Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you can’t seem to get a word in edgewise? Maybe you’re interrupted every time you try to speak, or perhaps your words are dismissed before you can even finish a sentence.
This gets even more frustrating and demeaning in a corporate context. If you are a woman executive or leader, the context itself changes and turns into something much worse. Interrupting an executive conversation is not only frustrating but can also leave you feeling undervalued and unheard.
“When someone interrupts you during a meeting or even a general conversation, they are indirectly demeaning you. It is their way of saying they don’t value your words and find what they have to say more important,” said a psychologist from India.
The good news is that you don’t have to let this continue. By setting clear boundaries, you can nip interruptions in the bud and teach your team how to treat you.
Understand Why People Interrupt
The first step to winning conversations is understanding why people interrupt. People may interrupt for various reasons, including:
Excitement: When people get excited, they may interrupt to express their thoughts immediately.
Nervousness: Some people may interrupt out of nervousness, feeling the need to fill any silence in the conversation.
Impatience: Impatient people may interrupt when they feel someone is taking too long to express their thoughts.
Dominance: Some individuals interrupt as a way to exert their dominance or show that they have more knowledge or power.
Once you understand why people interrupt, it’s easier to develop strategies to handle interruptions effectively.
Take a Pause
When someone interrupts you, it’s natural to want to jump back in and defend your point. However, this can lead to a back-and-forth interruption, which can escalate quickly.
Instead, take a brief pause to let the other person finish their thought. This demonstrates that you respect their point of view and value what they have to say.
Once they’ve finished, you can then calmly resume your point. For example, you might say something like, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. To continue my point, I would like to add that…” This approach acknowledges their input while allowing you to stay on track.
Reframe the Conversation
Another way to handle interruptions is to reframe the conversation. You can do this by acknowledging the interruption and then redirecting the conversation to your intended point.
For example, in a team meeting you might say, “That’s an interesting point, and I would love to discuss it further, but let me first finish my point about…” This approach is polite yet assertive and helps keep the conversation focused.
Use Body Language
Sometimes, nonverbal cues can be just as effective as words in getting your point across. When someone interrupts you, make eye contact, and use open body language.
This communicates that you’re engaged and willing to listen but also shows that you’re confident and assertive. It can also help prevent further interruptions and keep the conversation on track.
Active listening is an essential skill in any conversation, and it’s particularly useful when you’re being interrupted. When you actively listen, you’re fully engaged in the ongoing conversation and focused on understanding the other person’s point of view. This not only helps build rapport but also shows that you respect the other person’s opinion.
When someone interrupts you, take a moment to actively listen to what they’re trying to say. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them in any sense. But it does show that you’re interested in their thoughts. You can then respond calmly and assertively to them, without getting defensive or aggressive.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings even when they are in the wrong. Practicing empathy in conversations can help you build better connections and reduce the likelihood of interruptions.
When you show empathy, you create a safe space for the other person to express their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to a more productive conversation. Even if you can’t reduce the chances of being interrupted, try to empathize with the other person. What made them want to interrupt you and is what they are saying more impactful?
For example, if someone interrupts you, you might respond by saying, “I can tell that you’re passionate about this topic, and I want to hear what you have to say. Let me finish my point, and then we can discuss your thoughts.” This approach acknowledges their emotions while also setting a boundary for everyone involved.
Setting boundaries is an essential part of any conversation, and it’s crucial when dealing with interruptions. You have the right to express your thoughts and opinions without being interrupted or dismissed. If someone constantly interrupts you, it’s important to let them know that it’s not acceptable.
You can do this by calmly and assertively stating your boundaries. For example, you might say, “I appreciate your input, but I would like to finish my point without interruption. Please let me finish, and then we can discuss your thoughts.” This approach communicates your needs while also maintaining a respectful tone.
Studies have shown that interruptions can harm communication and productivity. According to a study by the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. This shows just how important it is to handle interruptions effectively.
For example, imagine you’re in a business meeting discussing a project, and someone constantly interrupts you whenever you try to make a point. This not only disrupts the flow of the conversation but also undermines your authority and expertise.
However, if you take the time to pause, reframe the conversation, use body language, actively listen, practice empathy, and set boundaries, you can steer the conversation back on track and ensure that everyone’s thoughts and opinions are heard and respected.
In conclusion, mastering the art of winning conversations with tact and fluency is essential in both personal and professional settings. By implementing these tips as an executive you can handle interruptions effectively, build stronger connections, and achieve better outcomes.
Remember, effective communication is a two-way street, and everyone deserves to be heard and valued. Be sure to make your points heard and don’t allow anyone to get away with interrupting you. More importantly, don’t unconsciously end up on the giving end and interrupt people yourself.