Keys to Managing Interruptions

Interruptions are a big part of the communication game. We interrupt each other in conversations, presentations and in our every day communication both at work and at home. But are interruptions always bad? Normal or healthy interruptions have been referred to by communication researchers as “overlap.” No big deal here. The problem occurs when you consistently are unable to finish a point because of interruptions or your own habit of interrupting others. Let’s look at some keys questions.

Why do I get interrupted by others? If you find you are getting interrupted very often when talking with others, it could be because you are hesitating too long before making a point or your body language and facial gestures seem to invite others to jump in and interrupt us. Another reason is that we simply take forever to make our point so others interrupt us out of frustration or boredom.

Does a person’s position in an organization impact on his likelihood of interrupting others? Status or perceived power is a huge factor in the interruption game. Teachers are more likely to interrupt students. CEOs and high-level managers often interrupt those who report directly to them. If your boss (who has a great deal of power over your professional advancement), is droning on in a meeting or presentation, you aren’t likely to jump in and cut him off. Very often, people interrupt because they can without any consequences taking place.

What can I do to stop others from interrupting me so much? It is critical that you first acknowledge that you are being interrupted and that you don’t like it. You don’t have to argue or debate the interrupter, but rather make a decision that you are going to change your communication style to send a clear message that excessive interrupting isn’t acceptable. The next time you are interrupted, attempt to speak through the interruption. Don’t give in so quickly. Again, interrupters often do it because they can. Without realizing it, you may be sending a message that it is okay with you.

Will raising my voice help? Rarely. In fact, when interrupted you should bring your volume down a bit. Watch the impact it has on the interrupter. Such an approach communicates a subtle confidence that you don’t have to yell to be heard, but you will be heard.   Also, make sure that at the end of your sentences you are making a statement and not asking a question. The latter invites interruption.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use your body and your voice to communicate directly to the interrupter. For example, while leaning forward say with your hand out; “Just one second. Let me finish my point…as I was saying…” This shows that you feel strongly about what you are saying. It makes it harder for the other person to interrupt and that’s your goal.

How do you deal with constant interrupters? Write to me at


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