Let my say be important to you too.
I have only recently taken the time to really think about what happens to the other person, when I interrupt their conversation, or when my own conversation is interrupted. Often we can justify this by thinking that what we want to say is “important.” Maybe it is. What the other person wants to say is important to them too.
So what happens when I interrupt you?
- I am not listening to what you are saying is I have been preparing my own conversation in my head.
- You lose the focus of what you have been saying as I have taken over.
- I have decided what I want to say is more important than letting you finish your sentence.
- I am not showing you respect.
- I do not get to hear what you were trying to say – it might have been useful to me, so I lose out.
What happens to both of us when I interrupt you?
- We stop having a free-flowing conversation.
- It takes up a lot of my headspace to prepare what I want to say while you are talking. I am waiting for the chance to take over.
- You might start to feel confused and irritated if I do this often enough and try to find a way to return to what you wanted to talk about. When you start talking again, my head is busier again, preparing my next sentence. Eventually, the original topic is lost, and we both have to try to get our point across, our sentence heard.
- It no longer feels like a relaxed conversation, as each time I interrupt, I am talking over the top of you. This means that you have to stop talking.
- If you decide not to stop talking, I talk louder, as I still believe what I want to say is important.
- We are now arguing.
Is this really necessary?
In a word, no. It is, however, widespread; maybe you do it yourself? If you do, that does not mean to say that you are a rude person; it might just be something that you are not aware of.
How do I know if I interrupt someone when they are speaking?
- When someone else is speaking, are you preparing what you want to say?
- Do you feel under pressure, that their conversation is taking too long and you have something else to do?
- When they are speaking, do you feel the need to “defend” anything?
If you answered yes to any of these things, you might be interrupting someone when they are speaking.
What to do about it?
You are going to acquire a new skill by changing your habitual way of responding during conversations. If you catch yourself planning what you are going to say, there is little chance that you are listening. Bring your attention to what the other person is saying. You might worry then that you will lose your train of thought. Yes, you might, but it was your train of thought that was stopping you from paying attention to the conversation. All you have to do is pay attention to what someone is saying.
You might feel irritated waiting for your chance to speak. That’s ok. If you normally interrupt or talk while someone else is talking, you probably will feel some frustration.
Be patient. The other person will get to the end of their sentence and want you to say something. If you manage to wait your turn, not only will you have paid attention and followed the conversation, but the other person is actually wanting to hear what you have to say. If you interrupt, the chances are that the other person only wants to finish their sentence instead of hearing what you have to say.
It is a new skill that needs practice. Once you try it out, you will probably want to practice it more, as you will discover that conversations feel less pressurized. You will notice that people want to hear what you have to say and will experience less tension and arguments in your life. You might even learn something from the other person now that you pay attention to what they say. You will have also gained their respect.