One of the great things about this e-newsletter is that you can use it to get your workplace communication questions answered. There’s one question I get asked more often than any other. Normally the people asking have found my website through surfing, desperately looking for answers to this communication frustration. Read on, and tell me if you relate at all:
A friend of mine is constantly interrupting the conversation and it went from annoying to hurtful. For example, when someone is trying to explain something and it takes 5 – 6 minutes, in 2 minutes she’ll start talking to another listener about something completely unrelated and will go on and on. When she realizes no one’s paying attention to her, we can see she is mad inside.
I was just wondering, can it be more than just inappropriate, being rude, etc. Does she or someone like her actually have some bigger behaviour or maybe social problems?
When someone interrupts, it can be incredibly frustrating and downright rude. Here are a couple of things to consider …
- Has anyone ever spoken to her directly about this? Maybe you could gently do so. In some of these cases, these people don’t understand how their behavior undermines relationships. Listen up and validate why she might be interrupting (she’s not interested, her mind is on something else, she’s juggling a thousand balls in the air, she doesn’t get a chance to speak to the person beside her often and is grabbing the opportunity to do so, etc.) … then explain to her how her behavior looks, how it feels to be on the receiving end. Acknowledge that this might not be her intent, and what the more productive behavior could be. Talk to her at a neutral time and place, maybe over coffee. It could sound something like this …
- Hey (her name), I notice during meetings that when someone’s presenting, you seem to be distracted. For example, you started to talk to me about something completely unrelated while XXX was talking (you are DESCRIBING THE BEHAVIOR).
- Maybe it’s because you’re not interested in the subject, or your mind is racing ahead to other subjects? (DESCRIBE WHAT HER MOTIVATION MIGHT BE, ALLOWING HER TO SAVE FACE).
- It makes me feel like I’m disrespecting the person talking when I’m not actively listening. And if it’s me presenting and I see you or someone else having side conversations, I wonder what they’re talking about. I feel like I’m missing something … or I must be boring you to death (DESCRIBE THE EMOTION, HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL)
- I really want to hear this presentation and respect my colleague presenting it, so I’ll be listening to her. Otherwise, I’ll miss info. (DESCRIBE THE NEW BEHAVIOR YOU WANT TO SEE & THE BENEFIT TO HER).
- We want to hear what you have to say too and would be able to give you 100% attention when the presenter’s not talking. We just can’t listen to both at the same time. Can we try no side conversations, and save all our comments and question until the end? What do you think? (REINFORCE THE NEW BEHAVIOR)
- If she has a boss, maybe you can speak to him/her and mention her behavior as affecting operations and relationships (tie the behavior to biz operations and bottom line … that will up the chance that the boss listens).
- If she’s extremely extroverted, she’ll be expressing every thought verbally, related to the subject or not. When she does so, the person speaking can tell her, “I want to listen to what you have to say — before I do, please give me two minutes to finish up giving you this info first”. In other words, tell her when you’re going to allow for input, comment, and question, and then honor that.
All that being said, some people are just rude and don’t care. They’re so interested in being heard, they don’t listen. If that’s her issue, she has no intention of changing. Your choices are simple: accept her behavior and carry on; change how you behave (ignore her when she’s talking out of line or say something to her — change the way you respond); or walk away from her (don’t invite her to the meetings).
Another option is to speak to her boss and get her some training or coaching.
Hope that helps.
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
© 2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein\
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Communication catalyst, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to connect with clients, colleagues, employees and bosses, and how to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence and productivity. Chat with her atwww.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks and sign up for her FREE weekly”Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com