Even our closest of friends can say things that offend us sometimes, making it tricky to react without causing any tension. It's particularly confusing when you're dealing with mansplaining, as it's still something a lot of us don't realize we're even doing. If you're prepared, however, you'll have a few different ways to respond to mansplaining from your friends tucked away in your back pocket, ready for your use whenever you sense someone is speaking to you in a condescending or belittling tone.
Mansplaining is a type of language that became deeply engrained in our everyday conversations stemming from the longstanding beliefs that women are vulnerable, weak, oblivious, or less capable — although to be fair, it can happen to men, too. Coined by Rebecca Solnit in the essay "Men Explain Things To Me," it describes the habit some men have of "explaining" topics to women that they don't actually need explained to them, often because they're experts in the topics already. In Solnit's essay, the instance of mansplaining discussed involved the man in question explaining Solnit's own book to her — without seeming to realize that, yes, she was the book's author.
Mansplaining can surface at any time in day-to-day life: Maybe a friend mansplains to you when they're commenting on the outfit you're wearing (and what you could've done differently), giving you dating advice regarding your current partner, or telling you how to care for your home — issues that, very likely, you know more about than they do.
Still, friends are (hopefully) forever, and maybe they just need a gentle nudge in the right direction — so here are a few ways to approach the situation without putting your friendship on thin ice. (Although if the mansplaining makes you realize that you need to cut a toxic friend out of your life, then by all means, go right ahead. Who has time for that kind of negativity?)
1. Acknowledge The Mansplaining As Soon As You Recognize It
Best not to let things sit and brew. Once you realize your friend is mansplaining something to you, nip it in the bud. Acknowledge it up front by pointing out the unwelcoming tone or hurtful words. Relationships are often strained when we don't speak our mind early on; and honestly, how can the problem ever be resolved if you don't speak up? It doesn't have to be a fight, but it does need to happen.
2. Provide Proof To The Contrary
Sometimes, friends give their unsolicited advice when they genuinely think you need it. Such was the case when a well-intentioned male friend told me the "proper way" for a woman to dress for a job interview — which, it's probably needless to say, didn't align with what I had on for my interview that day. I politely pointed to the numerous successful interviews I'd had in the past where — surprise! — I actually dressed myself. He meant no harm, but I was fairly certain I didn't need a man telling me how to dress, period. End of story.
When you can back up your case with evidence, the mansplaining is shut down pretty quickly — no fight necessary.
3. Point Out Discrepancies
If a friend feels entitled to tell you what to do, then it only seems fair to point out why they shouldn't. Using the example above, I kindly referenced the fact that A) my friend was not a woman, B) he knew nothing of the position I was interviewing for, and C) women's workplace fashion likely isn't his forte.
4. Put Them In Your Shoes
Sometimes, all we need to get a point across is to give the other person a little dose of their own medicine. No, you shouldn't be out for revenge. Instead, you're simply trying to get them to see things from your perspective. If a male friend starts telling you how to dress in a slightly condescending tone, try doing the same thing to him and see how it goes. Shed light on the mansplaining, and you'll help open their eyes to it.
5. Ask For Evidence
If a friend feels like it's appropriate to, essentially, tell you what to do, it doesn't hurt to ask them why they feel they have the right to do so. What are their qualifications? What are their experiences? What has put them in this position where they believe they're more knowledgeable than you? Sure, there's a chance that they'll actually have said evidence... but more than likely, they'll be left speechless. Take that, mansplaining.
6. Remind Them Why You Value Their Friendship
Friendships are special and unique relationships in their own rights. Maybe a little reminder of why you adore your friend so much will set you two back on the right track. Explain how you love their honesty but also how when you feel like you can't rely on anyone else for support and encouragement, you know you can rely on them. Point out the positives before pointing out the negatives, and you might have an easier time making your case.
7. Take A Little Break
It's human nature to need a little time away from people every now and again. If your attempts at eliminating a friend's mansplaining don't prove fruitful, it's alright to give yourself a little space to breathe and get back to a healthier mindset. You're not breaking up with your friend. You're not removing them from your life. You're just taking a little time out (and giving them one, as well) to ponder your next move. No harm done.