Are interruptions rude? In a real life conversation can’t an interruption sometimes enliven the discussion? At a recent dinner party of eight friends around the table the conversation at one point got rowdy in a jolly way, with everyone putting in their two cents on a particular topic. It was all in good fun and didn’t get out of hand. No one was mean or critical.
- Isn’t it far better–and more fun–to have real life lively conversation rather than too many dreary dead silences?
On a professional level, when our company team is problem solving on a Zoom and colleagues start interrupting, we often find that the conversation becomes more constructive and productive. Really, are all interruptions rude?
–Diana, Newport, RI
Is there an art to interrupting one another during an intense conversation? Are interruptions rude? In the real world, not all interruptions are rude. Often when people talk over one another it not only works, but works well. When several people become excited by a topic and everyone wants to add to the conversation, and they all start interrupting each other, the conversation can become quite magical. Enthusiastic engagement.
Interrupting to correct or criticize is not the way to go. Interrupting with additional information and affirmation can be quite smart. Nobody likes a grandstander; a showoff who puts on airs to attract attention. But adding pertinent information can make the discussion more interesting as it prolongs the conversation; encouragement to keep the flow of conversation afloat.
- Social anxiety, on the other hand, manifests in someone who is speaking way to much and way to fast. Like a nervous tic it can be annoying for all. They need to slow down.
- Zoom conversational hijackers are rude.
- Add to the what the speaker has to say, do not negate the speaker.
Traditionally, starting to speak before someone has finished impinges on their right to speak. In formal situations such as political debates, interrupting breaks the rules. Think of Mike Pence interrupting Kamala Harris during the vice-presidential debate as a perfect example of men interrupting women more than women interrupt men. Studies show that is so.
How do you handle being interrupted? Being called out for interrupting when your intentions are honorable, can be disheartening and even hurtful. Showing enthusiasm by talking over someone may not be meant to silence the person (or persons) but to keep the conversation lively. It’s called cooperative overlapping. All in good fun.
How else can one show they have something to add without being rude? By waiting your turn? Raising your hand to speak as in a Zoom? Not so at a social gathering.
In Deborah Tannen’s books, “Conversational Style” and “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation,” she says cooperative overlapping, like all conversational habits, has cultural roots; there are different assumptions about overlapping. She also calls cooperative overlapping, “participatory listenership.” In believing that in real life, not all interruptions are rude, Tannen says, “Sometimes people talk over each other and it totally works.”
The pandemic may have made social anxiety worse for the young. Social anxiety is especially on the rise in people in their twenties, but we can role model having, also, been through months of isolation fueling social withdrawal and entrenching reclusive habits, by jumping into conversations and, yes, interrupting. Making interrupting normal.
In any gathering of a group, an interrupting and vocal man is usually perceived to be a smart leader, while a woman displaying the same manner of behavior is often seen as pushy and bossy.
- The reality is that some people are just simply oblivious to other people.
- You can say, “Please, don’t interrupt me.” If the rude interruptions continue, that’s not cooperation,
Forget about being socially anxious. As we return to in-person socializing, be a social butterfly and join in to enhance the conversation and keep it going. Be bold, be brave. You may even interrupt and say, “Excuse me for interrupting, but what about …. ”
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