As a woman working in corporate America, I used to hate when men would interrupt me. But as I’ve progressed in my career, my mouth has shut and my eyes have opened: being interrupted by men I work with is actually a good thing. Even if I’m just trying to keep everyone from burning alive.
Say I’m in a meeting about annual sales reports and notice something I’d like to call out. If I raise my hand to say, “Does anyone else smell smoke?” it will remind the men that they aren’t BBQing, which will make them sad. I’ll be known as the woman making them sad. They do not like to be sad. So by applying the transitive property, we can assume they won’t like me.
Being interrupted keeps me from embarrassing myself. Sometimes, all it takes is a nice man riding in like a knight in pressed slacks to cut me off before I say something stupid, like “I’m not sure that makes sense,” or “I think that’s illegal,” or “There’s smoke pouring out of the office kitchen, and it doesn’t look like the fire alarms are going off.”
With all the talk about women taking up space in the workplace, men might be a little reluctant to speak over me so as not to appear sexist. So, I invite them to chime in by throwing in trigger words that encourage them to just go for it. Men really can’t resist soft language like “I think” or “I feel like” or “I could be wrong, but I think flames are engulfing the entire c-suite.”
Plus, being interrupted is fun! Knowing a man could speak over me at any time feels like that kid’s game where you press down on the alligator’s teeth until its mouth snaps closed on your finger. Except the only mouth closing, in this case, is mine. Say I want to bring up how the rest of the staff is fleeing the building and the flames are closing in on the conference room, so we’d better get out before the door becomes too hot to open and forces us to die a painful death while smelling the sizzling flesh of our coworkers as they burn at the corporate stake. The suspense of not knowing which word will be my last adds some drama to an otherwise boring meeting. And, as you know, women live for drama.
I might think I have something to say, but whatever they have to say over what I have to say is always more important. Even if what I have to say is, “Someone smash open the window, it’s our only way out at this point.” At the end of the day, I can only hope that a man interrupts me before I embarrass myself by screaming, “May God help us all! Tell my family I love them!”
Last words from me would be a frivolous waste of the remaining oxygen anyway.