Talking over people can be a hard habit to break, particularly if it’s part of your common methods of communication.
There are some legitimate reasons why people develop this habit. People that come from cultures or families that are generally loud and compete for the speaking floor get used to functioning in that environment. If you don’t talk loud and elbow your way into the conversation, then you just don’t get heard.
But that kind of communication doesn’t work in a more polite society or the workplace. Talking over other people can be seen as rude, dismissive, and disrespectful to those who aren’t used to that communication style.
Interrupting can also make quieter people feel excluded and unimportant, which isn’t really how you want people to feel in a good conversation.
9 Ways To Stop Interrupting People
1. Practice active listening.
Active listening is focusing intently on what the speaker has to say until they finish their thought.
Many people do not practice active listening. Instead, they skim the speaker’s words while trying to think of the next thing they want to say. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, they’re not really listening and may miss important context or statements that the speaker is making. Second, it makes the listener appear as though they are not engaged in the conversation.
And that second point is especially bad if you happen to be talking to the boss or having a sensitive conversation with a loved one. You don’t want to appear to be disengaged or uninterested.
Try to avoid thinking about what you want to say while the other person is thinking. Instead, quiet yourself and just focus on their words.
2. Pause for 10 seconds before speaking.
Sometimes we interrupt other people due to miscues in the flow of conversation. These cues can be easy to miss if you aren’t practicing active listening because they are often subtle. The speaker may have paused for dramatic effect, comedic timing, or just to gather their thoughts before they continue.
A good way to stop interrupting people is to simply take ten seconds between the time they stop speaking and you start speaking. It might feel awkward, but you can always explain this away as you were just thinking about what was being said, which you should be doing anyway.
That pause will also give you a little additional time to read the speaker and look for conversation cues for them, like if their facial expression denotes thought or a joke.
3. Purse your lips or cover your mouth.
Perhaps you need an active reminder to help stifle the impulse to talk over other people. You can do that by pursing your lips or adopting a posture where you can cover your mouth. Pursing your lips helps because it’s common body language for being in thought. The person you are speaking to will interpret that as you thinking about their words.
You may also find it helpful to rest your chin in your hand and put a finger over your lips, circumstances allowing. That would be fine in a personal conversation but will probably look a little off in professional conversations or meetings.
Either way, it’s a physical reminder to stop yourself from talking over people who haven’t finished what they have to say.
4. Repeat their statement back when appropriate.
When communicating with another person, a common piece of advice is to repeat their point back to them in your own words to show that you understand what they are saying. This can be a helpful piece of advice for not interrupting or talking over people because it forces your mind to stay focused on the speaker.
This is most helpful in a personal conversation where the other person expresses something of deep importance. Like, think of when a friend is having a hard time, or maybe you’re having a discussion with your boss about a work responsibility.
5. Allow the speaker to continue if you do interrupt.
You’re going to mess up. You’re going to fall back to that old habit and interrupt someone sooner or later. It’s okay! Really. No one is perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be either.
Stop yourself when it happens. Just say, “I’m sorry for interrupting, please go on.”
The habit of making that apology will help you maintain better control over when you decide to interject into the conversation. And it has the added benefit of communicating to the speaker that you realize you made an error, are apologetic, and give them back the floor to continue speaking.
6. Make notes if you are in a work setting or group conversation.
In a work or group setting, it is helpful to carry a small notebook with you. That way, you can jot down notes and thoughts you have about what’s being said to revisit later. Some people interrupt because they are afraid they will forget their question or point. The notebook is the solution to that problem.
Plus, it’s helpful to collect these thoughts and notes for when you get to the end of the presentation. You may find that your question was already answered or your points covered by the end.
7. Acknowledge your interruption if you need to make one.
There are times in conversations when you need to make an interruption. Perhaps there is a bit of misinformation being shared that you need to correct. In that scenario, just limit yourself to providing the appropriate context or information required for the comment.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but…”
Make your point, and then step back out of the flow of conversation.
An interruption is sometimes necessary.
8. Ask a friend to help you.
Changing a habit can be hard work. You can make the job easier by enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member. Have them keep an eye on you and just give you a little nudge or inform you when you’re interrupting, so you can better avoid it.
After the conversation is over, they can just tell you, “Hey, you interrupted John while he was talking about his trip.” That way, you can acknowledge it with yourself if you feel it slipped under your radar.
9. Practice with a partner.
A great way to change any habit is through regular practice. You can practice not interrupting with the help of a friend by just asking them to talk about a thing. Suggest they talk about something with their work, an event in their life, or a situation they had to deal with. Then, take that time to actively listen to what they have to say, work on your own internal narration, and stop the triggers that cause you to talk over people.
Make it clear that you are asking for help with this specific problem and may not be entirely invested in the conversation. You don’t want your friend to be pouring their heart out to you, and you’re not paying attention because you’re thinking about how you speak.
Keep practicing. Keep working on listening and just being quiet when other people speak. The more you work at it, the easier it will be to ditch that interrupting habit and be a quality conversationalist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is interrupting people rude?
In many cultures, interrupting people is rude because it shows disrespect to the person speaking and the point they are trying to make. People like to express themselves and feel heard by those they are talking to. To interrupt is to deny them that right.
What are the consequences of interrupting people?
If you regularly interrupt someone, it might make them pull away from you or not want to talk to you. After all, if they can’t say what’s on their mind without you jumping in every five seconds, they’ll look for someone else with whom to share their thoughts, their news, or their worries.
Nobody wants to feel like they are part of a one-sided conversation where only what you have to say matters enough to be listened to.
Talking over people is also a problem if you are being given instructions. You may think you know what someone wants you to do, but unless you listen to their words carefully, you are likely to make errors or not doing things the way they want them done. This can lead to trouble of all sorts, especially in work situations but also when it comes to helping out a friend or partner.
Interrupting people can make you seem arrogant, rude, self-centered, and uncaring. These are not qualities you would wish to convey to others because they lead to weaker relationships and destroy the relationships you have already built up.
Why do I interrupt so often?
You might interrupt people to ensure that your voice gets heard. This is sometimes required, but often you would get your chance to speak anyway if you had waited.
Or you might be so excited by what the other person is saying that you simply must interject to express that excitement.
Perhaps you don’t want to forget the point you’ve just thought of and so you splurt it out in order to ensure it gets said.
Do you have a habit of taking whatever someone else is saying and making it about you? Perhaps you top their story with yours, or you like to tell a shared story from your perspective because you think you tell it better. This shows that you are a bit of a conversational narcissist who likes the sound of your own voice.
It might be that you struggle to hold back a thought when you have one – it’s come out of your mouth before you’ve even finished thinking it. This might relate to poor impulse control in general.
What does it feel like to be interrupted during a conversation?
When someone interrupts what you are saying, it can feel like what you have to say isn’t important. This can extend to feeling like nothing you have to say is important if someone in your life like a partner or parent always talks over you.
When you don’t feel heard, you may feel unloved or not respected. It can also make you feel powerless if the other person disregards your opinions and makes choices for you.
Being interrupted can also lead to feelings of anger and annoyance. It can cause ill-feelings toward the person who interrupted you that last well beyond the conversation.
You may also like:
- 8 Types Of Listening You Need To Know And Use
- 11 No Nonsense Tips To Stop Talking So Much
- Conversational Narcissism: How To Deal With It And Avoid It
- How To Think Before You Speak: 6 Steps You MUST Take
- How To Keep A Conversation Going: 12 No Nonsense Tips!
- How To Make Small Talk: 8 No Nonsense Tips + 8 Starter Topics
- 9 Reasons Why Some People Talk So Loud (+ How To Deal With It)