The situation is all too familiar. You’re with someone (a boss, a friend, or even a stranger) and they start treating you like you’re inferior. Maybe they don’t trust you to complete a simple task on your own, or they explain something in a way that questions your intellect. One term, “mansplaining” is familiar to women in particular.
A writer from Everyday Feminism defines it as, “the social behavior or phenomenon whereby men patronizingly explain something simple to a woman, under the assumption that she would not already know it because she is a woman.” Condescension goes beyond just “mansplaining,” it comes in all forms. Here are some ways you can address these uncomfortable moments:
Call the person out
Politely let that person know how their comment made you feel. Pointing out that it was rude shows you’re someone who demands respect, which is an admirable quality. Lea McLeod, a career coach and writer for Lifehacker, says, “Calmly and professionally call out the patronizing person without making a scene or being dramatic…Hopefully, [that person] takes you up on the do-over opportunity.”
“Ask for clarification”
When you sense someone’s condescending attitude, respond with a question. Ask if there’s something you’re not understanding. This will throw the person off, forcing them to acknowledge their comment and letting them know that you’re going to confront this type of behavior.
Kill them with kindness
Try completely ignoring their comment, and even respond with a statement that is flattering and has nothing to do with what that person said to you. Jennifer Winter, a career consultant for The Muse, says, “While you can resort to a wide variety of ammunition, so to speak, to accomplish this, I’ve found the easiest is (seemingly) genuine kindness…trust your instincts and stick to positive territory, and chances are you’ll easily distract your condescending colleague into a more pleasant topic of conversation.
On the flip side, it’s important to pay attention to how we speak to other people so that we avoid condescension. Here are a few ways to do that:
Never assume someone doesn’t know something. This is the easiest way to avoid the problem altogether.
Really listen to other people
Even if you think you know a lot about the topic, you may not have experienced it personally. According to Everyday Feminism, “It is vital that we pay attention to people who share with us their experiences. These are often experiences that we have no way of knowing personally, and the only way to begin to understand them is to listen to those who do know them personally.
Learn from your own experience
Keep in mind the times when you were angered by someone’s condescension. It felt awful, so you want to avoid making someone else feel this way.
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