Interrupting Is More Harmful Than You Think

The benefits of waiting.

We all interrupt and know it’s only sometimes okay. But we may not realize how detrimental it can be:

  • You are more tense, feeling you need to be ready to jump in before even the person finishes.
  • You deny yourself a moment after they finish to gather your thoughts.
  • You lose the chance to hear something that could prove your counterpoint wrong.
  • You appear rude. Consciously or not, most people feel disrespected when not allowed to finish what they’re saying.  
  • You appear egotistical and seem to believe the other person is inferior. Interrupting implies that you deem your words more worthy than the remainder of what the other person has to say.
  • You appear uncontrolled. People will view you as not having the self-discipline to avoid being rude and egotistical.
  • You lose power. When people talk, they often worry about what you think. If you wait until they finish, indeed, wait a second after, their anxiety increases, which yields you more perceived power.

Objections

Despite the above, you might think that interrupting yields sufficient benefits to justify it. For example, “I’ll forget what I was going to say.”  Solution: Take a note, which is particularly easy in the virtual meetings so common amid the COVID restrictions. Where that’s not feasible, say one word to yourself that will remind you of the point you want to make.

“Interrupting shows that I understand. Romantic couples prize being able to finish each other’s sentences.” The benefit of that is outweighed by the liabilities. You can show that you understand the person by, after s/he finishes, responding thoughtfully. Interrupting isn’t required.

“I’ll seem too passive and disinterested.” Your body language conveys engagement and your responses to your conversation’s partner’s full statement will be better, making clear that you’re engaged. Of course, at times, moderate interrupting is fine. I’m merely issuing a caution against undue interrupting.

“Interrupting increases the conversation’s energy.” The benefits of that are dwarfed by the aforementioned disadvantages. Certainly, with people who you’re confident enjoy the high energy of an interruptive conversation, you [ … ]

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