Question of the Week

How do you deal with people who interrupt conversations?

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Stefan Repka Tomasevic./

We've all been there. You're speaking and trying to get your point across when someone cuts in with "I think ..." and another person chimes in with "Perhaps we should ..." or something else to sidetrack the conversation.

In a recent ABA Journal Your Voice essay, Wendy R.S. O’Connor, a shareholder at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, gives insight into why we interrupt.

“Some people aren’t aware … or may do so in an attempt to be helpful; because they are excited by the discussion; or to demonstrate their interest. Some listeners get bored and impatient because they anticipate what the speaker intends to say and are anxious to move the discussion forward,” O’Connor notes. “Perhaps the speaker is incorrect about a vital piece of information, or is dominating the conversation so that others can’t weigh in.”

Even cultural heritage could play a role, O’Connor points out, as when someone might explain, “I’m Italian. That’s how we talk.”

“Few would dispute that communication is the touchstone to strong relationships, and no one benefits when it breaks down, as it inevitably does when interrupting is a persistent problem,” O’Connor writes. “Whether you are the perpetrator or the victim of interruptive behavior, make it your goal to stop it in its tracks.”

This week, we’d like to ask: What strategies do you use to combat interrupters? If you find yourself interrupting more than you should, what steps do you take to control that behavior? Answer in the comments.

Do you have an idea for a future question of the week? If so, contact us.

Clarifies fifth paragraph at 1:46 p.m.

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