Key Tips to Avoid Being Manterrupted in Meetings

Emma Buckby

8 Mar 2016

Communicating across cultures is recognised as a major challenge in diverse workforces commonly found in today’s modern economy.  Language, nationality, and style are all recognised as important influencers on group dynamics.

However, an old challenge that doesn’t get as much attention as it once did is now being discussed once more:  how gender differences impact effective communication. Read on to find out about this old concept of ‘manterrupted‘.

 

The Time article points out the very public example of ‘manterruption’ exhibited by Kanye West and his victim Taylor Swift at a well known awards ceremony

Manterrupted

Time Magazine has published an interesting article about the concept of being ‘manterrupted’, i.e. where a woman is unnecessarily interrupted by a man.

The Time article points out the very public example of ‘manterruption’ exhibited by Kanye West and his victim Taylor Swift at a well known awards ceremony.

In a business environment, somewhat less dramatically but no less effectively, ‘manterruption’ commonly occurs in meetings, brainstorming sessions and other forums where ideas are shared – and challenged.

It is not uncommon for a man to speak over a woman as she is presenting an idea, with the idea then often either dismissed or, if it is a good one, hijacked by the man.

When women react

If a woman stands up for herself in such a situation, she is often regarded either as shrill or domineering.  Men on the other hand are often regarded as authoritative and innovative.

The psychology of stereotypical gender roles – men as leaders and women as nurturers – are alive and thriving in the modern day workplace.

Can raising awareness of this issue help to address it in the workplace or is more fundamental communication skills training and coaching required?

Impact on Women

Another group of women simply speak less and take a back seat, often burying good ideas forever.

Most women, once they have been manterrupted often enough, can become weary or fed up.

Constantly needing to defend one’s own ideas when men are more often rewarded for theirs can drain the confidence of very capable women.

Other women who are less bothered by peer attitudes and choose to ‘lean-in’ a la Sheryl Sandberg are still likely to attract labels such as the ‘b’ word.  Another group of women simply speak less and take a back seat, often burying good ideas forever.

Changing Behaviours in the Workplace

Standing with confidence, steady eye contact and a firm tone of voice that often seem to come naturally to many men are not always effectively used by some women.

Modifying communication styles that negatively impact women takes effort from the men involved but also from work colleagues and leaders.

Nurturing a supportive environment where all team members win – not just the men – requires recognition of ‘manterruption’ and behavioural changes that give women’s voices a chance to be properly heard.

  • Interruptions should be challenged. Asking a colleague to stop speaking until the woman has finished is not rude.  Women should carry on with their comments even if they feel ignored or invisible as behavioural changes come by small steps.
  • Whilst women should expect their ideas to be challenged, their expectations should be commensurate with the level of challenge a man would also receive. Confidence should be rewarded and not given negative labels.
  • Women should use empowering language that exudes confidence. No apologetic lead in comments or other indicators that they doubt their own ideas or – even worse – self worth.
  • Body language is also important. Standing with confidence, steady eye contact and a firm tone of voice that often seem to come naturally to many men are not always effectively used by some women.

Let’s Make Noise

And let’s not forget the men.  Men who are supportive of women should also be encouraged and rewarded.

Finally, recognise that there are times when women could be supporting other women better. Perhaps setting up a support system in an office environment where older women take on a mentoring role toward younger women would reduce some instances of ‘manterruption’.

And let’s not forget the men.  Men who are supportive of women should also be encouraged and rewarded.

Whilst it is human nature for the loudest voices to be heard, removing ‘manterruption’ from the equation means that these louder voices should be both male and female in fair numbers.

Manterrupted once, shame on you, manterrupted twice, shame on me.



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