It occurs to me that one of the reasons I write a weekly blog, is that I get to tell a whole story without being interrupted. There is something satisfying about completing my entire thought without being diverted into someone else’s response/ thoughts before I finished. As someone who listens for a living, it made me curious if others feel that way, too.

In group casual conversation, it is more common to see interruption somewhere about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the thought. This is more common among women and more accepted. I’ve seen men walk into a group of women and walk back out because of it. Large groups seem to practice interruption and among male group, the jokestar or the loudest gets more attention.

To be heard, we typically pair off and signal that we would like to develop an idea. Are you listening when someone asks you what you think about…? Are they asking for your opinion, or is it a preamble to their own thoughts? You could launch into whatever comes across your mind on that topic, or you could answer “hmm, tell me what you are thinking while I gather my thoughts.” Or if it is a work problem, perhaps you could say “That’s something that needs addressing. You start.” Then listen without interrupting.

Not interrupting is a discipline leaders need to cultivate. Our team defers to us, and they stop if we start. For someone to talk over you, they must really be passionate about their idea. If you talk and you are are in a sea of nodding heads, it is up to you to change the dynamic. You could create a new structure to your conversations by listening to the whole thought and insisting everyone else does the same.

Especially in meetings, setting conversational rules at the beginning of the meeting makes it clear who will be heard and for how long. Have an agenda ahead of time so people can prepare and stick to it. For your own casual conversations, pay attention this week to when and how often you or others interrupt. If you rarely get a whole thought out before being interrupted, is it because you ramble? Politely ask to finish your thought. This week ask “May I finish?” See if you have better and more meaningful conversations.


Next week: the power of writing it down.


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