YE’RE at a gey interestin an upsteerin panel discussion. The speakers are crackin, the audience engaged, an yer thochts are birlin excitedly roon yer heid. Ye ken there’s a Q&A tae follae, an ye’ve thocht o a question or twa ye’d luve tae speir.

But as soon as the rovin mics come intae sicht, they’re shooglin in their seats an waffin their hauns aroon wi sic a sense o entitlement that the moderator cannae but invite “the gentleman at the back” tae stert us aff.

Haein clauchit the microphone intae their hauns, they tak tae their feet an syne utter those fatefu wirds: “It’s mair o a comment nor a question …”

Unkennin o the souchin an rollin o een aa aroon them, the chiel noo gangs on tae threap on anent ilka pynt the panel got wrang, an aa the weys in which their ain opinion in fack offers a faur better unnerstaunin o the topic at haun.

Mony minutes gang by an the chiel aye shows nae sign o sittin doon onytime soon. The moderator gies an apologetic glisk tae the ither audience memmers wi their hauns hingin in the air as they ettle, wioot muckle success, tae bring this soliloquy tae a stap an pit aabody oot o their misery.

Whither it’s a stramash o a political gaitherin or a douce Embra buik festival event – this is a weel-kent paittern.

The mic is haundit fae ae grey-haired or bald-heidit chiel tae anither. Nane o them speir a question in the commonly unnerstuid sense o the wird as “a sentence expressed fur tae elicit information”. Fur they’re no seekin information, but haunin it oot – whither ye want it or no.

They arenae there tae listen or tae engage, but tae yaise it as a platform tae forder their ain preconceived views. Mony’s the time it seems they hivnae listened tae a wird that’s been said, but raither cam alang wi the sole intention o seyin their piece – an sey their piece they will. Trump’s a bad thing – did ye ken that? Brexit tae. Meanwhile aabody else in the audience loses oot, fur they dinnae gain ony new insicht fae the fowk they actually cam tae see an that they want tae hear fae.

Q&A, audience discussion – whitivver ye cry it, these are aa euphemisms fur whit is aamaist unjoukably thon hauf hoor at the end o an event whaur maist o the audience maun thole the hapless haiverins o a haunfu o middle-aged men. Men wi a muckle hantle o opinions – an nae the tottiest wee jot o self-awaureness.

Forby this is pairt o a faur mair muckle problem. We aa ken that it’s owerwhelmingly men whae hae the in-biggit sense o entitlement tae dominate public space in sic a wey – an the arrogance tae think that their views are the maist interestin in the room.

At the ae time, it’s maistly wimmen whae are mair nervous aboot speakin in public – an whae are aa the mair pit aff by sic men. Whit wumman is gonnae want tae come across like an eejit by speirin a genuine question o the panel – insteid o tryin tae compete wi thaim, like ilka man that’s delivered an impromptu lecture on the mic sae faur?

This is “mansplainin” on a muckle an systematic scale, the verbal equivalent o man-spreadin on a train – an it maun chynge.

The guid news is that ilka ane o us his the pooer tae turn Q&As intae, weel, actual Q&As.

This was brocht hame tae me jist the ither week whan A wis at an event anent “Varieties o Scots” haudit at the Royal Society o Edinburgh. There wis a braw panel, wi representatives fae the National Library o Scotland, Education Scotland an the Scots Leid Centre, as weel as academics whae study Scots.

The panel discussion wis grand, but as soon as the audience wis invitit tae jyn in, A stertit tae luik fur the oot sign. Hooivver, sat in the middle o a row, an there wi a guid freen, A concludit that A wis stuck, an resigned masel tae whit A wis siccar wid be yer staunart wheen o non-questions fae ae man efter anither.

But this wisnae tae be yer usual Q&A – an A’m gey gled A steyed aroon. As soon as the mics appeared, the haun o a young wumman gaed intae the air. She got taen richt awa an speirt a guid an clear question o the panel. This set somethin alicht – fur the next question cam fae anither young lass – as did the next, an the next …

Speakin tae the guid wumman whae’d speirt the first question efter the event, it becam clear that this wis nae blythe coincidence. Insteid, she telt me hou she aye pits up her haun tae speir somethin richt at the stert – fur she’s fund that it forders ither wimmen tae speir their ain questions. Gin the ither nicht wis onythin tae gang by – it maist siccarly warks.

This wis a braw lesson – an somethin aa wimmen whae are confident enough tae should dae.

But it’s no jist up tae us tae chynge things. Men: hae a wee think aboot whether it’s genuinely a question in yer heid – or whether yer jist wantin a platform tae impose yer ain opinion upon fowk whae hivnae come tae hear it. Gin it’s the former, bash on. Gin it’s the latter, dae us aa a favour an sit on yer hauns.

An fur the record, endin yer five-minute soliloquy wi “wid the panel agree?” disnae mak it a question either.