The battle of the interruptions
Teaching assertive communication, and also mental health first aid, the recurring topic we get to is listening skills. I have done a few posts about it, and I do believe that active listening and a non judgmental attitude are winners. This does not mean that they are easy. This comes with practice and willingness.
What is also very very important: let's not interrupt others! I am very passionate when I say this, because I do believe this still happens too much. It is rude. It sends a clear sign: you give the impression you are not caring about what the other person is talking about, and even worse, you are basically saying "My opinion right now is more important than yours". During a meeting, during an important conversation, it can create never ending conflicts. It is hard not to take it personal, for the person interrupted.
So! In the spirit of finding assertive solutions... Let's find a "cure" to that!
For the interrupted person:
- Try not to take it personally, even if it's hard. But it might be someone who is doing it with everybody, not only with you.
- Raise your hand while the interrupter is still talking and when it is your turn to talk again (I know! it was your turn already, but you don't want to play with the same weapons, right? we have to raise above) say something like "I wasn't finished, and I would love to bring my point/ideas across".
- If you are standing, use an embracing body language while pronouncing the above sentence, such as opening the arms and showing your palms.
- If it is something that happens repeatedly, you would have to have a private conversation with the interrupter. To express your distress and articulate what it means to you to get constantly interrupted.
For the interrupter:
- You might be interrupting because you feel you are in a rush, and you have to make your point now or never. It might be just your assumption, that you always need to rush and talk over others. Take a notepad, listen to the others. Speak when it's your turn and refer to your notepad, so you can answer/agree/disagree to every single point brought up before, without losing track of that's been said.
- Self-reflect: why do you need to interrupt others all the time? Is it a deeper issue? Is it a specific person that triggers something in you? Consider if you are secretly believing you are more than that other person. Remember, giving space for others to talk in a team is key. Also, we can always learn something new.
- Remember that interrupting is rude.
How to have the conversation about what being interrupted means to you:
- Ask the person to have a chat, and state at the very beginning that you would like not to be interrupted during your exchange, because it is not exactly an easy conversation.
- Prepare yourself for the talk. This needs courage, and you should be proud of yourself for wanting to be authentic and solve conflicts. Note down all the feelings you feel when you are interrupted, and how this is affecting you, your work, your relationship with the person. Explain those points through the conversation.
- Use non-violent communication elements:
Observation: "When you interrupt me during meetings; when you interrupted me the other day", etc
Feel: "I felt absolutely shut down"
Need: "and I need to have the space to bring my ideas across. It is important to me and to the team"
Request: "I would like you not to interrupt me next time, and wait until it is your turn, even though you feel the urge to interrupt me".
Think of it as a step towards a more compassionate world, a place where empathy and honest and open communication is the main form of communication!