Post by Frances Cole Jones, contributing Women On Business writer
From the time most of us were small, we’ve been told, “Don’t interrupt.” And listening is, indeed, a vastly underrated skill set: a person who can do more than hear—who can actually listen—to what’s being said, has a price beyond rubies.
(What distinction am I making between hearing and listening? Someone who hears you is, essentially, just waiting for you to finish speaking so he or she can make their point. Someone who is listening is actually seeking to understand both the intention behind, and the nuances of, what’s being said.)
But I digress.
The title of this article is “Woman Interruptus” because, as women we often interrupt without realizing we are doing it.
What do I mean by this? I mean that women are prone to agreeing and encouraging while others are speaking. “Of course,” we’ll say, “Absolutely.” Or, “I know exactly what you mean!”
The trouble with this is that it can, in fact, cause the speaker to lose his or her train of thought.
What would I have you do instead? My recommendation is that you signal your encouragement and agreement via non-verbal techniques: lean in, nod your head, smile.
Having taken care not to interrupt others how, then, would I recommend you handle someone who has interrupted you? While there is a certain levity to, “That was a comma, not a period,” it’s also true that that can land badly.
Given this, my recommendation would be, “Hang on. I know you’re anxious to make your point, but I wasn’t finished.” Acknowledging the person’s need to speak ensures they don’t end up feeling rebuked.
“May I?” No.
Finally, let’s look at what to do when you need to interrupt someone else—a not uncommon scenario.
When this occurs, many of us interject a meek, “May I interrupt you?” The trouble with that particular choice is that it doesn’t carry the necessary heft to stop the person in their tracks. With this in mind, the next time you need to step into a conversation, my suggestion would be, “I’m going to interrupt you.” – a choice which ensures your control of the remainder of the conversation.