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When to Interrupt


Techniques > Conversation techniques > Interrupting > When to Interrupt

Completed | Slowing downPause | Send non-verbals | Had their say | See also


An important question that you need to know the answer to when you are seeing to interrupt someone else is when to interrupt -- and when to keep quiet and wait.

When they have completed what they have to say

The best point to interrupt happens when the other person has completed what they are saying. In practice, the person who is talking may well make their point and, as they are still holding the talking stick, will continue to elaborate.

When you detect that they have made their key point, then start looking for a point to interrupt.

When they are slowing down

A common signal that they are running out of things to say so that the person starts to slow down. It is as if they are encouraging you to run alongside so they can pass you the baton.

When they pause

Another signal you can use to interrupt on is when they pause for a moment. This may be when they are stopping to think what to say next or may be a deliberate offer to you to pick up on the conversation.

Pregnant pauses in conversations can be uncomfortable so many people, if others do not interrupt during a pause, will keep talking, just to avoid the embarrassment of silence.

When they send non-verbal signals

When a person is ready to be interrupted or coming to the end of what they are saying, they may well send non-verbal signals, consciously or unconsciously that they are or will soon be ready to let someone else speak.

For example they may raise an eyebrow, look at you or change from closed to open body language. Important here is to look for clusters and transitions. A cluster is where a whole set of non-verbal signals is sent at one, whilst a transition is where the person moves from one position to another.

When they have had a fair crack of the whip

Sometimes the other person just wants to retain control and will use talking to do so. Sometimes they just like the sound of their own voice. For whatever reason, some people just do not know when to stop speaking and let someone else have a turn.

When you have concluded that they have had a reasonable time in which to talk, it is generally fair for you to butt in more forcefully, using one of the many other interruption techniques.

See also

When not to interrupt


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