On occasion, we are all guilty of interrupting, but if it is something you do often, then chances are you are undermining your relationships, which can hurt your effectiveness. Related to interrupting is when we find ourselves not really listening, and instead, waiting for the other person to take a breath or a break so that we can speak. Once again, relationships pay the price, as does our success.

When we do this, the message we’re sending is that we don’t consider what they’ve said to be important – or as important as what we want to say. It is both disrespectful and annoying. The frustration felt by the receiver puts a negative tone on the conversation, even if we are friends. If it’s a colleague, we’ve lost the opportunity for connection, and perhaps done longer-term damage to the relationship.

If this is a habit of yours, Madeleine Homan Blanchard reviews some reasons you are a habitual interrupter, and how to stop doing it in her article Trying to Stop Interrupting Others? Ask Madeleine. She lists triggers which you will recognize and then ways of getting past them.


Just excited – You are bubbling over with enthusiasm. Blanchard says this is forgivable. And no one is always excited, so chances are this only happens occasionally. With any luck, the other person is equally excited.

Getting a word in edge-wise – This is common if you grew up in a talkative environment or work in a fast-paced one, this Blanchard refers to it as a forgivable survival skill, but awareness becomes key to doing things differently.

In my own head – This is for those who have a tendency to tune out during conversation. It can be uncomfortable at best, insulting at worst. If this is something you do often, Blanchard recommends taking notes to keep you present.

Shutting people down – This is unforgivable. You have negated what the other person has said. Regardless of the reason, you have revealed an unhelpful and potentially harmful attitude that will, if not corrected, likely result in long-term issues that cannot be fixed.

 8 Changes to Make:

  1. Notice the behavior and the impact it has on others. Read body language. Listen to tone of voice. These will tell you a lot.
  2. Decide that the behavior is making enough of a negative impact on your effectiveness with others that it is worth making the effort to change. When you see the results of your interrupting, you will need to choose to do what it takes to change.
  3. Pay attention to what is happening when you engage in the behavior. As opposed to #1 which is external, this is internal. Recognize your trigger.
  4. Practice what you might do the next time a spark presents itself in a safe environment. Once you notice your triggers, you need to learn to do things differently. This can be anything from putting your hand over your mouth, managing your energy and thoughts by using a notebook, or doing something with your hands. Even doodling can keep you present.
  5. Share your quest to change your behavior with your colleagues. Getting support is a good idea. Blanchard notes it should only be from trusted colleagues. If the issue is having a chance to speak at a meeting, she suggests asking the leader to ensure everyone is heard.
  6. Experiment. This is an ingrained habit you are changing. It’s going to take time to break a habit and find what works for you. You will make mistakes.
  7. Keep track of your progress and what you did when you were successful. Recognize what worked and what didn’t. Celebrate your successes. Both of these will help you continue to make progress.
  8. Before long, you will notice you have made a change. Blanchard warns not to let your guard down. Habits are not easy to break. Be kind to yourself when you slip up then go back to doing what works. You have come a long way.

I would add that a key motivators for making this change is noticing how you feel when you are interrupted. What comes up for you when someone isn’t listening to you? You certainly don’t look forward to talking with them again. You can also take time to observe how others react when they are interrupted. Seeing the results can drive home the importance of changing this habit. Listening is a leadership quality. Interrupting is the opposite of it. This is one habit you can’t afford to have.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s