Dear Dr. Lisa:
I have a man situation at work. I have a peer who always tries to Mansplain to me. In a room full of people, he will ask me if I understand something being presented. Recently I was asked to provide a point of view on something, and he jumped in with his idea before I could even say anything. It is like he is targeting me and going out of his way to put me down. It’s driving me crazy and I am not sure anybody sees it and I don’t know what do about it.
He Keeps Messing with Me
Dear He Keeps Messing with Me:
That is indeed a situation. One thing you must keep in mind – people typically do things that serve themselves. They are not thinking about how to injure you, necessarily. With your colleague it sounds like he thinks he can make himself look good or powerful by positioning himself above you or taking your spotlight. The answer to this is easy. The execution of it may be hard. This “colleague” is doing what he thinks he can do. He needs to learn that he cannot do it, and if he does do it, he will pay the price. The execution of this requires that you be direct and hold him accountable. That may be tough for you, and quite honestly, may be why he has picked you to pick on.
Here is one approach. You can use this or modify it to something that works for you. The bottom line is, he must know without any doubt that he cannot use you in this way anymore. The next time he mansplains, you might say, “Was that just a mansplanation? It seemed like it since I did not ask a question or even suggest that I needed clarity.” The power of this is that it does not accuse, but merely questions the behavior. It identifies the behavior specifically and puts him in position of having to explain himself. It is not likely, if confronted this way, that he would risk being confronted or questioned again. If you ask once, you are likely to ask twice. My bet is that he would stop.
You can use the same approach if he talks when you should be talking. “Colleague, if you don’t mind, I would like to offer my thoughts when asked. If you keep jumping in for me, they are going to start mixing us up, and neither of us want that (laugh).” Again, this is a direct, but politically polite, way to call out that he is talking out of turn. You are not really worried that you would get mixed up. That is the joke that makes it lighthearted. This is just one approach. The bottom line is, you have to stop him directly.
Do that, and he won’t be messing with you anymore!
P.S. Your theme song is, “Scream” by Michael and Janet Jackson.