How To Deal With People Who Interrupt All The Time

Robin Schwartz

How To Deal With People Who Interrupt All The Time

Consistently feeling as if you cannot get a word in edgewise can quickly become irritating. Dealing with a co-worker, friend or even family member that constantly talks over you or interrupts you can leave you feeling disrespected and unheard.

How you approach these chronic interrupters is determined by who they are. You will need to address these people very differently depending on if they are your friend or your co-worker. Encountering this personality type at work requires specific handling.

Group Settings

There are a number of responses you can have at the ready for any situation where you might be faced with someone who interrupts you. You may be giving a presentation or taking point during a meeting.

Having responses ready and available to use will (hopefully) allow you to keep the floor when faced with an interruption.

The first option is to acknowledge the interruption but bypass it with a positive tone.

An example of this is something like “Excellent question. I’ll be addressing that shortly.” Here you are letting them know, without being rude, that you already intended to discuss a certain matter. By saying this, you are also asking them to be patient.

Sometimes your boss or colleague will not just interrupt but will want to take over the conversation. In these cases, you can directly address that person and say, “Excuse me, Jane, I’m almost finished. I’d be glad to have you continue your thought once we’ve gone over all the information I have to present.” That statement is concise and clearly tells Jane what you expect of her. If you are in a room full of people, she is not likely to keep talking over you.

Occasionally chronic interrupters are triggered when they start losing interest in a subject or feel that there is no concise point coming. If you are noticing chatter from more than one co-worker, consider wrapping it up but do not lose their attention while doing so. Show them you can see their eagerness by saying, “I’m wrapping up shortly and will be glad to field questions, comments or suggestions at that time.”

If you find you work with someone who always talks over you in meetings or one-on-one conversations, play a little hard ball and just keep talking. Push yourself to finish your sentence and don’t be bullied into silence. It will eventually become too awkward for one party to talk over the other. Usually (but not always) constant interrupters will realize they didn’t originally have the floor and back down.

One-On-One

Dealing with a chronic interrupter in a one-on-one setting presents its own sets of unique challenges and advantages.

For one, continuing to talk over that person will often work better if it is just the two of you rather than a large group setting. It is often awkward for a larger group to watch two people talk simultaneously – it becomes a territory dispute rather quickly.

You have the opportunity to freely address the issue of interruptions when speaking directly with someone. Do not to point out the behavior in an aggressive or negative way. Approaching the issue as an observation you have made and explaining why you find it distracting will be better received by your colleague.

Make sure they understand that feeling constantly interrupted also makes you feel unheard.

Acknowledge that it is possible your co-worker does not even realize they are interrupting you. Simply ask if you can each agree to wait until the other has finished what they have to say.

The Boss

Handling a chatty co-worker or colleague is default with differently compared to your boss. It can be awkward to address the issue of feeling unheard or interrupted with your boss and needs to be done with greater strategy and finesse.

Here’s how you do it.

Understand your boss’ communication style. He/She might be doing it unknowingly because they are in a rush to get information out of you. You need to be able to adapt to the styles of those you work for. If you know he/she will eventually interrupt to get to the point, you may need to be more concise.

If you feel your boss interrupts you regularly during group meetings or presentations, ask if he/she has any pointers on how you can improve your public speaking in order to avoid general interruptions. Don’t point the finger directly at your supervisor, but let him/her know you have noticed that you are being regularly interrupted.

Even if you feel you can openly talk to your supervisor about your concerns, be careful how you approach the subject. You are not in a place to tell him/her how to manage employees and communicate with them. If done incorrectly – this could lead to other problems with your boss down the road.

Feeling as if you are dealing with chronic interrupters can be frustrating and make you feel overlooked in your role. Ignoring the issue does not make it go away. You need to be proactive in having conversations with your colleagues and supervisors to make sure you are being given the same amount of respect as everyone else.

Be heard, not interrupted.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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