Being interrupted is among the most frustrating communication experiences.
It is important to let others finish their thoughts completely unless you have something urgent to say.
Interrupting expresses a lack of interest or respect and stops people from sharing the end of their story.
Realizing you have an issue is a long way from a solution, but it’s a good start.
It provides you with an opportunity to learn how to stop interrupting and modify your behavior in able to better connect with others.
Is Interrupting Someone Disrespectful?
Except for a few circumstances, when you interrupt others that are talking, you come across as disrespectful.
Whether you do it consciously or not, most people will feel as if they are being disrespected when they are not allowed to finish what they are saying.
- You prevent the person speaking from making their point, delivering their punchline, or finishing their story.
- You ask a question that the speaker would have eventually answered.
- Interrupting implies that you believe your words are more worthwhile than what the other person has to say.
- Interrupting makes people feel tense and anxious when they speak to you.
- It makes you appear egotistical, as if you believe the other person is inferior.
How to Stop Interrupting People: 11 Strategies to End the Behavior
Connecting and communicating well starts with considering the other person’s perspective.
Waiting until a person has finished what they have to say before you add to the conversation makes it clear that you are listening and not simply waiting for your turn to talk.
1. Slow Down
If you usually ramble with urgency to say what you’re thinking, try to slow the pace of the conversation. People interrupting seems to occur more when the conversation is rushed.
Speak slowly and take pauses to keep the conversation at a comfortable pace, allowing everyone involved to have their say.
While long silences that last for several seconds can be a little uncomfortable, slowing down as you speak and allowing brief pauses will help everyone take turns talking more naturally.
Be fully present and attentive as the other person speaks. Instead of just hearing the words as you wait your turn to talk, give the speaker your full attention.
In most cases, the courtesy will be repaid when it is your turn to speak. When everyone feels heard, the conversation is much more enjoyable for all.
Focus completely on the person talking. Pay attention to their body language and listen to the meaning behind their words. It is also good to nod, smile, and make eye contact to assure them you are giving your full attention.
3. Fight the Urge
As you learn to interrupt less often, you’ll notice during some conversations that you get a strong urge to interrupt.
Learning to recognize these urges without acting on them is vital to breaking the habit.
Bite your tongue and pull back when the urge to interrupt hits you unless it is vital to speak at that moment. Recognize the urge in your body and take slow, deep breaths until it passes; then count to five before you speak.
The more you do this, the weaker such urges will become in the future.
4. Wait for a Pause
The main thing to remember is not to talk when someone else is talking. Instead, wait for a short silence or pause in the conversation to prevent overlapping conversation.
Some examples would be waiting until someone finishes telling their story, asks for questions at the end of a meeting, or finishes making a point. Wait at least two seconds after the person stops talking before you reply to allow them to gather their thoughts.
5. Ask to Speak
You may need to ask for a turn to talk in some situations. The specific situation will dictate how you should do this.
For example, in a formal group setting, you may need to raise your hand and wait until you are acknowledged before speaking.
You could also make eye contact with the speaker to make them aware that you have something that you want to say.
Ask if it is okay for you to make a comment or share an announcement.
6. Pay Attention to Conversational Cues
Keeping an eye out for conversational cues can help you determine when talking is okay during a conversation.
A common way to detect your turn to talk is impending is when the speaker starts to slow down, indicating that they are running out of things to say and encouraging you to pick up the conversation.
Another signal is a momentary pause when they stop to think of what to say next or give you a window to speak.
There are also many non-verbal indicators that it is your time to talk. For example, the other person raises an eyebrow when they look at you or changes their body language to a more closed position.
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7. Make Your Words Count
For some people, it can be difficult to know when it is inappropriate to talk. Challenge yourself to say what you want to say while using fewer words.
Make every word count and limit the time you speak before someone else has a turn. For example, set a goal to not say any more than three sentences before asking a question, pausing, or trying to include other people in the conversation.
When you use fewer words to express yourself, it helps to create additional space in the conversation, makings it possible for others to have a turn to talk.
8. Write Down What You Want to Say
Sometimes you will feel that you may forget what you want to say if you do not interrupt.
In these situations, it will be helpful to have a notebook to write down key points so you do not forget essential ideas to add to the conversation when it’s your turn to speak.
If you plan to be in a formal setting, it is a good idea to take the time to write down a few points that you want to address ahead of time.
This way, you will have a list of things you want to say without being pressured to speak at the wrong time.
9. Encourage the Other Person to Speak More
The best conversations include a good balance between listening and talking. Be mindful of the amount that you are talking.
If you feel you are doing most of the talking, try to get the other person to contribute more to the conversation.
There are a few natural ways to encourage people to talk more, like asking open-ended questions, honing in on the topics that interest them, and being friendly and warm to help them feel more comfortable.
10. Be Sure to Stay on Topic
Changing topics during the conversation can be a form of interruption, even if you are not talking over anyone.
People may become offended if you cut off a conversation, change the subject, or move quickly to a new topic of discussion.
If you change the subject during a conversation with a lack of transaction or connection to the topic you were just discussing, it can make the person you are talking to feel as though you are ignoring them.
Use phrases like “speaking of…” or “that reminds me” to suggest that the conversation reminded you of something related. To avoid making other people feel as though you are interrupting, change topics in a deliberate, gradual, and slow way.
11. Acknowledge and Apologize
While a conversation with no interrupting would be ideal, there will be times when you simply cannot help but interrupt when someone else is talking.
In this instance, you can quickly recover simply by acknowledging that you spoke out of turn and apologizing to the other people involved in the conversation.
When you are actively participating in a conversation with another person, you may need to speak up even if they have not yet completed their thought.
Perhaps you realize that you have missed something central to the conversation. Or, by the time they finish talking, the conversation topic may change.
In this case, you would start with an apology for the interruption and then go on to say what it is you need to say.
Why Do I Keep Interrupting Others?
Usually, interrupting a conversation is not meant to be insulting. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Interrupting shows that you are actively engaged in the conversation and want to contribute.
Recognizing that interrupting is not serving you or the other person well is the first step toward changing rude behavior.
Once you understand why you keep interrupting others, you will be well on your way to becoming a better communicator.
- Thought Process: Some people interrupt because it’s the way that they process and interpret information. We process thoughts much faster than we form words. All too often, we discover a solution, come to a conclusion, or find inspiration before the other person has finished expressing themselves.
- Short-Term Memory: We feel as though if we do not get our thoughts into words fast enough, we will lose them.
- Personality: Certain personalities have a natural tendency to interrupt. These people are usually outgoing, great conversationalists that are comfortable in a variety of social situations.
- Lack of Self-Awareness: Some people simply do not realize they are interrupting others.
- Desire to Belong: You want to be included in the conversation, but when you try, someone else speaks or is monopolizing the conversation.
It all begins with the way that you think. Be respectful toward the other person because they deserve to be heard as much as they listen.
When everyone involved in the conversation is respectful, the dynamics completely change.