So here is the conundrum: Including women is not the same as hearing women. As the Princeton and Brigham Young study noted, “having a seat at the table is very different than having a voice.” Women at the table will attest to finding themselves talked over, cut off, interrupted or forced to politely listen to reams of lengthy speeches.
But one thing I couldn't help but wonder as I read this post was, "Why don't women... do something about it?"
Obviously, the "right" approach will vary from woman to woman. I have ways of dealing with mansplaining and manologues that work really well for me -- at least in the short-term. And since so many women seem plagued by male speech, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share my experience.
Let me start by saying, your number one best weapon against manologues is your own voice.
When a man (or woman) starts blabbing on and on about stuff I already know, I don't expect them to magically read my mind and know I'm bored, annoyed or already well-aware of this. I open my mouth and say something -- usually along the lines of:
- "BORING!" (This would be used in a social context, but probably not a professional one.)
- "Bro -- I took intro to psychology, too. You don't need to refresh me. Let's get to the point."
- "What's the TL;DR?"
- "I know -- I read the meeting notes, too. The thing that struck me about it was ________."
- "Let's work on your elevator pitch."
- "Yeah, that's interesting -- I actually wrote a blog post about that a while back."
- "That's a great concept -- it reminds me of what Susan was saying at the meeting last week. Susan, can you remind us of some of the research you did on this?" (This is a great response to men ignoring an idea when a woman says it, and then bringing it up like it's their idea later.)
- "Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York." (Get it? Because it's a monologue?)
- Something else? (Think about how you wish you would respond to a manologue. Practice it in your mind -- and be ready to use it next time. The approach that works for me might not necessarily feel comfortable for you.)
I get that there are real and perceived negative consequences for women who speak up and interrupt men. And I get that interrupting someone "feels rude." But first of all, for your own safety, happiness and well-being, you need to practice being "rude."
Second, you can "soften" your interruption with a, "Come on, man, I'm just teasing you" sort of smile. That way, you've still said something "aggressive" that accomplishes the goal you wanted to accomplish, but you're made it feel less harsh.
Yes, I know that, stereotypically, women smile more than men, and smiling can sometimes be seen as a sign of submission. But keep in mind that smiles also show warmth -- and warmth is an important part of charisma. Power alone isn't enough to make people like or respect you. From an evolutionary standpoint, if someone is powerful but they don't like me, they may as well not be powerful, because they will never use their resources or power to help me.
Another way to feel less intrusive when you interrupt or redirect a manologue is to frame it less like, "You are boring me," and more like, "On behalf of everyone, let's keep this conversation on track." Negotiation research out of MIT shows that women are perceived negatively when they ask for something on their own behalf -- but not when they do it on behalf of another group, person or party. (I don't like it, either, but facts are facts.)
So there you go. Use your voice. Use your words. With a little practice, you can gracefully deploy your most powerful weapon against manologues.
But the thing is... sometimes, if someone's on a roll, we kind of decide, "Okay, next time he pauses for a breath, I'm going to jump in." Except then the person NEVER stops for breath! Or they do, but not long enough for you to feel comfortable jumping in.
Time to release your second most powerful weapon against the manologue: your hand.
I originally described the touch interrupt in 3 Easy Steps to the Perfect, Graceful Exit:
Don't count on the speaker magically knowing that you have something to say. Instead, briefly touch the person on the arm or shoulder. This will create a pause in the conversation, and direct the speaker (and listeners') attention to you.
As an added bonus, human touch can have a warm, bonding effect. Done correctly, it is a form of positive politeness, or politeness that shows closeness and liking (vs. negative politeness, which shows boundaries and respect). If you touch someone too long or too intimately (e.g., putting your arm around someone you barely know), you could make the person uncomfortable, and it will make them like you less.
But done warmly, appropriately and respectfully, it shows the person, "Hey, I like you. I feel comfortable enough with you to touch you." And people tend to like people who like them -- it's a psychology thing.
Touching someone is also a subtle display of power. I saw this amazing video, recently, of some Democrat dude talking and talking and talking over Hillary Clinton. Tired of the bullshit, she touches the guy's arm. He immediately stops, stunned, and she has her say. Read more >
- This One Speaking Trick Will Instantly Make You Look (And Feel) More Powerful
- Each Inch of Your Height is Worth $787 Per Year - But There is Hope For the Vertically Challenged.
- This Is Most Powerful Psychology Hack EVER Invented -- And It Only Takes a Few Minutes!
And don't miss the amazing Amy Cuddy's new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. You'll learn to be genuine and commanding, instead of phony and powerless.