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How to stop people interrupting


Techniques > Conversation techniques > Interrupting > How to stop people interrupting

Don't pause | Don't signal | Don't look | Ignore signals | Speed up | Get louder | Signal power | Can I finish? | See also


Sometimes you do not want to be interrupted, perhaps because you have something important to say or perhaps because the other person has kept interrupting you for little good reason beforehand.

Remember also that interruptions may be to seek or give useful information and that they are a normal part of conversation, and not a slight to your character. Be cautious, then, in how often and when you power through the interruptions of others.

Don't pause

When you pause, even to take breath, you are giving other people the opportunity to interrupt. They may be just jumping in or may read it as an invitation to comment -- the result, however, is the same.

Regulate your breathing. When you are talking for a long stretch before taking a big breath, the breath takes longer.

Don't send signals

When you are talking, you may be sending non-verbal signals that invite the other person to interrupt. Beyond pauses, these include:

If you can control your body language and speech, then you may offer less invitations. You probably cannot remove all signals, but if you are thinking 'no signals' then this will help too.

Ignore signals

When they send signals that they want to interrupt, simply ignore them. Carry on regardless, perhaps even doing such as increasing your speed or volume to signal back that you are not ready to be interrupted. 

Don't look

If you are looking at them, then when they send interruption signals then you cannot claim not to have seen them. You can:

  • Look up, as if you are envisioning the things you are talking about.
  • Look at your hands as you carve your ideas out of the air.
  • Close your eyes as you imagine internal pictures of what you say.

Speed up

A simple method of preventing interrupt is to talk quickly. When there are no gaps in what you say, then there is no chance of them interrupting.

In particular, when they try to interrupt, speed up your rate of speaking. This signals that you are not ready to finish yet.

Beware with this of becoming incoherent. Someone who talks too quickly may not be heard.

Get louder

Another way of powering through an interruption is to increase the volume of your speech, getting louder as the other person tries to interrupt. Talking loudly all the time also acts as dissuasion.

As with several other methods, this may be combined to make a more powerful interrupt.

Signal power

Do send signals of power, indicating to other first that you have the right to talk for longer and also that you will fight back powerfully if they do interrupt.

Use powerful body language

Use power body language in general, for example expanding our body space with large gestures and hands-on-hips, touching others and . You can also use the power interrupt beforehand as a signal.

Use the power stare

The power stare may be used to prevent interrupt. This involves looking intently at people for longer than the normal glance. Rather than look up or away as you speak, look directly into the eyes of people, scanning around each person whilst pausing at each one.

The potential reaction to this may be deflected by cloaking it in enthusiasm for the subject. Its intensiveness, however, clearly signals that you are not willing to give up control of the conversation as yet.

Use the interrupt dare

Talk slowly and deliberately. Pause. Speak at length. Yet only let others speak when you ask them a question or otherwise permit them to talk.

The interrupt dare, which may be combined with the power stare, effectively sending signals that an interrupt may be made, yet simultaneously indicating that an interrupt will be met with a powerful response.

Win the power struggle

If you get into a power struggle, for example where the other person is using a power interrupt or resists your power interrupts, then you will need to exercise your power, for example by using one of the other techniques on this page.

Can I finish?

A simple and very powerful method of hanging onto the talking stick is to is ask the other person if you can finish what you are saying.

This can be done in varying levels of politeness, from assertively saying 'can I finish' without pause in the continuous stream of words, to asking the other person nicely and waiting for permission.

...and when we reach -- can I finish -- the end of the year...

-- Sorry, Mike, I won't be long --

-- Jen, you've made your point, now it's my turn --

-- I'm sorry. I do want to hear your viewpoint. Is it ok if I finish the explanation first? -- thanks --

See also

Signals, Power Interrupt, Assertiveness

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