from evy's notebook
Interrupting is generally considered rude or bad, but I interrupt people all the time. I even think it's mostly beneficial to the conversations I have. I'm often nervous about how much I interrupt people, because I know that it's easy to annoy or hurt people, but there are several ways that I think interrupting improves my conversations:
- Clarification: If I'm confused, I want to ask questions quickly so that I don't get lost. Even if I'm mostly sure I understand, I often like to interject occasionally during longer explanations to double check that I'm on the same page.
- Connecting ideas: I love conversations where multiple brains are regularly making connections between ideas. When I make a connection to a life experience or fun fact that I think would contribute to a conversation, I want to share it before we move on to talk about something else. This can often result in new interesting connections from others and can bring us deeper into a conversation on a topic.
- Engagement: I have a somewhat short attention span. It can be hard for me to focus on things when I'm passively absorbing information. When learning from someone, I like to regularly check in with them to help me engage with the information. When listening to a long story, I like to interject commentary. Interrupting also helps me guide the conversation in directions I'm interested in, by asking for more detail on some things and interacting less with things I'm not as interested in talking about.
These outcomes don't always have to come from interrupting someone. I'm assuming a situation where someone is talking for an extended period of time, such that I get to the point where interrupting could notably improve one of the points above. Maybe I'm miscalibrated, but I do find that this happens quite often! But it's also easier to interupt when the interruptions feel skillful. There are several things I try to do to help interruptions be a positive experience for the person who was speaking.
- Remember what they were saying: It's important to me to remember where the speaker was before I interrupted, and I feel that it's my responsibility to bring them back there after I've added my interjection. I don't want the speaker to feel like I didn't want to hear what they were saying; I want them to feel like I was excited about what they were saying and wanted to engage with it.
- If they keep talking, back off: If I jump in to say something and the speaker firmly continues speaking, this is a social cue that they don't want me to interrupt them. If I notice any sign that they want to keep talking, I stop talking and say "oh sorry, continue".
- Add to the current conversation: When responding to someone after they're done speaking (i.e. not interrupting), it's possible I'll start talking about some other thing I'm reminded of. When I interrupt, I try to make sure that my contribution will be relevant to whatever the speaker says when they continue where they left off. If it's not related then I'm more likely to throw off the speaker and make it hard for them to finish their thought.
- Check in: I try to ask people somewhat regularly how they feel about the ways I interrupt in conversation. I'll ask if there have been moments when it was frustrating and they wanted to keep talking. People communicate in a variety of ways, and interrupting is a common thing people find annoying. By gathering feedback, I can keep reaping the benefits of interrupting while minimizing negative impact on others.
Interrupting is a skill, and it's one I'm still actively practicing. I'm hoping that by exploring these ideas in this post, I can help myself be more thoughtful and intentional when I interrupt others. Through knowing what I want from interrupting and practicing doing it in constructive ways, I hope to have more conversations with others that we can both really enjoy.