This was first published on KSL.COM
I have noticed lately that many of the men at work and in other meetings I attend interrupt me, cut me off, or talk down to me and the other women in those groups. I am just curious to know if you think there is anything we can do to garner more respect and/or change this? Should we say something when this happens or try to ignore it?
Women are often talked over, interrupted or shut down in conversation, especially in environments where they are outnumbered by men. A study from George Washington University found that men were 33% more likely to interrupt women than they were to interrupt other men.
Another study, from researchers at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, found that this even happens to female Supreme Court Justices, like the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Researchers examined 15 years of court transcripts to see how often men, either justices or advocates, interrupted the female justices. Over the last 12 years (when women have comprised only 24% of the bench) female justices being interrupted by men accounted for 32% of interruptions, while female justices interrupting men accounted for only 4% of interruptions.
According to Jessica Bennett, a gender editor at the New York Times, it is not just men who interrupt women. Other women are also more prone to interrupt women, and people of color and LGBTQ+ people fare even worse. The sad truth is we subconsciously see some people as less valuable or less important, and this shows up in the way we communicate.
I believe the crucial first step is committing to see all human beings as having the same value and demonstrating this belief in how we talk to them. Every person deserves to be heard and respected. We must see all human beings as equals, listen without interrupting, and honor their right to think differently than we do.
Obviously, there are also situations where the opposite is true and women interrupt or talk over men. The point of the article is to make us all better at respectful communication.
Practical ways you can be part of the solution
1. Stop before interrupting someone. If you feel the urge to interrupt someone, ask yourself, "Do I just want to ask a quick question to clarify what they are saying? Am I going to invite them to continue afterward, or do I think what I have to say is more important than this person?" If the latter is is the case, choose to keep quiet.
2. Check yourself before giving advice. Before you advise another person ask yourself, "Is there any chance I am explaining something to this person that they already know?" If you think there is any chance they might already know this information, don't insult them by telling them. You could also ask them directly if they would be open to some advice?
3. Ask permission before you share an idea or suggestion, or give advice. Ask the other person if they are open to hearing your idea and give them a comfortable out if they'd rather not hear it. Respect the answer to your permission question and don't forge ahead without permission.
4. Don't use demeaning nicknames like honey, sweetie, love or babe. These are not appropriate unless you are dating or married to the other person, and even then ask how they feel about these terms and make sure they are seen as a compliment, not an insult.
5. Never correct another person's pronunciation or grammar.
6. Avoid sexist or demeaning jokes and misogynistic statements. Call out other people who use them. Explain to them why their behavior is wrong. Watch for situations that make women or other marginalized people feel uncomfortable and stand up for them.
7. Make a committed effort to listen to other people. In any meetings you attend, make sure all the women and marginalized people are respected and heard. Insist that others acknowledge and hear them out. Stop people who are interrupting them.
8. Believe women and what they say. Insist that others do the same.
9. Don't get defensive if a woman — or anyone for that matter — tells you that your words or behavior were offensive or hurtful. Be open to understanding that from another person's perspective things can look and feel different than they feel from your perspective. Apologize and ask questions so you understand what you should do differently in the future. Be teachable.
10. Be careful not to talk over other people. Don't dismiss others' ideas; and if you cannot wait to make a comment, at least politely ask if you can stop them for a second. Then, make sure you invite them to continue afterward.
11. If you are on a board, panel or team, insist that they include a well-rounded number of diverse people. Invite more women or minorities to participate and be included.
12. Teach young people that being feminine is not a bad thing. Don't use phrases like "you hit like a girl." Challenge stereotypes that place women behind men as the weaker sex. Encourage women and girls to see themselves as equal, smart and capable as men.
What to do if you find yourself being talked down to or interrupted
1. Don't take it personally. Interrupting says more about a lack of manners in the other person than it says about you. This experience doesn't mean you are less important or less worthy of respect; it likely means the other person hasn't learned to be aware of how their actions affect other people.
2. Don't blame yourself or see yourself as weak or insecure. This happens because our entire society has been taught patriarchy as the social norm. You allow men to interrupt you because it is deep in your subconscious programming to see it as acceptable. It will take work and time for you to recognize every time it happens and learn to stand up for yourself. Have compassion for yourself during this time.
3. Whenever you are speaking to men, use confident words. Rose Kennedy, from the Atlanta Journal, encourages women to "speak with conviction using words like 'know' instead of 'believe' and 'will' instead of 'might." She says to "lean in and make eye contact," sighting a 1983 study that found men tend to interrupt women more often when they lean away or don't look at the person they're talking to.
4. Practice assertive body language. Do things like keeping your arms out to take up as much space in the room as you can. This is a power position and it changes how people treat you.
5. Be strong and confident without being defensive or overly forceful. You don't have to be angry and defensive to stand up for yourself. You can stand in your power and still be calm, peaceful and kind.
6. If you are interrupted or cut off, you have the following options to respond (which can all be done standing in your power):
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I have been married for over 20 years. During this time, I have tried unsuccessfully to make my wife happy. I have initiated counseling sessions several times only to come out worse for going. I recently had a friend say they think I'm a victim of emotional abuse from my wife. I have tried to see her side of things and understand where my wife is coming from and to even work on myself. But am I using this as an excuse? Do many men get emotionally abused? When do you work on yourself and when do you insist a wife's behavior isn’t ok?
If you want a healthy relationship, you must constantly work on yourself AND you must insist your partner do the same. If your partner is abusive (which we will determine below) and they are unwilling admit their behavior is wrong, change the attitudes that drive the behavior and get professional help, there may be cause for you to leave.
We say this, because you teach people how to treat you by what you allow. If you are willing to keep living with someone who is emotionally abusive, why should they change?
If they know you are too scared to leave or are a pushover, they have no motivation to change anything, and it takes a great deal of motivation for an abuser to change their ways and give up the power they get from the abuse.
We also want to reassure you that abuse by women against men is not uncommon at all. Both genders are actually almost equally abused. One report showed that “40% of victims of severe physical violence are men, who are victimized by their intimate partners, and men are also more often the victim of psychological aggression.” You can read more about this on www.batteredmen.org.
Also, remember we are in the classroom of life to learn about love. So, allowing someone to mistreat you is denying them an important lesson they have coming. It is not ok to disrespect, insult or be cruel to any human being. Someone has to teach that to your spouse and the universe has selected you.
We want to clarify what behaviors constitute abuse though, because some of you are so used to abusive behavior, you actually think it’s normal and therefore ok. Everyone has disagreements with their spouse, but some kinds of fighting behaviors are not acceptable, ever. We believe there are three types of bad behavior that show up in relationships and we want you to recognize them so you know what is okay and what is not.
Here are the three categories of bad relationship behavior:
If you are seeing signs of abuse, you should seek professional help and do something about it right now, especially if there are children in your home. We often hear people in abusive relationships say they are “staying for their children” and don’t want to break up the family. You must understand that even watching this kind of abuse can damage your children. Safe Horizons (a website for victims of abuse) says that without help, children who witness abuse are more vulnerable to being abused themselves as adults or teens, or they are likely to become abusers themselves.
You and your children deserve to feel safe and respected in your home. You should also be able to have mature, rational, mutually validating conversations about problems that arise with your spouse. If your partner can't do that and is tearing down your self-esteem on a regular basis (so you feel miserable and worthless) and you experience fear whenever they are home, you are probably a victim of abuse.
Your rationalizing this behavior as normal makes sense, if it is all you have ever experienced, but it is not normal or acceptable. If you love yourself, your children and your spouse at all, you owe it to them all to seek help. It is time for your spouse and children to learn that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect
If you don’t have a religious leader, counselor, or coach to go to for help, start with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, they can point you in the right direction.
We know that change and seeking help sounds scary because ‘the known’ even though it’s bad, feels safer than the ‘unknown’. But you will all grow and learn so much it will be a win in the end. There will be some hard moments, but you are stronger than you think you are, and you deserve better.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.