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Men interrupt women. A lot. There is plenty of research that show men speak up to 75 percent more in meetings, are more likely to interrupt and are almost three times as likely to interrupt women as they are to interrupt other men. In fact, they interrupt women so much there’s been a term for it: manterrupting, the unnecessary (because it's never necessary) interruption of a woman by a man.
There are loads of high profile examples: Taylor by Kanye at the VMAs. Senator Kamala Harris by her colleagues during the U.S. Senator Intelligence Committee hearings. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt during a panel discussion. And, probably you during the course of your everyday work.
The next time somebody tries to interrupt your sentence, here’s how to shut manterruption down:
1. Keep talking.
Yep, just keep right on with the point you were making. Make eye contact with the guy in question, lean forward a bit and keep your voice steady. He’s either going to stop talking or someone else in the group is going to ask that only one person speaks at a time. When they do simply state, “I’d like to finish what I was saying” and continue.
2. Restart where you left off.
Once he’s done speaking and before anyone else can jump in, say "thank you," and then start right where you left off. For example, if you were in the middle of saying “I strongly believe that…” before the manterruption happened, start right there. “Thanks, I strongly believe that…”
3. Be a voice for other women.
Speak up when you see another woman being interrupted. Say something along the lines of, “I want to hear what you have to say, Tom, but I don't think Abby was finished. Abby?" Promoting other people in the workplace is always a great idea.
4. Implement a 'no interruptions' policy.
When I work with teams on being inclusive, this policy is one of the first (and most important) recommendations I make. It not only shuts down the manterruptions, but helps introverts and others who struggle with speaking up have their voices heard.
5. There’s an app for that.
Get Woman Interrupted, a manterruption-tracking app. It uses your smartphone’s microphone to track how many times men interrupt women in meetings; it analyzes voice frequencies to determine how many times men’s voices overlap with women’s. Track a few of your meetings and use that data to start a conversation with your team about implementing the no interruptions policy.
6. When all else fails, pull an Auntie Maxine.
During a House Financial Services Committee meeting, Representative Maxine Waters wasn't having it when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was taking up her airtime. She repeatedly interrupted him saying, “Reclaiming my time.” and would proceed to ask her questions. The result? Her voice was heard.
Mo is the Founder of The Moxie Exchange, a training and peer mentoring organization for companies who want to recruit, develop, promote and retain women and create inclusive workplaces. She’s an advisor to CEOs of the nation’s fastest growing companies and is the founder 5 successful businesses. She also been known to sing loudly, dance badly and curse like a sailor.
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