How often do find yourself being interrupted? Honestly? You know what we are talking about. You are just getting into describing an idea, telling a story, sharing an experience or an observation when the person to whom you are talking jumps into the conversation and takes it over leaving you wondering what has just happened? Your storytelling was hijacked and you can’t help but think, ‘how did this become about you?’ For a lot of people this happens more often then they would like to admit, and we want to know, how does this make you feel? How does this affect your relationship with that person? For starters, you probably feel you are not being listening to. We know we feel that way AND we feel disrespected!
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with an old friend whom I had not seen in several years. We were delighted to have the time to catch up on our lives, so I thought. What I found was that every time I started to talk, she jumped in, interrupting me to tell me a story about her. Her starting phrase typically began with ‘I’ and continued on, describing whatever it was that she wanted to tell me about.
What I learned was that some people are in such a rush moving through their daily lives that their minds can’t seem to take a break. They need to present the problem, question or idea and then solve it before the other person has an opportunity to really engage in the conversation – at least, that was my observation.
She claimed to be incredibly busy, never having time to complete all her tasks and she liked to talk about tasks. To really listen to someone, one needs to be grounded or centred, able to really focus on the other person and be in the moment so one can really listen to what is being said. When the gremlins are hard at work in our head creating constant chatter about all the tasks we need to complete, it is difficult to turn down the volume of that chatter, forget all the things one needs to complete and just be there for the other person so they feel seen, heard and understood.
Next time you notice you are being interrupted, we invite you to notice what is going on for the other person. How are they engaged in the conversation? How present are they to what is being said. If you perceive the other person as not really listening, not being there for you, what can you do about that? How can you respond so you are able to feel seen heard and understood? The next time you find yourself interrupting another, what is going on for you? How is this interruption contributing to the conversation? How is it supporting understanding of the perspectives of each person, the moving forward in the relationship?
In my case I finally spoke up. I said that I felt I was not being heard and thus respected, that my friend was not really listening to what I was saying or trying to understand my perspective. We talked about self awareness, the need for us to be aware of our emotions, manage them and work to develop relationships with the other person. We talked about her need for task completion, the sense of rushing through her day and observed that she was 2500 miles from home so she had left all those tasks at home, in other words, there were no tasks to complete at this moment. We talked about what it would be like for her to park the list of tasks, turn down the chatter of the gremlins in her head and really be in the moment. With a bit of practice, she was able to become calm and really listen to what was being said. I felt more respected and she began to understand my perspective as well as her own.
TOP TIPS: Find yourself constantly being interrupted, here are 4 tips to help you break it up.
1. BE OPEN: It is really easy for us to take it personally when we are constantly being interrupted. When you notice it happening, be aware of the other person and what is going on for them, what’s their body language saying, their facial expressions. Are they tense, are they excited, are they distracted. This will help you as you address them.
2. BE CURIOUS. People can’t really listen if they aren’t fully present. If your listener isn’t listening to you, ask them what is going on for them, what their day has been like to get a sense of how they are feeling. Starting the conversation off with “I feel” allows the listener/ interrupter to understand how you are feeling, shifting the focus to you and your experience. When we start with ‘You are’ we are usually being critical of the other, judging them instead of being open to understanding where they are at.
For example “I am wondering if there is a lot going on for you right now, as I feel you aren’t listening to me and I don’t have a chance to finish my story. This feels disrespectful for me” vs “You aren’t listening to me and you are always disrespecting me and interrupting me”. Most people that are interrupting aren’t even aware they are doing it.
3. LISTEN: The one thing we have learned is that people just want to be listened to! Being curious, open, asking what is going on for the interrupter and then LISTENING to them, often is enough to help quiet their gremlins in order for them to really listen to you.
4. SET INTENTION: Decide right now, today, that when you are in conversations with others (colleagues, spouses, friends, children) you will be aware of how you listen and if/ when you interrupt or are interrupted. Just by setting the intention and being aware you will show up differently.
Taking the time to let those around us know when you aren’t feeling seen, heard, or understood in a constructive way allows you to build stronger relationships and communicate in a healthy an effective way.
We invite you to become more aware of the process of interruption, how it affects you and what you can do to set the intention around being in the moment so you don’t interrupt the other and can be aware of when you experience being interrupted.