Dealing with ‘Splaining’

I’m not quite sure what planet I’ve been living on for the past couple of years, but the term splaining has completely passed me by. If you’ve not heard about it, then it’s most common format is ‘Man-splaining’.

Essentially, it’s a reference to someone else speaking over you with perceived greater authority, wisdom and knowledge.

Let me explain!

The writer Rebecca Solnit, back in 2008, wrote a book entitled ‘Men Explain Things to Me’. It looks at what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women.

Mansplaining has become so common since then, that it has even been given a dictionary definition: when a man ‘explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.’

It’s more than man-splaining though. There other forms of splaining out there.

‘Women-splaining’ exists when women are condescending particularly to a man.
‘White-splaining’ is when whites lecture persons of colour about what racism is and isn’t.

What caught my attention about the concept of man-splaining was how prevalent in society it is.

Here’s a few facts:
• Studies have found that men dominate 75% of conversations in decision-making groups
• Another study found that men are three times more likely to interrupt women (Dr Arin N Reeves)
• And only 13% of women interrupt men

I know from experience, in fact, a plethora of times, I’ve been interrupted (and allowed myself to be) by men. I’ve been talked over, talked down to, spoken at for an infuriating amount of time. Only a few months ago a male head hunter ranted at me about why, in his opinion, there were not enough women in the boardroom without once asking me my opinion. (And I largely disagreed with much of what he said). Of course, this power tactic plays havoc with our own inner self-doubt and self-esteem.

Here’s a you tube video that explains it more:

Yes, it’s easy to also go on a rant about the unfairness and rudeness of this. It’s easy to start attacking others, criticising and judging. But I want to take a different tack.

What’s Really Going on Here?
In most situations, I truly believe that this ‘splaining’ phenomena is about others wanting us to hear and believe that their opinion and point of view is the right one. In most cases he or she is ‘trying’ to help us see a different point of view (well actually their one).

Unfortunately, whenever we receive unsolicited advice or help, it ALWAYS comes across as arrogant and condescending. Think about times when you have rammed your point of view across (this is something I have done many a time at home)!

The key learning in all of this is in how we respond.

Typically, we get defensive. Typically, we feel our blood start to boil. We feel unheard, unappreciated, dismissed. My father (a domineering man at times) used a phrase over and over again throughout my lifetime:

“You are missing the point!”. Often said with a shake of a head – to add that little extra judgement.

What do we do?

If you are experiencing any form of ‘splaining’ in the workplace then here’s a number of things you can do about it:

• Ignore it. Yes, that’s a common default and it does take the sting out of the room and in the moment. Problem is that you might let it eat away for the rest of the day or worse – you go and seek validation, rant at others about the way you were treated.

• Ask questions about where they have got their research and opinions from – and keep asking

• Stand your ground. Tell them what they are doing and then express your opinion, your facts and your perspective.

And the biggest thing we can do?

• Take 100% Responsibility for our Reaction.

We have to learn that if we have been triggered by someone talking over us and it starts to eat us up, then there is something we have done to create the situation. I know that sounds weird, but it is true. We have to figure out what it is. For example,

Did we challenge in the moment by asking where their views have come from? Did we ask to finish our sentence? Did we say that we were interrupted? Do we have a strong enough perspective? Have we really stood our ground in terms of what we believe in? Do we want to have a broader perspective? What are we fearful of?
It’s digging deep, but it works.
I know from experience I’ve had to take a look at why I allowed people to talk over me. At times, I still walk away. More frequently, I stand in my space and either interrupt back or state what’s just happened. I stand in my power and I feel so much better for doing it. Give it a go. Stop complaining and deal with it.

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