Interruptions : How to reclaim a conversation

Chances are you have noticed that being interrupted can be annoying. If someone talks over you, it is likely that you will feel frustrated. At the same time, when someone interrupts you it can be as though they think that what you are saying is not as vital as what they want to share.

If you know me, you may have experienced that frustration more than once. I’ve recently been challenged because of this tendency to interrupt others, so I had to work it out and would like to share with you some tips you should know if you ever have to converse with someone like me …

Types of interruptions

There can be several types of interruptions, and the main difference between them is an interrupter’s intention. Some people who talk over you may want to add to your dialogue with benevolent words. This type of interruption is aggravating, but forgivable, as most people engage in this kind of conduct now and then.

However, sometimes people may interrupt you because they want to improve on what you are saying. When they speak over you, it may be seen as a challenge. An example might be when person A is in the middle of telling a story about running two miles, when person B interrupts by saying he or she can easily run seven miles. Person B will not have added useful information; all they will have done is to boast and belittle person A.

The most common form of interruption amongst friends, who mean well despite taking each other, can be put down to excitement. It is not unusual for uncontrollable bursts of information to spill forth from the mouths of friends who cannot wait to be heard. Naturally, they ought to wait for the sake of common courtesy, but they do not.

How to deal with helpful interruptions

You can reclaim the stage by loudly saying the word “exactly!” As soon as you have spoken, continue along the same thread you were on before being interrupted.

How to handle one-upmanship

Verbally, yet gracefully, knock a one-upmanship interrupter back down by exclaiming, “that’s incredible!” Follow this swiftly by continuing with what you want to say.

How to manage an excitable friend

Even your best friend can annoy you if they continually interrupt. Lightheartedly remind them that it is your turn to talk by saying, in a fashion equally excitable as their own speech, “me first!

There are other ways to deal with people who interrupt you; however, interrupting them back is generally most effective. Save sarcasm for one-upmanship interrupters, be playful with excited friends, and confident with helpful conversation snatchers. Eventually they will learn not to speak over you and they will listen more effectively instead.


Opened by Antoine Fournier, Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Feb 3, 2013.

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Martin Goetze Senior Consultant, ISIS Papyrus Europe AG
Feb 4, 2013

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This topic is a very interesting one for me because as much as i love interesting conversations, as much i am annoyed by the fact that the majority of conversations (mostly at work, about professional subjects) are getting so constantly out of focus and structure, that i am permanently nerved to the level of pure frustration that it is so difficult by times to have effective conversations were everybody is able to express their thoughts without being interrupted, and that it seems such a difficult excercise to apply a proper conversation culture.

Most of these conversations remind me of dinner table talks were the most attractive, or the loudest and impertinent person just takes over and imposes his view to the other participants.

I have developed a way of staying silent mostly, until i have figured out the psychological relationships between the participants, and let them play their game of attention competition. At the same time i always remind myself of the actual goal this conversation is about (the discussion of an idea, a political opinion or an event, a business objective or an evaluation of a technical scenario or architecture)...

If someone interrupts me constantly or is not able to soulfully blend in when it is appropriate i will start to simply ignore him for the rest of the talk. In my eyes, if someone is unable to play fair in a conversation with a higher number of participants than two, he lacks "sociability" and i rather would ask for his opinion by mail then to sit down with him and have a talkl

My sole objective in conversations is to get insights into a topic from intelligent participants and eventually be able to formulate a concrete and relatively short summary of the offered opinions and contributions.

If that is not possible at the end of a conversation, than this talk has had little meaning and i feel i wasted my time....

All this does not apply completely for wine-and-dining evenings with friends of course :-)
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Roz Bennetts B2B Sales, B2B Sales Professional
Feb 3, 2013

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Hi Antoine,

You're right, we've all been guilty of this.

However, when on the receiving end, I like your ideas on handling the excitable friend 'me first!' with a smile is a great way of dealing with that and I'll use that one for sure.

The one-upmanship is a tough one but I can't think of a better way of handling it beyond what you've suggested - an enthusiastic acknowledgement of their achievement. As grating as this is sometimes!

For all this though, a deep breath while one's being interrupted is sometimes my only solution and when they've finished continue politely as before, with a smile and say that you were just getting to your point.

I'd look forward to hearing other people's ideas on this debate as it sure is a frustrating and common situation to deal with in life and in business.

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