’t need help.

Now, guys, when you act like this, let’s say it, it is rude, and it makes you look weak. And that is valid whether you talk that way to a woman or a man. So, let’s look at some ways to resolve this.

First and foremost, you need to learn to be quiet and listen.

That means not having thoughts running through your head and thinking about the next point you want to bring up. Just say to yourself that you are going to let that person talk until they are done or ask you for any comments. It could be hard, I know, but here is a time to use curiosity and practice empathy.

Second, do you know that person? Have you spent the last fifty hours researching them to know everything about their background? And if you have, is it possible you missed something? Make sure you don’t jump into a subject and then find out that the woman you are talking to wrote a book about it. If in doubt, wait until they are done and then ask.

This brings me to the next point. Did they ask you for feedback, explicitly? If not, you might want to hold back on sharing your thoughts. And if you’re going to share, please ask for permission first. Something like: “Would it be ok if I share something? And please stop me if I’m going into a point you already know and that I’m not aware of.”

That way, you won’t look like a pompous know-it-all.

Also, think, is this something that needs to be corrected? That could affect your work? Or is this just for you to prove you are smart? If not, you can show higher emotional intelligence by being quiet. And if you want someone to notice you and think you are smart, why not say something kind about them or the work they do?

Good, now, let’s talk about apologies.

I understand that if you got caught mansplaining, undoing all these years of being that way might seem daunting. But take it a step at a time.

We all do it at times, don’t be so hard on yourself. Personally, if I still jump in too fast and interrupt, I find it easier to say, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I should keep my mouth shut,” right then and there. So, if you get busted, don’t hold your ground, or you’ll dig yourself deeper into a muddy hole. Just apologize and move on, you’ll get more points for that than being stubborn.

And next time you feel the urge to prove that you know more than the person standing next to you, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What is driving my need to do this?”

Be humble.

With every interaction, we have an opportunity to come out from behind the facade we all constructed and connect in more authentic ways. Engage in conversations. Listen to their personal stories and praise them for what they do and the knowledge they have.

When you set aside your relentless need to prove your expertise and instead share what makes you who you are, with vulnerability, then real connections happen. Share yours in authentic ways.

It’s ok to recognize when you don’t know something and ask for their input instead. Sometimes you could say: “I don’t know; please tell me more about that.”

If you want to get noticed, that is probably the better way to do it. Relationships are not built over glittering disguises; they are built on trust, truth, and authenticity.

And when you have become a master at managing mansplaining, it’s time to break that solidarity with behavior that clearly does not work. Be on the lookout for other men who do it and help them by having a private chat and sharing your experience.

I’m a man. Been there, done that! I’ve apologized and still do.

So, what do you think? Do these points apply just as much for all privileged and minority groups? The subjects and situations change, but is the language and attitude the same?




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