“Wait, let me finish . . . what I was trying to say is interrupting other people is rude.”
When you interrupt someone it says to the person talking that what you have to say is more important than what they are sharing. It shows disregard for the person and what they are saying.
As I researched interrupting, I discovered many interesting studies about how women and men communicate. When it comes to interrupting others, men are twice as likely to interrupt women then they are other men. Women interrupt other women more often than they do men but not usually to take the floor. Instead, they often interrupt to be encouraging, as in saying something like, “I know what you mean” or “That sounds hard.”
According to gender communication expert and author Deborah Tannen, men communicate to determine and achieve power and status which leads to more interrupting, especially of women. Women communicate to create connection, and because of this they are less likely to interrupt others which can feel combative rather than collaborative. However, there are women who interrupt to determine power.
No matter who is doing the interrupting, it’s not an enjoyable way to converse with someone. When a person consistently interrupts me I end up feeling like we’re at war rather than having a conversation. It seems pointless and unproductive.
If you tend to be an interrupter, ask yourself why you’re doing it, especially if you’re a man who regularly interrupts women. Are you doing it to dominate; do you want to add to what someone is saying; or is it that you’re worried you’ll forget what you have to say? If you find it is an unconscious need to dominate, stop right now. It’s not a productive way to communicate and your communication partner will most likely shut down rather than continue to fight for the floor. If you’re concerned you’ll forget what you want to say, jot it down on a notepad and then share what you have to say when the other person is finished talking.
For those of you who are interrupted – don’t acquiesce the floor easily. As Ms. Tannen wrote in a 2012 New York Times article, “An interruption takes two — one to start, the other to stop.” However, I would argue, you don’t have to stop talking to be interrupted. I have a female colleague who regularly interrupts me. If I keep talking she talks louder. It becomes a shouting match. I now say to her, “Please let me finish.” And, that’s exactly what the person being interrupted should do. You could also say, “I’d love to hear what you have to say when I’m finished.” Don’t talk louder to out talk the other person, no one is able to hear anything and it seems to create tension and anger. Instead, calmly, but firmly ask the other person to let you finish speaking. If the interrupter continues to interject point it out. Say something like, “Joe, did you know you have interrupted my five times in our conversation. Would you please stop interrupting me? It’s making it difficult to have a discussion.”
Bottom line, don’t interrupt others. It’s rude, arrogant and selfish and usually doesn’t win you many brownie points with others.
How do you feel about being interrupted? Do you keep talking or do you give up the floor? Have you ever asked someone to stop interrupting you?