Ever found yourself in a conversation where interruptions or lengthy monologues dominate the dialogue? We’ve all been there! In this blog post, we’ll explore some scenarios and friendly tips on how to navigate these moments with grace and keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
You’re explaining a detailed point when someone interrupts and starts discussing an unrelated agenda item. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it’s irritating. You were on a roll, and they’ve hijacked your presentation.
Ways to deal with the interruption, in ascending order of intensity:
- Let them talk, and when they eventually come up for air, jump in and say, “Okay, back to the point we were discussing – we’re not quite at agenda item 6 yet.”
- Use body language – keep talking and hold up two fingers – the interrupter will hopefully perceive this as being recognized but asked to wait two minutes.
- Put up your whole hand and say, “I’m not quite finished – please let me wind this up before we move on.”
- In a calm voice, interrupt them and say, “Sorry, I haven’t finished speaking.”
The key is not to lose your temper, attack the person versus their behaviour, or embarrass them in front of others. The offender may not be aware of their tendency to interrupt and is simply eager to contribute. Or they may feel not as accomplished as others in the group and want to show they are knowledgeable. Or they haven’t learned the skill of participating effectively in a meeting.
If you decide to take them aside, be professional but friendly. Avoid generalizations such as “you always interrupt / you cut me off every time / you constantly speak over me.” Instead, phrase your words to reflect how their behaviour impacts you: “I feel frustrated when I’m cut off mid-sentence. Your points are interesting, and once I’m finished speaking, we can move on to them.” “When presenting a new idea, I like to lay out all the details before discussing other matters. When I’m interrupted, I lose m train of thought, and it wastes people’s time.”
An important point is to notice how others react to the interruption. If they seem relieved, there’s a possibility you’ve spent too much time delivering your information, are being repetitious, or have lost the group’s attention. Make sure you aren’t droning on – a sure temptation to interrupt.
When one person monopolizes a social conversation, it’s not fun. Try as we might, we can’t get a word in, and if we do, they immediately turn the discussion back to themselves. They can top anyone’s experience, always have advice (when none was requested,) and seem to love hearing themselves talk. It’s tiresome.
As polite individuals, we tend to let the interrupter talk, but unless you’re willing to continue this way, it’s time to address it. Keep calm, apologize for interrupting them (the irony!) and say you haven’t finished your point. It’s tempting to say, “I’m sorry for interrupting your interruption, but I haven’t finished my point,” but it’s best to keep it friendly. Depending on how well you know the person, you could also have a private conversation later, focusing on how you feel when cut off mid-sentence.
Keep in mind we never really know what challenges others are facing. Not everyone is comfortable in social situations and may overcompensate by talking too much. Perhaps their public persona in groups is very different from a one-on-one encounter. Insecurity and anxiety can manifest into behaviour the person recognizes but feels powerless to control. Be compassionate if you don’t know all the facts.
Most of all, tune into yourself the next time you’re conversing. Do you tend to interrupt if you think you know better, disagree, or are impatient? Do you talk too much?
Sometimes, what we dislike in others can reflect how we act ourselves.