How many of us have experienced being interrupted while we speak? And how often have we been in a conversation in which we fail to let the other person completely finish what they are saying before we speak over the top of them? In truth, interruption happens so often we frequently don’t notice it.
But if communication is about meaningful connection, listening has to be at its centre. There has to be a feeling of trust and respect for any conversation to be productive and for both parties to leave it feeling heard.
Interrupting has various unfortunate consequences.
First, we don’t get to hear what the other person was going to say, which might have been useful or enlightening, and not what we expected.
Second, it most likely damages the rest of the conversation by changing the dynamics—no longer equal, as the interrupter has exercised dominance—as well as the emotional context; the interrupted person may well feel belittled and offended, giving rise to anger, resentment and unwillingness to be open from that point.
Ultimately, it creates a poor communication culture. Communication becomes more fixed and written as people try a control their communication; wasting time and creating silos of thinking.
This doesn’t mean that interruption is always bad, but if it becomes a habit, it will reduce the power and effectiveness of your communication.
Why do we interrupt? What are we aiming to achieve?
The question we need to ask here is how ‘pure’ our intention is when we do it?
Do we interrupt to stimulate thinking, or do we really do it in order to be ‘recognised’ as also having good ideas and knowledge on the subject? Do we interrupt to build on an idea or to stay in control of the conversation? Is interruption a way of being included because we feel as though we are not being heard? Is it to change the course of the discussion to suit our own needs? Is it to make the conversation more interesting or relevant to our own interests?
Each of us has to answer these questions for ourselves, however they need to be asked – and answered with honesty.
If you find that your answers are more about you than the other person, then listening without interrupting is a technique to practise. It is amazing what you can learn about others when you keep your mouth closed and your body, heart and head open and in listening mode.