Being interrupted is one of the most frustrating things to deal with. Even if the other person didn’t mean any harm, it shows a lack of respect and gives the impression that what they have to say is more important. It can feel dismissive and belittling, especially if it’s something that constantly happens. Whether it’s a one-off, or an ongoing issue with a friend or co-worker, here’s what to do when someone interrupts you.
What To Do When Someone Interrupts You
1. Try Not to Take it Personally
It can definitely be frustrating and disheartening to be interrupted, but try not to take it personally as it usually doesn’t have anything to do with you. The other person is often caught up in their own head or thoughts, and is communicating from an internal need to express themselves. Everyone has different ways of communicating, and whether it’s a power play, over excitement, or someone who just loves to hear their own voice, it’s best to try to not take it too personally when you’re interrupted.
2. Show Confidence
People can sense when others aren’t confident, and they may take it as an opportunity to interrupt you when you speak. This often happens in group settings or at work. Speaking hesitantly or softly can make it more likely for people to interrupt or talk over you. Use your body language to show you are calm and confident. Stand with good posture, control your breathing, limit self-touching, and speak with authority. This will make it less likely for people to interrupt you in the first place.
3. Set Verbal Boundaries
There are some people who are conversation dominators, and they are often the ones who will interrupt you during a conversation. If you have a friend or family member who you know is an interrupter, set a boundary at the beginning of your conversation by letting them know you have a few things to cover. For example, you could say something like “I have three thoughts about this..one..” and continue on. This technique tells them that they should wait their turn until you’ve hit all your points.
4. Set Expectations
If you’re going to be speaking at work for a team meeting or presentation, make your expectations clear to everyone from the beginning. It’s important for you to get all of your thoughts out before taking questions and comments, so say just that. Try something like “I’m definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these ideas! But I think our discussion will be more productive if I can get my thoughts out first, and we can open the floor for suggestions and questions at the end.” This sets the tone from the start and also makes it easier to halt any interruptions in their tracks.
5. Stand Your Ground
Face interruptions with confidence and strength. Interrupting can sometimes be conversational bullying, and in these cases you need to stand your ground. You can still be polite, but you need to be firm and direct. Try saying, “Kristy, I value your opinion, but can you let me finish my thoughts, and then we can have a conversation about them?” It’s straightforward and to the point, without being too harsh.
6. Be Strategic with Eye Contact
People often look to eye contact as a chance to say something. If you’re talking to a group, make eye contact with everyone in the room, but make sure to look away. Glancing away sends a cue that you’re not finished and aren’t ready for input yet. If you make eye contact with someone who looks like they may interrupt you, look away to someone else before they can jump in.
7. Ask the Rest of the Group for Input
If the same person repeatedly interrupts you, you can try saying something like “we’ve heard from Nick a number of times. Does anyone else want to contribute?”. You’re politely letting the interrupter know you’ve noticed that they’ve been dominating the conversation and that it’s time for others to speak. This also encourages less assertive members of the group to speak up!
8. Share Your Personal Experience
If you’re having a conversation with someone and they interrupt you, it may be helpful to pause and share your personal experience of how it feels to be interrupted. You can say something like “I just lost my train of thought. Whenever I’m sharing and I get interrupted, it’s difficult for me to focus on what I want to say next”. Hopefully they’ll get the hint and won’t interrupt again.
9. Ignore the Interruption
There are people out there who interrupt others because they like attention. Even if you set your expectations, they’re the ones who will disregard it and chime in before you’re done. Try to ignore the interruption and continue on with what you want to say. If necessary, you can pause to say “one moment” to the interrupter, and then finish your thought.
10. Let It Go
Sometimes the best option is to let the interruption go, especially if it’s a one off or it doesn’t happen often. Sometimes the person may be super engaged in the conversation and get overly excited so they jump in. It could be their way of showing you that they’re actively involved in the conversation. Try not to absorb any feelings of rejection or anger – just take a deep breath and let it go.
If you have problems with people interrupting you, try out these tips to deal with them politely but assertively.
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