Do you have someone in your life who has a habit of frequently interrupting you?
You know the one — that friend who can never let you finish your sentence without an anecdote about how the topic of conversation directly relates to them.
Or that special person who often assumes they know what you’re about to say next before you complete your thoughts.
Usually, in a naturally-flowing conversation, there will be some occasional interrupting. The brain makes associations all the time.
People get excited and talk over each other as they feel compelled to share. This can feel like a connection.
However, when the listener repeatedly and deliberately interjects their own thoughts prior to letting the speaker finish, it hijacks the conversation.
Interrupting is an annoying, often unconscious habit.
You know how frustrating and disrespectful it feels when you’re routinely interrupted. Oftentimes, a person will interrupt because what you are sharing is triggering a reaction.
It may be a reaction from that person’s negative ego — the part of the interrupter that wants to look good, be right, and be in control.
This is the part of that person’s ego that’s looking for what’s wrong or what doesn’t make sense about what you’re communicating.
The person may also interrupt as a result of their own feelings of insecurity or shame that are triggered during the conversation.
This can cause defensiveness, righteousness, or denying the validity of what you’re saying when you point out the pattern of interrupting.
When this happens to you, it can create an underlying sense of being disrespected and of not being heard or understood. Over time, it damages relationships.
Interrupting is a connection killer. But the good news is that with some practice, you can develop skills to handle an interrupter and stand your ground.
Here are 6 steps to handle any disrespectful interruption.
1. Take a breath.
When in doubt, slow it down and take a breath. This will help you to regulate your nervous system and calm down, so you can respond instead of react.
Make sure that your exhale is as twice as long as your inhale — this will further support you in becoming more present.
2. Ask the person If they are open to some feedback.
Calmly ask, “Are you open to some feedback?” Instead of attacking or criticizing the person for interrupting, you can shift the focus by asking the question.
This helps interrupt the other person’s thought process and bring it back to the present moment. When you ask the person if they’re open to some feedback, it makes the person pause and respond either “yes” or “no.”
If the person responds “no,” then you know that the conversation won’t go in a cooperative manner. You can make the decision to either stop the conversation or try again.
If the person says, “Yes, I’m open to some feedback,” then you’ve shifted the energy in the conversation and can move to the next step.
3. Offer some appreciation.
This may sound counterintuitive since this person has been interrupting you, but that’s the point. If you continue to do the same things over again, you’ll just get the same results.
Appreciation requires you to change the way you show up in the relationship. It requires you to look for something to value in the other person.
By starting with an appreciation, you can diffuse hostility within the other and within yourself.
For example, “I really appreciate your excitement in listening to me. I appreciate that you have something to say, and that this topic we’re discussing is of interest to you.”
Or, “I really appreciate our relationship and that we can have such robust conversations.”
Again, by appreciating the other person, you have diffused some of the tension and refocused the conversation back to the experience between the two of you and back to the connection.
4. Share your personal experience on what it feels like to be interrupted.
“My experience is whenever I’m sharing something and I get interrupted, it’s difficult for me to focus on what it is that I want to say next.”
Or perhaps, “Whenever I’m sharing and I get interrupted, I sense that I’m not being heard. This feels frustrating.”
By sharing the experience from an “I” statement, it diffuses the other person’s ego. It allows you to take ownership of your experience and takes blame out of the equation.
Remember that the intention is to share authentically what it is like for you to be interrupted.
5. Make sure to remain open and non-judgmental.
There could be many reasons someone interrupts. You want to be as generous with your assumptions as possible.
Keep an open mind that the person may be unaware that they are interrupting.
Acknowledge that the interruptions may be coming from their excitement, versus a malicious intention.
6. Finish with a request.
Relationships that operate on agreements and asking are much better than demanding ones. The more specific the request, the more likely it can be agreed to.
For example, “My request is that when I’m speaking, it would be helpful if I was allowed to finish my statement before there is a response.”
Ask if the person is open to working towards this request: “Is that something that we could work towards?”
Once you’ve completed these steps, then you can return to the conversation from a place of care and respect. You’ve shifted the energy and made the conversation about attunement and active listening.
Now, it’s time for you to practice putting these steps into action.
Pay attention in your conversations to the patterns of interrupting and allow the steps to be your guide to stand your ground with an interrupter.
In order to get the most from these steps, it’s helpful to recognize and understand the instances in which you interrupt people.
By noticing how you’re triggered and become the interrupter, it will support you in being able to more actively listen and connect with others.
When you show up differently, others will show up differently. Allow these steps to support you in being more present in your conversations.
So, the next time you’re interrupted, remember to stop and practice these steps to create the conversations and relationships you most desire.