CommunicationDifficult peopleInterrupting

What to do when someone butts in … literally

By October 13, 2015December 11th, 2019No Comments

What to do when someone butts in, literally? Here’s an interesting communication situation about someone butting in — physically. How would you react?

She writes …

Yesterday I went into a spot to get a bite for lunch. The place is small and informal. My plan was to eat something nutritious at one of the tables. When I entered there was one other gentleman eating at a table. As I was at the counter placing my order, another person came in and patiently stood behind me. Immediately afterwards a third person came in loudly and aggressively, asking to be the priority as she only had a minute and half left in her parking. The net result was that this person put her order in after mine and was served (takeout) before I was. She was on her cellphone first speaking indoors and then outdoors. As I sat at the table by the window waiting for my meal to be served, I noticed her vehicle which did not look as if it was even in a legal parking spot.

I was annoyed by the behaviour of this customer. My question: what could anyone of us (the server/small business owner, the other customer waiting to put in an order, myself) have said or done to discourage this behaviour? Thanks,

I reply …

Hi Margaret. Ouch, tough situation. Let me ask you this — what stopped you or anyone from saying anything? Why did you hesitate? What were you afraid might happen if you commented to her? Maybe you were completely caught off guard, at a loss for words, and now live with the regret of having said nothing.

If you were genuinely ticked, you could have spoken up and shared your concern. Suffering silently isn’t always the best thing to do. However, before you speak, ask yourself if the risk of doing so is worth it. Will it change the situation and make it better, or will it likely make it worse? Consciously decide what you will regret more — speaking up or staying silent?

Are you able to live with saying nothing? The fact that you’re emailing me suggests that a piece of you would have preferred to speak up — you just didn’t know quite what to say. My guess is that you’ve likely replayed this episode in your mind and each time you do, you feel annoyed all over again. If I’ve just described your situation, then speaking up would most definitely have been the thing to do so you don’t live with regrets.

Here are a few things that could have happened to handle the situation:

  • Instead of being caught off guard in the future, take a moment to think about the type of interruptions that catch you off balance and leave you tongue-tied. Prepare your response in advance (NOTE: I teach you how to prepare yourself and what to say in difficult situations like this one, in my workshop, Have your say, get your way™ (without being a bully or beeyotch)
  • When this interrupter said she only had another minute and a half left on the timer, you could
    Acknowledge her situation and stress, then offer to break a bill so she could feed the parking machine That is, you remove the reason for her butting in.
    Or, you could ask the employee serving you if he/she could break a bill for this lady’s parking meter.
  • She butted in behind you, so it was awkward for you to say something about that. However, the person behind you could have said something;
  • The real person who was perfectly positioned to take responsibility to say something was the person serving all of you and representing the business. It’s an employee’s job to serve clients and prioritize service. He/She could have politely asked the but-in person to wait, advising that she’d be with her in a couple minutes. He/She could have volunteered to break a bill to resolve the parking dilemma. He/She could have asked if the last two people in line would mind if he/she prepared this butter-inner’s meal first and then (here’s the important part) given them a free beverage as a thank you for their cooperation. POINT: good customer service dictates that a client be compensated for any inconvenience.

Dealing with people who butt in, whether it’s in conversation or physically, requires consciously deciding if it’s time to speak up or step away, knowing how to say it, and finally being able to look back over the incident without regret or guilt.

Good luck in preparing yourself and if you need additional help, give me a shout. You can do this!

© 2015 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author

©2015 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it:
Communication consultant, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada how to improve morale, confidence and productivity by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at or and sign up for her FREE “Marion’s Communication Tips” at

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

Leave a Reply