Hello everybody. I’m Victoria Rennoldson, Communication and Culture Coach, and welcome to Wednesday Words with me. You can choose to watch this by clicking ‘play’ on the video above, which also has subtitles.
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Today we’re talking about interrupting appropriately. Now, if you followed last week’s Wednesday Words, you’ll know that I talked about listening well and top techniques to learn to do this, as I believe that communication flow in conversations work incredibly well when we understand how to listen.
Building on this topic, I’m going to talk about how to interrupt, because there are situations sometimes when we do need to interrupt, we need to come into the conversation, and somebody’s in the middle of speaking. For example, it might be that we need to ask a question, to clarify something. It might be that they’ve misunderstood something, or making an assumption which we need to correct, because actually, that’s going to help the conversation continue. And so it might be appropriate for you to come in, and to interrupt somebody in the middle of speaking.
Now, this is obviously much easier face to face. I think we all get more of a sense when we can see people’s faces clearly, see their facial expressions, their body language, we can even hear sometimes the breath they take just before they’re about to say something, and we stop, because we realise they’re going to interrupt us.
This can be much harder in virtual calls, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this: people talking at the same time, stopping suddenly, and then starting again at the same time… and that really interrupts the conversation flow and the flow of the communication. How do we best manage this? How can we make it happen?
I’m going to share today some top ideas about how to interrupt appropriately if you feel that you need to do this, and I’m also going to talk about how to prevent interruptions, because that’s quite important as well. There are moments sometimes, when we want to stop the other people from coming in because we’re right in the middle of that thought and we haven’t fully explained what we want to say.
Let’s start with the interrupting. I believe that there are three key ways to interrupt appropriately in a respectful way and indicating politely that we want to come into the conversation. It’s just like when you drive your car, you have indicators, which show the other drivers that you’re about to come into another lane, or turn left or turn right. In the same way with interrupting, we’re trying to indicate to the other speakers that we want to come into the conversation.
The first technique is ask a question. Some examples of this might be:
‘Can I contribute something here?’ or
‘May I just come in and add an extra point?’
I suggest you ask the question before we then continue with what you want to say.
The second technique is politely interrupting, and we use usually some sort of phrase to indicate that the interruption is coming. That might be something like:
‘Sorry to interrupt you, but can I add an extra view on this?’ or
‘Excuse me, I’d really like to share some different data on this particular topic’.
We use phrases like ‘sorry to interrupt’ or ‘excuse me’ as ways to indicate we’re coming in to interrupt the conversation.
And then the third technique, which I especially like, is all about building. This is important because we’re acknowledging that we have been listening to what’s been going on, and we want to add to the conversation. Not from a different point of view, but adding to it. For example, we might say something like:
‘You know, I think that’s a really good point, and looking at it from this angle, I can also see these benefits…’ or we might say
‘Yes, I can hear where you’re coming from on this, and I also can see it in our area that this is an important point…’
What you do here is you’re building on what’s been said and that creates great communication, even though you’re interrupting, because you’re validating the other person’s comments and creating extra resonance in the conversation.
In summary, the three interrupting techniques:
- Ask a question;
- Politely interrupting;
But what if you want to prevent interruptions? Maybe you’re the person speaking, and you have an important point to say, and you don’t want this person to come in and perhaps change the topic or add their perspectives. Maybe you just want to finish what you’re saying. And clearly, we can indicate that as well, so we could say something like:
‘Can I just finish this point before you add yours?’ or
‘You know, I’d love to hear your feedback, after I’ve shared my view…’
I think that last one is particularly nice, because it shows you’re looking forward to hearing from them as well.
If this is a virtual call, the other way to manage the conversation is to make sure that you tell people there’ll be time at the end of the call for any other points, any other business, and sometimes that’s enough for people to know, for them to wait and hold on to their points, that they don’t feel that need to interrupt you in the middle of the conversation.