In a recent coaching session, a client asked if I could help him break the habit of interrupting. He told me that several team members had confronted him about frequently talking over them – interrupting. They were honest enough to tell him just how much it had become a consistent source of frustration for them. In collaboration with my client, we came up with several strategies that ultimately helped him to virtually eliminate his “communication destroyer” habit.
One of the quickest ways to shut down communication is to interrupt. When someone repeatedly interrupts others it not only derails communication, but it also diminishes the trust and respect people have for them.
If your relationships are compromised due to a habit of interrupting I encourage you to read and practice the 10 Tips to Help You Stop Interrupting below.
Live, Work and Relate Well!
1. Write your thoughts down so you don’t forget. While this may not be possible in a spontaneous conversation, it is effective if you know in advance that you will be engaging in a discussion. Jotting down a quick note to remind yourself to bring up a point or question will free up your mind to continue listening until the other person is finished.
2. Place a greater priority on listening for understanding than on trying to be understood. Develop a mindset of “It’s all about others.”
When people feel listened to they tend to talk less. If they don’t think you’re really hearing them, they’ll keep talking to try to get through.
When you interrupt, you’re telling the other person that what they have to say is not important. That will hinder real communication.
3. Quickly assess the importance of what you are about to blurt out. When the person stops speaking, count to five while asking yourself, “Is what I have to say absolutely critical to the conversation?” Your answer will be “no” most of the time.
4. In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith refers to “transaction flaws” that are performed by one person against another. Some of these contribute to your risk for interrupting.
Winning too much – the need to win may cause you to speak impetuously to try to get the upper hand.
Adding too much value – the overwhelming desire to add your two cents to every discussion makes it hard to keep quiet.
Telling the world how smart you are – trying to prove you’re smart may cause you to interject your commentary too often.
Not listening – a passive-aggressive form of interruption because the speaker is unlikely to finish what they’re saying when they realize you’re not engaged in the dialog.
5. You might interrupt because you genuinely want to be helpful or positively influence a conversation. The irony is that you will have more influence by being a good listener and waiting to be asked what you think than you will by interrupting others.
6. Allow others to hold you accountable. Let them know you’re working on reducing your interruptions and be open to their feedback. The positive side effect could be that you will help raise their awareness and they will also be more willing to resist interrupting you.
7. Keep your mouth closed, literally. Practice keeping your lips together and don’t open them.
8. Do not talk until someone asks for your thoughts. This is almost guaranteed to give you a reputation of possessing wisdom!
9. When you catch yourself talking over someone, graciously say, “I’m sorry, you were about to say…” (and then close your mouth again.)
10. Remember, you alienate people rather than impress them when you interrupt. Others will come away from conversations with you feeling frustrated, annoyed and unsatisfied. However, if you listen twice as much as you talk, people are likely to consider you a brilliant conversationalist!
What additional tips have you found helpful for breaking the habit of interrupting? I would love to hear about them!
Dr. Todd is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, published author, and national conference and seminar speaker. He has been a featured expert on national and local radio talk shows and television news programs.