You’ve heard of mansplaining, right? 

It’s when someone -usually a man- interrupts a woman in order to explain something that she fully knows about or that she is an expert in, or that she doesn’t need explained to her. 

In fact, Merriam-Webster added Mansplaining to the dictionary in March 2018. The dictionary definition of mansplaining is when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.

You might think mansplaining is the worst, but I have something even worse than mansplaining to tell you about today! Sounds impossible, right?

What could be worse than being condescended to and talked down to? I’m going to tell you in a minute- but before I do, let’s dissect mansplaining a little more and share some examples. 

Examples of Mansplaining

The first example to share is such a classic. And it’s SO obvious. The situation consisted of a 22 year old male coworker mansplaining to his female coworker about getting pregnant and birth control – with advice about using hormonal birth control because “you can get pregnant at any time.”

Keep in mind that neither of these colleagues were gynecologists or worked in the women’s health field. 

A few things to point out about this example: in most cases, coworkers probably do not need to discuss getting pregnant and birth control. Probably never. And, since we’re on the topic of pregnancy, here’s just a quick public service announcement that it’s never, ever, ever a good idea to ask someone when she’s due or if she’s pregnant. There’s just no reason to introduce that topic if she hasn’t brought it up herself, definitively first. 

And, can we all agree, that, unless it’s literally their job, men never need to tell women anything about female reproductive health. And if it is their job, then the man should be doing a lot of asking questions first, before explaining anything. 

Another Mansplaining Example

Here’s a less incendiary example of mansplaining – it’s still not great though.  A woman and a man connected on a dating app and were exchanging messages. At one point, he began mansplaining to her how women don’t like men who participate in “feminine” activities or men who express their emotions. Uhh.. thanks for that explanation of what women do and don’t like, sir! I wonder what he considered “feminine” activities. 

And I fully own my own snarky attitude here – so let me soften a little to say, I can kind of understand, maybe a little, what was happening. He was sharing his own experiences and observations. That’s totally fine! I think it crossed over from “sharing an opinion” to “mansplaining” when he stopped just talking about himself and his own examples and started generalizing about an entire gender group (of which he was not a member) to a member of that gender group. 

Lots of Types of “Splaining” 

I’m not trying to single men out in this episode. I’m sure there are lots of types of splaining. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of some of these myself. 

What about non-parents telling moms and dads how to raise their kids? What about people with kids assuring childfree people that they’ll change their minds? What about people telling each other how to handle their relationships, their work situations and even their money?! 

It’s easy to see how tempting it can be to kidsplain, datesplain and moneysplain to someone else with complete confidence when you actually don’t really know their situations at all. 

Why Mansplaining is so Bad 

I might start a little controversy here, but I’m going to make the bold claim that it’s really not that bad. Well, that’s a contradiction to everything I just said- right?!?

But, it’s not actually too bad if you can be objective about it. 

Here’s what I mean: if I’m being interrupted by someone or overtaken by someone to tell me what I already know or what I’m an expert in, as long as I don’t make it mean anything, it’s not that bothersome.

Annoying? Yes. Embarrassing for them? yes. But, if I can be objective and let it roll right off my back, it’s ok. It’s just an irritating, temporary exchange.  But usually, in the midst of a massive mansplination, we don’t have that much grace and equanimity. We don’t let it roll off our backs. We are bothered and annoyed and irritated by it. Especially when it’s not just a one-time occurrence but a consistent practice by the same offender over and over again. 

Um, Excuse Me!

If we are getting annoyed or irritated or upset if someone starts mansplaining to us, the real reason we start feeling those emotions is because of what we are thinking. 

Maybe we’re thinking, “um, excuse me, you shouldn’t be interrupting me” or, “um, excuse me, you’re acting like, I don’t know what I’m talking about” or all of the other possible, “excuse me’s.” 

Or, maybe our thoughts don’t even start with an, “excuse me.” Maybe these thoughts going through our heads sound like “he thinks I don’t know this. He thinks I’m stupid. He thinks I’m a child. He thinks I’m dumb.” 

Who knows? Our brain is offering us all these thoughts. And these thoughts are what make us annoyed or upset or angry or all of the other negative emotions. 

How to Handle Being Mansplained 

If you ever do find yourself being mansplained – or any kind of splained- to, there are a few things that you could do, and there’s maybe some things that you might do and maybe some things that you might not want to do.

One thing that I really recommend that you consider -if available to you- is for you to step out of yourself so that you can look at the situation objectively instead of being the person in the moment who is being mansplained to. What if you could just step outside and look at two people in a conversation from a distance so that you don’t take it personally? 

What if you could consider the “splainer” (that’s what I’m calling the mansplainer) the splainer’s motive? Maybe he does know better than I do. Maybe he feels threatened by me. Maybe he feels out of his depth or insignificant. And so his mansplaining is a way to bolster himself or to prove to himself that he is significant. And if you’re able to, while you’re coming from that objective place, while you’re not taking it personally, hopefully you’re also remembering that you have the option to love unconditionally whenever you want.

Forgiving the Explanation

So maybe in that moment of being mansplained to you also have the option to forgive. Wow, what a relief, right? What freedom instead of being upset and feeling talked down to, and feeling interrupted and feeling ignored or less than what if you could just feel unconditional love for this annoying mansplainer and just forgive him and go about your life without letting it bother you. That would be amazing. Right? 

Please Don’t Misunderstand

Please don’t misunderstand! I am not suggesting that we approve of this very rude and negative habit of mansplaining. I am not suggesting that we accept it with open arms and I’m not making any excuses for it. I say let’s rid the world of mansplaining ASAP. And, in the meantime, until we’re rid of it as a civilization and as a society, I certainly don’t think we should resist it. 

I think we should notice when it’s happening with an open mind and open heart and accept instead of resist. Acceptance without resistance. Not condoning, but also not condemning. 

Worse than a Mansplanation

Okay. Now I want to tell you what is worse than being mansplained to, you know, what’s worse? It’s meansplaining. That’s right. It’s like mansplaining, except it has an E in it. It has the root word mean in it. And it’s very mean. Meansplaining means blaming and shaming ourselves. And I think the added E might represent that it comes from the Ego. 

This is not when another person interrupts you and talks down to you and tells you what you should think or what you should know or how they know better. This is when you do it to yourself -inside of your own head! 

The reason why this is so much worse than being mansplained to is because we don’t even realize that it’s happening usually. And unlike when we’re being mansplained to and our defenses go up and we realize something negative is happening and something that we don’t agree with is happening. When we’re meansplaining to ourselves, we might just believe it, accept it, go along with it, agree with it, and not stand up for ourselves, not dispute the meansplanation, not question the motive for it and not forgive ourselves.

We Do It Without Awareness

So we’re not even aware that we’re doing it. And we do it. When we hear our own meansplanations, we don’t question that the meansplaining that’s happening may be wrong, or it might not be the only possible explanation in the moment, or it might not even be relevant, but here we are listening to that meansplaining voice and giving it a lot of attention and a lot of belief and maybe even taking action on it. 

Examples of Meansplaining

Here’s what meansplaining sounds like in my head sometimes:

“Your designs are not good enough. You can’t compete with people who have more experience than you. That thing that you’re thinking about doing will take too much time and energy, so you might as well not even start.

You wouldn’t be any good at that. 

Other people do that much better than you ever could.” 

Here’s what meansplaining might sound like in your head:

“You really messed up – you’re probably getting fired now.”

“People are not going to like you if you do this. In fact, they’ll be mad at you.”

“Everything is ruined. Nothing will ever be the same again.”

Ohhh! These are way harsh- right?! But, do they sound a little familiar to you? Have you heard any of these meansplanations inside of your own mind?

The Mansplainer isn’t the Expert

So, going back to the initial examples I gave a few minutes ago. Let’s think about when someone is being mansplained to and the mansplainer isn’t really the expert. The receiver of the mansplaination is the expert. Like the woman who was dating who was being told what women like. Or the woman who had female reproductive organs being told how and when it’s possible for women to conceive. The receiver of the message was actually the expert!

Who is the Expert During a Meansplanation? When you’re being meansplained to by your own mean mind, who is the expert? Not your mean mind, it’s your inner voice, your intuition. 

So what can you do when you notice you are being or have been meansplained to? The first thing I’m going to suggest is just like we did when you were being mansplained too, zoom out, step outside of yourself to look at your thoughts, objectively.

What thought or what message are you getting from that meansplaining voice? 

Is it true? 

Is it relevant? 

Do you need to believe it? 

Is there an alternative that you could believe in instead? 

Don’t Take It Personally

Secondly, just like when you’re being mansplained to, when you are meansplaining to yourself, don’t take it personally. 

I actually caught this the other day. I was considering everything I had completed the day before and noticed the meanplaining voice telling me “that’s it? That’s not enough.”

And since I caught it mid-meansplanation, I responded to myself “um, excuse me! It was exactly the right amount. It was the perfect level of productivity for a Tuesday!”

See! You don’t have to beat yourself up for thinking negative thoughts. You don’t have to judge your meansplaining ego for being helpful and you can remind yourself that this experience is totally human and totally normal. Of course our primitive brains are going to look for ways we can avoid pain (like the pain of rejection or failure). Of course our primitive brains are going to look for ways we can conserve energy (like the energy required to start something new or try something more difficult). So, when you hear that meansplaining voice, don’t assume it’s true about you personally and don’t worry too much that you’re hearing it. 

Be Objective

Thirdly, just like when you were able to be objective and consider the motive of that mansplainer, like asking “do they feel out of their element? Are they feeling ignored?” 

Think about the motive of your mean mind when it’s doing some meansplaining to you. Is it trying to protect you? Is it conserving energy for you by telling you not to think of anything new?

I think the motive of my mind when it told me I hadn’t done enough the day before goes to my (maybe irrational) fear of wasting time. I need to do a lot of work on that. So, noticing my mind talking down to me about not having done enough is just really its way of protecting me from the threat of wasting time. It’s not a very sophisticated protective tactic, and it could do more harm than good, but I can kind of understand why it’s happening. 


Finally with unconditional love and compassion, forgive your meansplaining mind. Even though it’s annoying and bothersome and irritating, it’s just doing its job.

It’s just coming up with all the worst case scenarios and telling you what might happen and why you shouldn’t and why you can’t. That’s totally normal. It’s totally human. It’s really not a problem since you are able to catch it mid mindsplanation.

What’s the Opposite?

Let’s talk about what’s the opposite of all those types of splaining we were talking about. 

What if every person in the world never condescended or talked down? What if they always just listened openly and didn’t need to be the expert or need to show that they were right? 

What if they were also open to learning and open to being contradicted and open to, maybe even, having been wrong? 

What if everyone was just open to non-judgment? 

Listening Openly to Ourselves

Well, the same is true for meansplainingWhat’s the opposite of meansplaining? It’s listening openly to ourselves, to our ideas, to our thoughts, to our fears, to our doubts. It’s not needing to be the expert or to be right. And this goes with not needing to know how. 

It’s being open to learning and it’s being available to be contradicted. Can you imagine you could welcome being contradicted? That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. That’s how you develop a diverse set of ideas and opinions and beliefs. 

My Apology

And again! If I’ve ever ‘splained anything to you and irritated or offended you – I’m sorry! I’m sure I meant well, but I also know, I’m human and eager to share my opinions! So, please accept my apology (and let me know when it happens so I can learn). 

If there’s a grouchy person out there who thinks this whole podcast is a big uninvited “podsplanation” of me giving you advice and unwelcome suggestions about how you can live your life.. Then, I’m also sorry and I invite that person to stop listening! My theories and advice are only meant for those who want to hear them!

I hope you’re on the lookout for your own meansplaining mind. Let me know what you think and if you have any questions or any resistance.