Source: Fast Company – work-life
Author: Stephanie Vozza
Few people appreciate being interrupted. It can be viewed as rude, sending a signal that what they’re saying isn’t important. While talking over people when they are speaking should be avoided, sometimes it’s necessary, says Diane Windingland, owner of Virtual Speech Coach and author of Impromptu Speaking: 10 Strategies to Think on Your Feet Without Tripping Over Your Tongue.
For example, Windingland says you may have something important to say that can’t wait, you may need to gain understanding or clarification, or you could have to correct faulty information on a critical matter. Other reasons include needing to provide timely input, getting a meeting or conversation back on track, or cutting off a long-winded talker.
Even when it’s necessary, you’ll want to tread lightly, says Michael Klein, Psy.D, workplace consultant. “Interrupting can trigger other person’s insecurity or self-doubt, so you’ll want to do it effectively,” he says. “For example, [they may think] ‘If I am interrupted, perhaps my comments, story, or ideas aren’t worthwhile,’ or ‘I am somehow not deserving.’”
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to interrupt, here are five ways to do it gracefully, so you won’t offend the person you’re cutting off.
1. Ask for Permission
It’s tricky to navigate the timing for an interruption, says Windingland. “You don’t want to steamroll over someone and talk over them inconsiderately, yet if you wait too long to interrupt and the moment passes, you and others may suffer,” she says.
Unless there is an emergency, make sure your interruption relates to the point being discussed, then ask for permission. For example, Windingland suggests interjecting a sentence such as “Excuse me, may I interrupt for a moment?” “Excuse me, may I provide some additional information?” or “Excuse me, may I ask a quick question?”
“Asking if it is okay to interrupt shows you are trying to be considerate and that you were indeed listening and not just blurting something out,” says Windingland.
2. Apologize for the Interruption
If your company culture frowns on interruptions but it’s still something you must do, add an apology, says Windingland. For example, start with “I apologize for interrupting…” or “I’m sorry for interrupting…”
“A phrase of apology will soften the interruption and show you understand that interrupting is generally considered rude,” she says.
Jonathan Zacharias, founder of the digital marketing agency GR0, agrees, adding that you need to apologize to the speaker and the other listeners.
“Say ‘excuse me’ to who you’re interrupting and give an apologetic look to everyone else who was listening,” he says. “So many interrupters will apologize to the speaker but forget about acknowledging those listening. We want to see that the person interrupting knows they’re interrupting and acknowledges those affected.”
3. Determine if the Person is Just Thinking Out Loud
Some people aren’t just talking; they are thinking out loud, searching for a point, says Windingland.
“You can assist them by interrupting and asking questions. For example, you can say, “Excuse me, based on what you’ve said, what do you think is the next step?” Or “Are you saying [the point you think they are making]?”
Natalie Kohlhaas, psychotherapist and author of Hello Anxiety, My Old Friend: Harness Your Invisible Superpower, suggests repeating back what you’ve heard and adding information to what they’re saying. For example, “It has been so interesting to hear your perspective, would you allow me to weigh in on this matter?”
“If you wish to continue the conversation, restate what you heard and then add on your own interpretation of information,” she says. “Ending with a question also engages the person to continue their information and conversation and not see your interaction as one that usurps them.”
4. Appeal to Inclusion
If one person has been talking in a meeting for a very long time, it’s reasonable to interrupt them to solicit other voices, says Windingland. For example, you can say, “Excuse me, we want to hear from some others as well. John, what do you think?”
“It sounds less aggressive to use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when saying phrases such as, ‘We want to hear from others.’ ‘We need to get a consensus.’ ‘We want to encourage diverse opinions,’” she adds.
5. Defer to the Clock
If you need to interrupt a long-winded talker, Windingland says one of the best approaches is to point out a limited time frame for the discussion. For example, if the person is notorious for monopolizing the floor, announce your hard stop near the start of the meeting, such as saying, “I have a hard stop at 10:30 for another meeting.” When you set expectations upfront, interrupting someone when you’re nearing the end of your time feels easier. Then give a gentle warning that time is almost up.
If you didn’t establish a stopping time, you can interrupt, giving a reason for why you need to end the conversation. For example, having another meeting or a looming deadline provides a nonnegotiable ending.
In all of these methods, compensating with smiles and enthusiasm can help, says Klein. “It’s hard for the other person to be upset if you show interest in them,” he says. “Interrupting with emotional intelligence can increase others’ respect for you and for yourself.”
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