I Was Mansplained


I Was Mansplained

I was mansplained, yesterday; like, intensely mansplained.

It was in many ways a great conversation. Long and deep. I like those kind. Eventually, though, it was like he had to get to a solid certainty, be right, and say just enough to make what I had shared wrong.

The certainty and hierarchical twist was clear. But here’s the thing. Even though he wanted me to cede power to him by accepting his opinion and his idea of his position of authority, he’s only an authority over me in his own mind. And that’s none of my business. My business is making sure I stand steadfast in my own authority and power from within, my sovereignty.

I love how my good friend and colleague, Judy Cohen, described what happened in a different way:

Another’s need to be right has no power over us unless we capitulate. So important to note that in these types of conversations “it takes two to tango.” In order for mansplaining or any other “splaining” to be successful the person with the perceived lesser power is required to concede. I wonder what the impact will be over time when we make mansplaining impotent. In effect, holding on to our sovereignty in these conversations is like doing aikido. The attacker falls on their own energy.

I did have to chuckle to myself how hard he was working to be right and relevant. It’s the old game so many of us were used to playing. But it takes two to keep that game alive. I have no interest in being one who denies my own knowing in order to try to stay connected in some old conditioned way. That’s not true connection nor is it kind or respectful of anyone. And it stalls our evolution.

I know how that feels to want to be right and relevant. But, I am learning it serves no one to attempt to control and deny someone else’s journey of discovering who they are and what they come to know. And it doesn’t serve the collective to pretend we know what we don’t truly know.

What happens when we don’t engage in that dance, don’t capitulate, don’t begin to question our own capacity to find for ourselves how we feel and what we see to be true?

What happens when we all relax into the sense that ultimately uncertainty and ambiguity are at the heart of the nature of this mysterious world and our human lives?

What I sense is that we can then come more deeply into relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with the world itself. Certainty creates separation. ‘Splaining’ does, too. And they kill curiosity and creativity, and true respect and honoring of each person’s ability to navigate their lives and discover what is so for them.

It feels like there’s a movement toward sovereignty in the collective, in each of us and all of us. I think most of us ‘splain’ at times, the need inside of us to stay certain and in control. This is different than sharing what you believe to be true without the inference that the person you are in conversation with doesn’t know what they are talking about. If that person wants things to be explained to them, they will ask.

I imagine we all have many opportunities to engage in the practice of staying steadfast in our own authority and power from within — our sovereignty — without needing to capitulate or ‘take down’ the one we are in conversation with.

Try it out. It’s a practice. I know it is one of my most important practices — to listen, to honor, and to let go of needing to be right. It’s a practice to not fall into the need to be either superior or inferior, to capitulate or dominate. Instead, there’s a third place: relational, connected sovereignty.