BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
I get it –
You get SO excited you just have to jump in with your amazing idea or interjection. You didn’t mean to step on their sentence, you just got so excited!
Or maybe the person you’re talking to is confused, and your clarification can help. You honestly thought they were done during that pause, and when you spoke up you didn’t notice that look on their face.
Perhaps you just wanted to get your point out because the person you were talking to just isn’t getting there fast enough, and you have a meeting to go to! Things to do! Emails to write!
Regardless of the reason, interruptions are an issue for a lot of people, and one within your control. Working to fix it isn’t easy, but like any bad habit, the best way to replace it is by actively replacing it with a good habit. Here are three ways to stop interrupting so much:
Listen to the Last Word
This is part of an improv activity that I think everyone needs to do immediately with another person – and it’s wildly successful for ending interruptions. It can be done in a small group as well: you start with one person saying a sentence. This can be about anything at all. Maybe it’s something simple like:
I have a lot of plants.
After that person finishes her whole sentence – as long or as short as it may be, the second person responds, using the last word of that previous sentence as the first word of the next sentence. It might sound like:
Plants are great to have in the house.
The response might be something like:
House pets should stay away from plants.
And so on. As funny as this activity gets, it’s a brilliant way to get folks to wait until the end of the sentence before they respond. They have to listen to that last word – digest it – and then think of their response. While doing this in real life might end in some funny moments, you can use the principle: listen for that last word and then let it inspire your response. This will start to slow down your thinking and make you consciously listen to the person you’re talking to.
Breathe and Look For a Question
While you’re listening to someone, looking for a curiosity question is a great way to curb interruptions. Often we interrupt to interject – instead of adding information to the conversation, why not get the other person to give more information? This isn’t a way to make them feel on the spot or as if they are being interrogated; rather it’s a way to find out more instead of interjecting your information.
This works well by being conscious of your breathing. Don’t just jump on the first question you think of – let yourself have some time to think and pick the question you’re actually curious about. This also works well for folks who like to chime in with their interjections and own experiences. You’re taking some time and letting the other person have the spotlight.
Get Comfy in Silence
Oh, silence – that momentary panic for so many people! Repeat after me:
Silences are good things. Silences mean people are thinking. Think in the silence.
Too many people think silences mean people are losing their place, not paying attention, being awkward when, in reality, silences are times when people are thinking and processing! Let yourself allow the silence in a conversation – that silence is going to lead to more thoughtful conversations and eliminate the race that happens when both people are eagerly sharing their information.
While interrupting might be a difficult habit to break at first – the new replacement habits are excellent.