The Art of Interrupting

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The Art of Interrupting
Written By: Sandi McCalla ~ 1/17/2022

BLOGPOST_ArtOfInterrupting01172022.jpgThis topic has been quite entertaining to research! Some take-aways:

  • Men are in the lead on interrupting with the goal of sharing information or establishing status.
  • Women participate differently seeing communication as relational. Often, they allow interruptions to preserve the connection.
  • Both men and women feel comfortable to interrupt others within their gender grouping.
  • Interruptions span a range from exerting control to providing valuable information as well as from politeness to intolerance.
  • Many factors play into why people interrupt: culture, speaking speed, time pressure, interest in the topic, offensiveness/defensiveness, and more.
  • As with most social interactions, how others act is not always “personal.” That is, it is more about them than it is about you. Handy to know when encountering less-than-pleasant behavior.

I’m now seeing ‘interrupting’ is more of a choice than a social code. And everyone has a reasonable part to play in it:

  • For the interrupters:
    • Interrupting does convey disrespect of others. Try to only use it when it brings value to a conversation to:
      • Move a topic forward
      • Fill in important information
      • Help alert others to danger
    • Simple, respectful ways to interrupt:
      • Use the person’s first name who is speaking – “Agatha, that’s a very interesting point …
      • May I interrupt/mention/interject/add?
      • Would you clarify …?” “Would you help me understand …?
      • What’s your thought on …?” “What do you think, Stephane?” “Jason, do you agree?
  • For Moderators/Leaders
    • Set an expectation in a meeting that everyone will be asked to comment.
    • Actively moderate a conversational-style discussion. Make room for appropriate interruptions/comments.
  • For those speaking
    • Model respect to interrupters by letting them speak. If, however, they go off topic, redirect them back into the discussion:
      • Thank you for bringing that aspect up which we will cover a little later. Please be sure to rejoin at that time.”
    • If an interruption is not constructive, presume that it is not a personal issue. Take it offline to understand underlying issues and alleviate misunderstandings.

There is a final caution about interrupting:

When we interrupt, we miss out on what the other person is sharing.

Don’t miss a golden nugget from someone else at the expense of telling your story to a disrupted speaker.

Keeping with our conversational tips to making better connections, we’ll share in another post:

  • Bropropriating
  • Mansplaining, and more … 


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