I’m an interrupter (or interruptor if you prefer – both are acceptable.)
I have one primary excuse for interrupting. I’m not great at keeping thoughts in my head. They tend to disappear, and only appear while I’m driving home, or when I’m having a shower the next day, when they’re no longer useful to a conversation. And so, of course, I need to voice thoughts when they appear.
I’ll most often apologise for interrupting, and then just go ahead and talk. Quite often, I only think to apologise after I’ve spoken. But I talk anyway. And then, inevitably, I won’t think to ask what the other person wanted to say. It just gets lost.
My behaviour is entirely unacceptable.
Research has shown that people react to being interrupted in the same way as they react to being slapped across the face – with deep hurt and often humiliation. I can’t argue with this research because I feel exactly that way when anyone interrupts me. I feel insulted, and immediately convinced that what I have to say is of no or little value. I’m likely to just shut up for the rest of the conversation. And I’m likely to view the person who interrupted me in a less than favourable light.
It fascinates me that, even though being interrupted shows such lack of respect, we seem to follow some social norm that allows it. When a person says “Sorry to interrupt you…”, we respond with “No, that’s fine…”, and we then waive our right to continue what we were saying, and defer to the interrupter. How strange. Is it because what we were saying was rendered uninteresting by the interruption, making continuing something of a waste?
Learning to listen with wholehearted respect is the answer of course – listening without developing responses in my mind while I’m focussed on another’s thinking. Listening to ignite, to inspire – not to respond.
Learning to give others the gift of a guarantee that they will not be interrupted when they’re talking to me is the greatest challenge. But I’m trying.
I want others not to interrupt me. Plus, I want to explore the best thinking others have to offer.
As Nancy Kline so eloquently says :
“To be interrupted is not good
To get lucky and not be interrupted is better
But to KNOW you will not be interrupted allows you truly to think for yourself.”
I’m trying. Are you ?
For more information on Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.