January 9, 2023
3 min read
You may have heard the term “mansplaining” before, but what does it mean? Mansplaining can be hard to understand. Mansplaining is when a man gives an explanation to a woman under the assumption that he knows more about a field, concept, etc. without considering the woman’s expertise in the concept. This explanation can feel condescending or patronizing, and leave the recipient feeling disrespected. Mansplaining can be a barrier to inclusivity and prevent women from contributing their full worth to a conversation.
In all forms of communication, we want to ensure that everybody is feeling respected and heard. So, if you want to avoid mansplaining, there are a few steps to do so: recognizing it, acknowledging it, and correcting it.
Are you worried you may be mansplaining? That’s ok, it can be hard to notice when you cross over from simply explaining a concept to mansplaining, and many people have no intention of doing so. In this article by the BBC, the line between the two appears when you either give undesired explanations or ignore the expertise of the recipient. The article presents a simple chart to follow to determine if you are mansplaining:
Simply put, if she does not want your help, or she has more relevant experience, then you are mansplaining. Now, sometimes you may not intend to be mansplaining, and this is where body language and the words you use come into play. It is important to pay attention to whether you are using condescending language or tones as well as giving people respect while they are speaking. This can include cutting women off more than men, or not paying attention as much when a woman is speaking. You can use platforms like Yoodli’s Speech Coach to catch this kind of language or behavior that you wouldn’t have recognized otherwise.
Mansplaining can be hard to catch, but once you recognize it’s happening it is important to acknowledge it so it can be addressed. Mansplaining is a fairly new term, only added to the Oxford dictionary in 2018 and thought to be coined in 2008 (Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay explains the behavior but doesn’t actually use the term). The novelty of this term comes with a lack of awareness, so acknowledging it as it occurs will allow others to hear it and make their own adjustments in the way they speak.
So now that I know what it is, how do I avoid mansplaining? Great question. First, don’t make assumptions about who you are trying to help. If you are looking to help, ask if they want to hear you out before launching into an explanation. Oftentimes, underlying assumptions about women lacking experience in the workplace are the root cause of why a man may feel the need to mansplain. By asking somebody if they need help, it puts them in a position to say yes or no and explain what they already know. It helps to avoid explanations that they might not need.
Second, it is important to be self-aware of your habits that may give off a sense of disrespect. A platform like Yoodli can give you quick feedback on potentially harmful behaviors. For example, Yoodli can inform you how often you are cutting somebody off, or whether or not you are looking at your screen when a certain person is talking. With Yoodli, you can recognize these behaviors and correct them accordingly.
These adjustments to your communication will also help you when you work with other people. If you can mitigate a condescending tone, or look somebody in the eye, you could find yourself having effective communication. By learning these practices, you are not only showing more respect to women in the workplace but all women you communicate with. Healthy communication is all about respect – listening more puts you on the right track to showing respect for the women (and everybody) you interact with.