Communications expert Leil Lowndes writes in her book How to Talk to Anyone at Work
that everyone hates to be interrupted: “I do, even when I’m saying something pointless.”
Lowndes tells the story of a former colleague who constantly interrupted her and others, and how she started to take note of how people reacted to his interruptions.
In one instance, the person being interrupted stared at him, pointed to her own mouth and said, “Hey, lips moving, still talking.” Someone else responded to his interruption by asking, “Did I take a breath and give you the impression that I’d finished?”
For Lowndes, these kinds of reactions to being interrupted are well-intentioned, but often only result in uncomfortable silences.
Instead, she suggests that a better approach is to welcome the interruption and “kill the interrupter with kindness” by following these 4 steps:
1. The moment they cut you off, stop speaking mid-sentence and give them an accepting expression.
2. Next, look down at your computer, materials, or notes. When their interruption is finished, look back up and say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was distracted for a minute.”
3. Then continue with, “Please, I’m anxious to hear what you have to say. What was it again?” This forces them to repeat what they’ve said, making the interruption even more obvious. As Lowndes points out, this works especially well in a meeting context when they have to do this in front of a group.
4. Now, smile as though nothing happened, and without a trace of rancor, finish your point: “As I was saying …"