Being ignored by men in conversations

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sl-owl-orris
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Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by sl-owl-orris » Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:17 pm

This is something that keeps bugging me from time to time and, inspired by the latest post in CS’s journal, I decided to write about it here. I’m hoping for some insight.

Basically, I often feel ignored in conversations involving men. It doesn’t have to be a large group: 2 other people and I - that’s enough for me to notice this effect. It doesn’t happen in women-only groups, and usually, the more men, the more ignored I feel.

The actual symptoms:
  1. Not hearing me. Example: someone asks a question and I provide the answer and the whole group behaves like if I didn’t say anything. Then, they either proceed to ponder wrong answers or someone else says exactly what I said a second ago and gets acknowledged. To clarify - I’m not speaking too quietly.
  2. Talking only among themselves on topics I can’t possibly contribute to. Example: talking about people only they know, etc.
  3. Not giving me space to express myself, not asking my opinion while taking into consideration opinions of all the other people present.
  4. Not letting me enter a conversation. When there is a meeting or there are more people present, it’s sometimes hard to get a chance to speak, because others are constantly talking. But generally, if a person starts speaking or makes non-verbal signals that they would like to say something, they get acknowledged and are given a chance to speak. My signals often don’t get acknowledged and after few tries, I just give up.
Depending on the setting (is this conversation important to me, will I interact with those people in the future and how important it is for me to be able to express my opinion in a particular situation) I react differently. If it’s really important I speak up, I raise my voice or keep repeating myself until I’m heard. As a result, men are usually really shocked. If it’s not that important, I simply sit back or walk away.

Now, I’m an introvert and I’m a good listener, but that doesn’t mean that I have no opinions or no charisma. I know that despite of all the achievements of feminism, we still live in largely patriarchal society, where people view others through gender norms. Still, I wonder how much of what I’m experiencing is caused by the fact that I’m a woman or is it due to my personality somehow not translating well. It’s really frustrating, especially in a work setting.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:03 pm

Well, first, I'm over 6 foot tall, nearly 300 lbs, white/male, and I have experienced all of the above. Which is not to invalidate your experience. Just giving reference points.

My wife is 5 foot 2, less than half my mass, and works in the same office. It is interesting to me to compare experiences.

My first question is how old are you? I expect you to be young, based on your description of the situation, both in the way you describe the problem and your assumptions.

First, please read http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/10/02/different-worlds/ this will help you square up the different experiences responding posters will have.

My main point, is you are now in the business world, and the office has different rules and standards than school. In school, everyone is fairly equal, and all there is to compete over is grades. In the office, there is enormous subtle competition. How do I claw my way to middle management? Part of the way is to garner credit, and part is by "showing leadership" both of which can lead to the behavior you describe.

I don't know this isn't patriarchal dismissal of you and your opinions because you are a woman. But I doubt it. I don't doubt your experience, but I think you have misdiagnosed the cause.

For instance, if I were a salaryman, looking to get that next rung on the ladder, the way I would demonstrate this is by "taking charge" at meetings. Part of this is to control talking points, which includes shutting down other talking points. Also, if I hear a good idea, that doesn't get any traction, I would push it myself, and garner all credit for said idea.

I am sure the people shut down, whose ideas were co-opted, we're not happy with the results. And if I were a nicer person, that would bother me. But then, if I were that nicer guy, I wouldn't be competitive for that next rung, would I?

From a co-worker's perspective, my actions may seem like I am ignoring/stealing from them because of whatever reason they can think of (I'm an *-ist, I'm a prick, I was dropped on my head too much as a baby, whatever). But in my experience, this is just how people compete in an office.

I find young folks out of college are unprepared for a hierarchy, and the implications of competing within one. This seems to lead to all sorts of bizarre ideas.

Again, I wasn't there. Maybe you work with mysogynist pricks who are resentful they can't have meetings at strip clubs anymore. I don't know. But that's not the only explanation for your experience, either.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Campitor » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:30 pm

Every transgression you mentioned I've heard but from men - they complain they are not heard or drowned out in groups. The patriarchy only exists if you believe the incredible number of men who have died in the workplace, committed suicide, and died in the military is somehow a net benefit instead of a tragedy - men lead in every negative life metric - and we get the honor of dying younger than woman too in the old age category. Being a man isn't the cakewalk it's made out to be. Don't confuse this with me thinking woman have it easy - they don't either. Life in general is hard at times and everyone makes assumptions that the grass is greener somehow for the opposite sex (male or female).
Not hearing me. Example: someone asks a question and I provide the answer and the whole group behaves like if I didn’t say anything. Then, they either proceed to ponder wrong answers or someone else says exactly what I said a second ago and gets acknowledged. To clarify - I’m not speaking too quietly.
I've actually heard this complaint from an army colonel that was talking to civilians about some technical solutions. It's also happens to me from time to time when the conversation is particularly animated (sports/politics/funny banter). I also had a female coworker go 100% livid when this happened to her and later vented in my private company - the people involved were all female. She met with them frequently and complained about this issue often.
Talking only among themselves on topics I can’t possibly contribute to. Example: talking about people only they know, etc.
Do you honestly believe only males engage in this behavior?
• Not giving me space to express myself, not asking my opinion while taking into consideration opinions of all the other people present.

• Not letting me enter a conversation. When there is a meeting or there are more people present, it’s sometimes hard to get a chance to speak, because others are constantly talking. But generally, if a person starts speaking or makes non-verbal signals that they would like to say something, they get acknowledged and are given a chance to speak. My signals often don’t get acknowledged and after few tries, I just give up.
Whoever is chairing your meetings is doing a terrible job. It's up to the leader of the meeting to ensure everyone is heard. I don't think this is a male issue but rather a sucky leadership issue. Talk to the meeting organizer about this.
Depending on the setting (is this conversation important to me, will I interact with those people in the future and how important it is for me to be able to express my opinion in a particular situation) I react differently. If it’s really important I speak up, I raise my voice or keep repeating myself until I’m heard. As a result, men are usually really shocked. If it’s not that important, I simply sit back or walk away.
You work with some very poor listeners - most people are poor listeners - they are usually thinking of a reply instead of really listening to the person they are talking to. This behavior is rampant everywhere.
Now, I’m an introvert and I’m a good listener, but that doesn’t mean that I have no opinions or no charisma.
I was in a leadership class where they had us take all kinds of aptitude and personality tests. The person conducting the class was an introvert - he pointed this out himself to highlight a behavioral pattern that many introverts adopt subconsciously - they don't emote much which leads to the "the lights are on but nobody is home" syndrome - his words not mine. So a lot of the cues the extroverts give off such as I'm bored, excited, have something to say, are not visible in the introverts - this leads to communication clashes between extroverts and introverts. Do you give any physical cues that you want to speak? Do you emote when listening, i.e., nod your head to indicate your listening, or give the physical cues that you want to respond? I remember this one woman stated that she was an introvert and didn't feel the need to emote - that she wasn't a clown that needed to put on a show to talk to an extrovert. The instructor, an introvert himself, stated "You don't have to emote but be aware that your behavior (not emoting) will cost you professionally." Be honest in your self assessment in this regard.

And be assertive - there is nothing to lose. Keeping quiet will earn you nothing. All of us are trying to be heard in the cacophony of voices - so be loud and proud when required.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by jacob » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:40 pm

Riggerjack wrote it much better (and faster) than I did, but I agree with everything he said, thus providing an additional data point from an introvert male who has not been jockeying for position. (Instead I usually ended up as the smart guy they kept in the basement.)

Another factor to consider is the pre-existing social network which exists in the office. It may be old and it may also exist outside of work (i.e. people going out for beer after work; people knowing each other from college; ...).

Your experiences sound exactly how I've felt (especially as an introvert) when entering new circles (job, school, family, sports, ... ) regardless of gender composition:
  1. In group settings, it's often more important how it's being said or who says it than what is being said. If you spend most of your energy focusing on the what, you'll lose to people who focus on the who and the how. In particular, people like Riggerjack will steal your ideas ;-)
  2. They will all have a shared history and repository of things to talk about e.g. sports, each other's children, the weather, ... of which I have none (standard introvert problem). This is part of being the "who". Much effort is required to become a part of the "who" and maintain that part. This is similar to what it took to become one of the popular kids in high school.
  3. Most real world social dynamics is exclusive (zero-sum) rather than inclusive. Space has to be taken. Maintaining a "democratic atmosphere" either requires a benign dictator or a rare friendly social-mensch who is willing to give up such space freely.
  4. I blame this on extraverts. Most people talk incessantly. They don't listen. This gets worse the more people there are. To cut in, it works better to keep talking waiting for the other person to shut up. Repeating yourself over and over sounds kinda autistic ... I can't see how that would go over well.
Keeping in mind that "new circles" can stay new forever if one does not put in enormous effort to fit in.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:03 pm

Being talked over happens to me a lot at work. I am a male and this has happened with male groups, female groups and mixed groups. Sometimes the talkers appear to be vying for career position but mostly I think people like to hear themselves talk and have control.

Hopefully more women will say if this happens to them.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by ffj » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:09 pm

It's more of an introvert thing than a gender issue. I get ignored by women all of the time. :D

Most people want to be entertained, and we introverts suck at this. We are also cursed, at least I am, at not wanting to compete for the chance to say something. It's exhausting. And I don't care about mundane shit that extroverts thrive on which is yet another disadvantage.

They aren't ignoring you because you are a woman, they ignore you because you aren't playing the game, and it isn't about being nice and respectful and having the most thoughtful answer. It's a competition, and if you aren't going to compete than blaming it on the patriarchy might make you feel a little better, I don't know, but its not going to help you.

Something I always did was always go out of my way to become VERY good at what I was doing so others had to come to me for answers. I was never going to advance by brown-nosing, being the life of the party, the funny one, etc. I always advanced on merit, it sure as hell wasn't my personality, and I think it's a winning strategy for introverts to be honest. We are as a whole much more aware than the average bear and if you'll become indispensable they won't ignore you any longer.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:18 pm

Unfortunately, I think it is likely that you are finding yourself at a disadvantage in these circumstances because you are female, and because you are introverted, and also because you give a rat's ass about outcome.

I can recall many instances of being in similar circumstances, and speaking up to offer my solution to some problem, my only motivating factors being too much coffee and extreme boredom, and then being taken seriously.

Otoh, there have been contexts in which I have felt like I have been driven into the INTP half of my XNTP personality by men who are extremely extroverted and domineering in their behavior. However, it's not a state of affairs that lasts very long, because I generally end my association with people when they say things like "If you don't shut up, I will bash your teeth in." My relevant point for you here being that if you can push your point hard enough that somebody might be muttering something like that under their breath at a business meeting, then you will have been heard.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by GandK » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:38 pm

Ex-military woman who retired from IT here. NF on top of that, so hyper-sensitive to inclusion/exclusion dynamics.

Yes. That happens to women. But as the guys said, it doesn't only happen to women. Every human experiences this in some form. Don't allow yourself to feel like a victim about it.

My experience after 20 years of working almost exclusively with men:

1. Inclusion is a currency, just like money is. You rarely go into professional situations with inclusion. You earn it along the way. Respect is one way to earn it, throwing money around is another, sex appeal is another. Just be sure to...

2. Make sure you're being included for the right reasons, where right = aligned with your own personal goals. Because

3. The one thing that IS unique to women's experience when working in a group of guys is that you have to pick a lane. You can be a Lady, you can be a sex object, or you can be one of the guys. You won't ever get to be all three, or even two of the three. You need to figure out how you want to be perceived and treated early on in your career, and aim deliberately and consistently for that.

4. It's not anyone else's responsibility to make room for you in a conversation. Talking over you is rude, if that's going on, but in any conversation, most people are concentrating either on understanding the speaker or on what they want to say next. They're not thinking, "Well, I've had the mike for the last 5 minutes... who hasn't had a turn yet?" in order to provide on ramps for others. Those who advise assertion above are right. And regarding assertion, especially focus on your

5. Body language. Here's an outstanding TED Talk on nonverbal communication in power dynamics.

It took me 10+ years to figure out a communication style that was both effective in the workplace and complimented my personality and goals. It takes a lot of practice, especially for introverts. Good luck to you!

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by C40 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 8:59 pm

Read this book: https://www.amazon.com/You-Just-Dont-Un ... 0060959622

It's good and I found it super interesting.

Women DO get ignored and spoken over in conversations than men. But, there is a heck of a lot of speaking-over and interrupting happening - especially in the U.S (and probably in the U.K. too) That book was super interesting for me as it pointed out things that I never realized were happening. I think the book is more about just describing differences in men and women in conversation and in meetings (it has a lot about group/work settings, and about how and how often the type of things you described happen). I don't recall it having much advice on what to do about it, though I sure there was some, and I'm sure you'd get some ideas from the book. But even if not, just a better understanding of this will probably he helpful for you.

(For those wondering and debating, I remember one of the things I read in this book being that there is indeed a higher rate of these happening to women: being interrupted, being spoken over, their ideas being repeated by a man and then the man getting credit for them... I think after reading the book I noticed that last one happen now and then, and noticed the perturbed look on the woman's face - a type of occurrence I didn't recall having actually noticed before)
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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Tyler9000 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:07 pm

@Sl-owl-orris -- I understand why you feel frustrated. Do you mind if I ask what industry you're in? Different industries attract different personality types, so it might affect my advice.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Scott 2 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:16 pm

It's a game, you have to figure out the rules through trial and error, then play them.

I've worked with a number of extremely smart, but conflict adverse women. They get steam rolled in meetings, despite having the great ideas. I trade on that, by listening to them, asserting their ideas, and sharing credit. We both benefit, but some of them could leave me in the dust, if they'd just get comfortable with conflict as a daily part of doing business.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by slowtraveler » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:38 am

@7w
Do they actually say those words?

@op
This is not gender specific. I have had it happen with both genders, both on the giving and receiving end. I would be surprised if this hasn't happened to you and you've never unintentionally excluded someone from conversation.

I think incentive caused bias is always at play. People's attention moves towards where they perceive the most value to them is.

Some good advice above.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:24 am

@Felipe:

Yes, that was a literal transcript. I have been in many arguments with men who have threatened violence in order to shut me up. However, I would note that it likely has as much to do with behaving like an obnoxious nerd and erring on the side of oblivious in relationship to an emotionally-reactive thug, as the fact of my gender. My INTP son used to sometimes get pounded on for similar reasons before he grew to 6'3"

@Gandk:

Absolutely agree with everything you wrote, especially your point 3. The funny thing is that the same woman who comes off too soft in a business setting might come off too hard in a dating setting. All humans need to transcend "I should be accepted for who I am" and push towards "I will be accepted for who I am becoming" towards fluid, flexible function in alignment with self-interest and maturity. There are many things many of us might want in life that can't be readily purchased with whatever forms of coins we were blessed with at birth.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by IlliniDave » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:01 am

Happened to me frequently when I was married. Not so much any more.

From everything above it sounds more like an introvert thing than a gender thing. I am an introvert too, and I rarely speak in meetings unless I'm a presenter or I'm asked a direct question (I was on the job a number of years before that ever happened).

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Chris » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:20 am

sl-owl-orris,

Some of the situations you describe are supremely annoying. There are a lot of introverts here to have been in similar situations, but you might be getting a double-whammy, depending on the attitudes of your work associates.

Have you noticed the same symptoms occurring across all conversation types? For example: in-person verbal vs. teleconference vs. group email.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by ZAFCorrection » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:22 pm

Longtime lurker starting out in this sub-forum. uh oh.

Anyway, this topic has been on my mind a lot recently. My research group recently went from having one student (me, male) to having five. The four additional people are two men and two women, and no one really knows anyone else. Due to all the newbies, the PI is of the opinion that the best way to get everyone up to speed is to have a lot of study groups, seminars, and whatever. I am fairly senior to my labmates and I find the whole thing incredibly pointless, so I just sit back and do a bit of moderation.

Based mostly on this experience and also a few others, I would say there are cases where women definitely get talked over disproportionately to the dudes. The problem seems to be fixed easily either by the woman being more assertive or the moderator making a point of giving people an opportunity to talk. The worst offenders also seem to be socially clueless in general, so raising awareness in a non-targeted way is probably a waste of time.

@GandK,
You bring up a very interesting point regarding lanes. Thinking back, the women I found most annoying to work with had a hard time choosing between Lady and one of the guys. It's easy dealing with either, but switching relating styles back and forth is basically impossible to do gracefully. Maybe that is something I should consider working on.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by CS » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:11 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:18 pm
Unfortunately, I think it is likely that you are finding yourself at a disadvantage in these circumstances because you are female, and because you are introverted, and also because you give a rat's ass about outcome.
I have to agree with the above. Sometimes I think it is helpful to be a little tone deaf, and just flat out deaf too. Caring less about stepping on people's toes, and intensionally not hearing or seeing the complaints so much when you just barge in there. Depending on your upbringing (I personally had to walk on eggshells sometimes for family harmony), this has various levels of difficulty. I've found that F you money has helped with both of these when it comes to negotiating jobs - and how I am treated on them. I have never been paid more in my life, now that I will soon not need it.

Don't know what to recommend for personal situations. This discussion, and the number of people contributing, is fascinating.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Tyler9000 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:04 pm

After catching up on a few of your older posts, I learned that this is a new entry-level government position. Other than the tendency of people in jobs like this to follow procedure, I'm not sure that it necessarily influences this particular question.

Summarizing the original issues:

1) Not listening to you
2) Talking about topics only they know about
3) Not giving you space to express yourself (I'll group 4 in here as well)

In my experience #2 is just a human nature thing that transcends all races and genders. Most people want to contribute to a conversation, and you can only contribute what you know. For example, teachers and parents are notorious for this as it seems like all they talk about constantly is school and kids. It doesn't mean they're being malicious in the slightest. They're just communicating their everyday life, and people have different experiences.

I'd need more info to diagnose #1. But based on your frustration with #2, I suspect that it may be a language issue. No, not a literal language thing, but maybe you're struggling with framing your ideas in terms that resonate with the audience. When you hear someone else say the same thing and get recognized for it, pay special attention to the words and context they used. For example, let's say you're talking to the CFO. You say you think they should increase the cost of the product by 10%, and he acts like he didn't hear you. Someone else says that that they think they should add a feature that will increase sales by 50% and only cost an extra 10%, and he celebrates the idea as genius. Selling ideas is about a lot more than simply laying out the facts. It's important to know your audience.

#3 is one where I think there could indeed be a gender issue (on top of normal personality differences), although I think it's more a "Men are from Mars" type thing rather than a discriminatory issue. Many women I have worked with over the years (including the one I married) clearly value two-way collaboration and conversation, while a significant percentage of men tend to be one-way idea sharers. (Obviously this is a generalization and there are many exceptions, but I've found the insight helpful in my own relationships with others). It's easy for a one-way personality to share with a two-way communicator (I wager the same men would rate you as a good communicator even while you feel frustrated about it), but it's a lot more difficult the other way around. In a marriage you can work together to meld communication styles, but in the workplace you can only control yourself. It takes practice, patience, and confidence to figure out the best way to insert yourself into a conversation, but it is worth the effort.
Last edited by Tyler9000 on Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by Dream of Freedom » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:50 pm

Well, I am male. I have been talked over, too. My solution after a couple of decades with the issue is effective but hardly elegant. If you ignore me I will start poking fun at you, playfully of course. It is hard to ignore a good insult. I also make it a point to say no sometimes to my boss publicly. I want respect. People you respect do not get ignored.

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Re: Being ignored by men in conversations

Post by SavingWithBabies » Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:23 pm

I'll raise my hand to having this problem and think Riggerjack put it well. But reading all of this and pondering made me realize: probably all of the other introverts in the group are feeling the same way along with possibly some of the non-introverts. As an introvert, I expect a consciousness discussion with equitable time and reasonable behavior. But that is a flaw. I assumed for a long time that my expectations were reasonable but what if they aren't? That is rhetorical. I'm (now) almost certain they are not.

So basically, in a big group, everyone is somewhat discontented, people are jockeying for leadership roles and stepping on other people, and... It just sucks.

I realized I chose my career path mostly to not have to deal with this. I'm even working from home now where I deal with even less of this. I'm trying to start a side business purely so I have more control over my day/time/work. One on one conversations are always no problem for me. Group discussions are harder. I can push in but my default mode is to listen and not speak much.

So I think this is very much related to being an introvert and expecting the world to be one way when really it is not. Non-introverts must be much more comfortable with the jumble of group discussions to the point that they don't even see that aspect anymore. They probably stopped seeing it when they were kids! So it's unreasonable to expect them to change -- to align with introvert expectations.

Or, like @Riggerjack said, they could just be mysogynist pricks. But I do thank you for making me mull this over more. It has changed my view on this whole topic.

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