The Psychology of Interrupting (Why People Interrupt and How to Manage It)

The Psychology of Interrupting (Why People Interrupt and How to Manage It)

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Interruptions are a common occurrence in conversations, but they can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and even feelings of disrespect.

Understanding the psychology behind why people interrupt and learning how to manage this behavior can vastly improve communication between individuals.

In this article, we will explore the motivations behind interruptions, their impact on communication, and strategies to address and prevent them.

Understanding the motivations behind interruptions 🧐

Types of interrupters: intentional, unintentional, and situational.

The reasons why people interrupt can be categorized into three types: intentional, unintentional, and situational. Intentional interrupters consciously decide to interject during a conversation due to various reasons, such as asserting dominance or seeking attention.

Unintentional interrupters may not be aware that they’re cutting others off, often because they’re excited or feel compelled to share their thoughts.

Situational interrupters are influenced by external factors, like a tight deadline or a noisy environment, which lead them to temporarily disregard conversational norms.

Asserting dominance and avoiding discomfort.

One potential motivation behind interruptions is the desire to assert dominance in a conversation. By talking over someone, interrupters may feel more powerful and in control.

Additionally, people might interrupt to avoid feeling uncomfortable, as allowing another person to speak for an extended period may make them anxious or restless.

In these cases, interrupting helps to alleviate their discomfort by quickly shifting the focus back on them.

Attention seeking and control in conversations.

When individuals interrupt others, it may also be an attempt to seek attention and establish their presence in a conversation.

By interjecting their ideas or opinions, interrupters can assert their influence and maintain control over the discussion.

This behavior may stem from a belief that their input is more valuable or interesting than that of the speaker or to demonstrate their expertise.

How interruptions impact communication style and effectiveness 🗣️

Derailing the conversation and frustration for both parties.

When people interrupt, it can derail the conversation by causing the original speaker to lose their train of thought or shift the topic away from what they were discussing. This creates frustration for both the speaker and the interrupter, as neither may feel like their message is being understood or respected.

Suppression of important ideas and stifled creativity.

Consistent interruptions can lead to important ideas and creative thoughts being suppressed, as speakers might refrain from sharing out of fear of being cut off. This often results in decreased productivity and lessened innovation, as valuable insights are never communicated.

Perception of disrespect and reduced rapport.

Additionally, constant interruptions can lead to perceptions of disrespect, causing the speaker to feel devalued and disrespected. This can reduce rapport and trust between communicators and hinder the development of strong working or personal relationships.

How to stop someone from interrupting by setting boundaries 🤫

Addressing the issue directly and assertively.

One way to stop someone from interrupting is by addressing the issue promptly and assertively. Use clear, calm language to explain that you find it difficult to communicate effectively when you’re repeatedly interrupted.

This can prompt the interrupter to reassess their behavior and make an effort to listen more attentively.

Refocusing the conversation after an interruption occurs.

When an interruption occurs, you can tactfully redirect the conversation by acknowledging the input but emphasizing your desire to finish your point. For instance, say, “I understand what you’re saying, but let me just finish my thought.” This can help restore the focus of the conversation on your original message.

Maintaining a neutral time to speak without interruptions.

Establishing a designated time for each person to speak without interruptions can help mitigate constant disruptions. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts, and encourages individuals to practice active listening.

Teaching yourself to be a better listener and avoid interrupting others👂

Actively listening and allowing others to finish their thoughts.

Develop your active listening skills to become a better conversational partner and minimize your tendency to interrupt. Pay close attention to the speaker’s words, maintain eye contact, and wait until they finish speaking before sharing your thoughts or questions.

Reflecting on the driving forces behind your interrupting habit.

Identifying the reasons behind your interrupting habit can help you address the issue more effectively. Reflect on whether you interrupt due to emotions like excitement, anxiety, or a need for control, and implement strategies to address these factors and prevent unnecessary interruptions.

Implementing strategies to prevent unnecessary interruptions.

Using techniques like counting to five before speaking, mentally summarizing the speaker’s point, or jotting down your thoughts can help reduce your urge to interrupt. Practicing these strategies can help you develop better listening habits for more productive conversations.

Managing conversation dynamics when someone interrupts 🙆‍♀️

Identifying the appropriate time to start talking.

One way to handle interruptions is to identify the appropriate time to begin speaking, providing the space for the interrupter to share their thoughts while ensuring that the original speaker’s message is understood.

Redirecting the conversation back to the primary speaker.

If you notice someone being chronically interrupted, you can help redirect the conversation back to them by saying, “I’d like to hear [speaker’s name] finish their thought.” This gently reminds the interrupter to provide space for others to speak and facilitates a more respectful discussion.

Encouraging open dialogue and empathetic listening.

Promoting an environment where all participants feel heard and respected can help minimize interruptions. Encourage open dialogue by asking others to share their thoughts, and practice empathetic listening to show that you care about their perspectives.

Final Thoughts.

The article “The Psychology of Interrupting: Why People Interrupt and How to Manage It” discusses the motivations behind interruptions in conversations and their impact on communication. Interruptions can be intentional, unintentional, or situational, and can stem from a desire to assert dominance, avoid discomfort, or seek attention.

These disruptions can derail conversations, suppress ideas, and lead to perceptions of disrespect.

To manage interruptions, individuals can set boundaries, improve their listening skills, and promote open dialogue.

Techniques include addressing the issue directly, refocusing the conversation, designating speaking times, practicing active listening, reflecting on interrupting habits, and using strategies to prevent unnecessary interruptions.

Supporting a respectful discussion involves identifying the right time to speak, redirecting the conversation, and encouraging empathetic listening.  If you have found this article interesting you may like to read signs someone is trying to intimidate you. 

Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor Body Language Expert