January 20, 2018


Friday, July 28, 2017

Manterrupter, bropropriator (1), mansplainer

By Liliana Palermo
For the Herald

Three psychological strategies women can use to combat manterruptions at work

In the past few weeks, California senator Kamala Harris has emerged as a prominent voice in US Senate Intelligence Committee hearings. But if repeated interruptions from her male colleagues are any indication, some would prefer to keep her from using her voice quite so often.

Unfortunately, many women — even senators and Supreme Court justices — have to deal with a disproportionate amount of interruptions at work. It can be tricky to figure out the right way to respond, particularly because there are a number of reasons why people interrupt one another — ranging from the innocuous to the outright (2) sinister. Here are a few tips for identifying the most common kinds of interruptions, and how to deal with them appropriately.


Some interruptions are just a sign that you’ve effectively engaged your audience. But if your interrupter is demonstrating unbridled (3) enthusiasm, you can still call it out in a non-judgmental way. First, validate their enthusiasm: “I’m glad you’re so invested in this. I’m just going to finish my overview so we can all be on the same page (4).” If the person interrupts again, reiterate the process: “I’m going to finish the overview and then everyone will have a chance to share their thoughts.”

If the person makes a habit of excited interruptions, find a private moment to provide feedback such as, “When you speak over me, it throws me off my game” (5) or “it sends the signal that you’re not confident in me.” Over-exuberance is annoying and can reduce your authority, but it comes from a positive place.

Emotional outbursts

More concerning are people who interrupt because they lack emotional control. If your interrupter is being defensive and cutting you off to start an argument, don’t take the bait (6). Start by making sure the interrupter knows he was talking out of turn, and say, “I’m going to finish my point and then we can talk about your concern.” If that quick jolt doesn’t cause him to sit back and wait his turn, you’re better off deferring (7). “Okay John, you’re concerned that we’re not taking a tough enough stance. What do you propose?”

Once you’ve heard him out and asked at least a couple of questions to understand, then you can return to your point. “You’re worried that if we don’t react strongly to this, we’ll see more aggressiveness from our suppliers. I’m concerned that our relationship hangs by a thread (8) and we need to tread lightly. How can we send a strong signal that this isn’t okay without driving key suppliers away?” If your interrupter is agitated, the best course of action is to let him get his thoughts out first. Once he feels you’re listening, he’ll be more open to hearing what you have to say. Unless, of course, your interrupter is making a…

Power play

Then there are people who strategically interrupt — with the goal of putting you on defence and throwing you off your game. If anything in the other person’s tone, body language, or context suggests you’re being interrupted by a bully, none of your constructive, polite tactics are going to do you any good. You need to respond to strength with strength.

Don’t yield when you are interrupted; keep talking. If anything, lower your volume a little so others will have to strain (9) to hear you. Make prolonged eye contact first with the interrupter and then with any powerful or supportive people in the room. If these approaches create the space for you to finish, stop there.

If you’re still getting interrupted, appeal to the good judgment of the rest of the audience. Strongly, emphatically say something that indicates you believe in your point and won’t back down: “I am talking about the single most important customer we have. We have an obligation to discuss this issue fully.” In this case, use a forceful tone and strong body language.

If you know you’ll be dealing with the power play again, look for allies and enlist their support and assistance before and after your interactions with the interrupter. Ask for their help to ensure that important issues get a full hearing.

Show your strength

In all of these cases, remember that the interruption isn’t about you. The power play is about the bully’s fragile ego and inability to win by following the rules. The emotional outburst is about the interrupter’s lack of self-control. The over-exuberant interruption is about the excitement associated with the topic at hand. Remembering that it’s not personal will help you remain calm and polite. Do not back down or use tentative language such as, “May I finish?” or “I’m sorry, but...” And while open body language —such as smiling and sitting in a relaxed position — works well in many contexts, it’s better to avoid in these situations, lest (10) you appear passive.

There is one caveat to all of this advice: It may not go over well with your audience. Because of ingrained sexism, people often get annoyed with women who are determined to make their points. That’s not how things should be, but that’s how it is. Thankfully, women like Sen. Harris have the courage to make sure their voices get heard.

Adapted from a story by Liane Davey, Quartz




“Manterrupter, bropropriator” (1)

There are several neologisms going around that start online gender battles, such as “mansplaining” and “manspreading,” which we have brought up here in this section before. “Manterruption” is the usually unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man. “Bropropriating” is a man taking credit for a woman’s idea. And, last but not least, so far at least, “manderstanding” is men joking or teasing in social settings where only men can understand or agree with. New terms seem to be coined more and more often as the interaction in the networks becomes more active. There is a set of terms by means of which men counter these accusations of women – but we will come to that in another of these publications.

“outright” (2)

When “outright” functions as an adjective, it refers to attitudes that are “complete,” “total,” “direct.” An outright victory / an outright lie. It also fills the slot of the adverb, in which case it means “in entirety,” or “completely,” as in They rejected the proposal outright.

“unbridled” (3)

The bridle is what is used to govern a horse and is put on its head which carries the reins. Drawing on this image, when something is characterised as “unbridled,” it is said to be unrestrained, uncontrolled, like an unbridled horse, as in unbridled anger / ambition / passion.

“on the same page” (4)

When two people or more are “on the same page,” they understand and agree with what is being done or suggested, as in Before we pass on to the list of duties, I need to check we are all on the same page. The expression is often used when it is expected that efforts be made to solve a problem, so that everybody is working harmoniously.

“throws me off my game” (5)

If you are “off your game,” you are performing poorly – taken from the literal “not able to play a sport as well as normal.” He seemed a little off his game during the marketing presentation this morning. If a person “throws you off your game,” they make you perform badly.

“take the bait” (6)

This metaphor comes from fishing, the moment in which the fish bites a piece of food (the bait) that is attached to the hook in order to attract its attention. If you “take the bait,” “swallow the bait,” or “rise to the bait,” you react to something exactly as the other intended you to react. He keeps talking about women who make bad drivers, but I won’t rise to the bait. It may also mean that you completely accept an offer, which is usually a way to get something from you. The main politician in the opposition took the bait of accepting the invitation made by the Prime Minister to visit the flooded areas; newspaper headlines ended up talking about joint responsibility.

“deferring” (7)

When you defer action, you postpone it to a future time, as in The decision has been deferred until the new manager takes office. In the text, however, the meaning is that of “defer to,” which is “to give in to the wish or opinion of another,” even when you do not agree with it yourself, showing respect to them or their authority, as in I have to defer to my boss on important decisions.

“hangs by a thread” (8)

When something “hangs by a thread” or “by a hair”, it is in a risky situation, in danger of failing in the near future, of something unlucky or bad happening. With the protagonist sick, the success of the play is hanging by a thread / hair.

“strain” (9)

If you have to strain to do something, you have to make an unusually great effort. The verb is commonly used with an object, which is either a part of your body or yourself, meaning “to force that part of the body or yourself to make this kind of effort. I had to strain my ears to hear his low voice.

“lest” (10)

The linking word “lest” is used after an expression denoting fear or apprehension and before what you would like to prevent. It means “for fear that,” “with the intention of preventing something undesirable,” “to avoid the risk of.” She was worried lest she should be late for the job interview. “Lest” is one of the contexts in which the subjective mood is required. Therefore, she was anxious lest he become ill, (not lest he becomes ill) is the right standard use.


On the same wavelength

When you start a meeting by saying that everyone needs to be “on the same page,” regardless of the gender of the people involved, you are appealing to a predisposition to discuss ideas in an agreeable, harmonious manner.

In the course of the discussion, you may encounter fellow-workers who “see eye to eye” with you on practically every matter – i.e. who agree or have the same opinion. But there are other people who may seem to always “be at odds with” you over what you think. He doesn’t see eye to eye with the new manager so he asked to be relocated. The problem is that he is usually at odds with virtually everybody.

When, in a meeting, you have “said your piece,” you’ve just expressed your opinion about something, especially something that you do not like. I think he is much too authoritarian in the way he hands out tasks. There, I’ve said my piece.

There also may be these people who never “speak up” and whose ideas on different topics you need to know, in which case you may decide to “sound them out” in order to see what they think, as in Please, sound out everyone in your department over the new floor plan.

If you agree with ideas that are being put forward, you can always, without interrupting, comment on them by using some idiomatic expressions such as “I couldn’t agree more,” “that’s about the size of it, yes,” “my point exactly.”

More informally though, you may have at hand a few expressions and interjections to produce when you agree on or like an idea you hear. Read the following responses to: A: “That was a wonderful match yesterday.” B: “And how!” “You bet!” “You can say that again!” “I’ll say” “You’re telling me.”

To conclude, however you express your agreement or dissent or misunderstanding, do not cut in impolitely lest you should be labelled with one of the several new coinages in existence.



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