In business, the psychology of interrupting is an important factor that can significantly affect the success of communication between employees, clients and business owners. Interruptions occur in a conversation when one speaker is cut off by another. This tends to lead to the first feeling disrespected and/or frustrated. it’s, therefore, important to understand the types of interruptions and why people interrupt others, and also what we can do in our own businesses to start dealing with the issue.
The Confessions Of An Interrupter
The first thing I want to say is I am an interrupter. I’m going to own it. I’m not sure why I interrupt people but it’s something I’m trying to get better at. For me, I think I am trying to help move the conversation along. I often think someone has made their point and I need to make mine. I sometimes think someone is taking too long with what they’re saying or I’m bored of hearing them speak. But generally, I have no idea I’ve done it until someone points it out to me.
My wife is one of my fellow directors of GrowTraffic and I am always interrupting her. She calls me out on it a lot. I think part of it is she has a slightly odd cadence in the way she speaks, which can often sound like she’s finished making a point, when she actually has more to go. After 15 years you’d think I’d have got the hang of it but in conversations and arguments – time and time again – I think she’s finished talking and she’s not. Another part of it’s to do with the fact that we’re married and we can’t help bringing that into the workplace. We do tend to finish each other’s sentences. Subconsciously, I expect there is a power dynamic at work as well, although I am not consciously aware of it.
But it’s not just about married couples who work together! At some point or another, we will find ourself in a situation where we are interrupted or where we interrupt someone else. In a business situation, it’s important to think about what’s going on here.
The Different Types Of Interruption
Interruptions are generally classified into three types: power interruptions, rapport interruptions and neutral interruptions.
Responding To Power Interruptions
Power interruptions occur when the interrupter seeks to gain power by controlling the conversation and the audience. On the other hand, rapport interruptions aim to build rapport with the speaker, by showing they are being listened to and understood. Neutral interruptions do not have any power or rapport intentions. The important thing is the intention, however, the perception is also something that needs to be considered.
Responding to power interruptions requires a tactful approach. Allowing the interrupter to take control of the conversation can lead to the perception they don’t value what the other person has to say. Therefore, to re-assert their power the interrupted has to interrupt the interrupter politely whilst not allowing them to make their point. This can lead to conflict. The best way to fight back is to interrupt them non-verbally, either by raising your hand or nodding to acknowledge their need to interrupt. Generally speaking though, it’s important to avoid power interruptions because they make the other party feel disrespected and this is not good for the harmony of the team and the culture of the business, or your relationships with your clients.
The Benefits Of Rapport Interruptions
Rapport interruptions are beneficial to the conversation and help build rapport with the speaker. They show the listener is paying attention and understands the speaker’s point. By carrying the conversation forward, the listener can create a sense of understanding and improve the speaker’s confidence. Therefore, rapport interruptions are vital in any conversation.
Understanding Neutral Interruptions
Neutral interruptions don’t have any power or rapport intentions but they do not affect the conversation’s outcome. Sometimes, neutral interruptions take place because the speaker has not facilitated other people to enter the conversation, leading them to feel frustrated and waiting for their turn to speak. However, generally, this kind of interruption is more is used to clarify or obtain more information on a specific subject.
One of the main problems with neutral interruptions is they can be perceived as power interruptions by other members of the audience and the person being interrupted.
The Role Of Body Language In Preventing Interruption
Body language is an essential aspect of communication that can significantly affect how people perceive what we’re saying and therefore understanding when they can talk or when they should just button it. When thinking about body language, we’re talking about things like facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact and tone of voice, among others. Generally, this is much more difficult when lots of us are working remotely and having meetings virtually.
Body language should also be used to emphasise and reinforce verbal communication. For example, nodding while listening can indicate understanding and agreement whilst shaking the head can convey disagreement or confusion (we’ll discuss active listening in a minute). Hand gestures can also be used to emphasise key points or to convey enthusiasm and passion for a topic. If someone is able to demonstrate their passion about a point they are much less likely to be interrupted by someone else.
To improve communication through body language, individuals can practise techniques such as maintaining eye contact, using open and relaxed body posture and using appropriate facial expressions and gestures. They can also pay attention to the body language of others and adjust their own communication and body language accordingly. And, wherever possible it’s worth asking others around you for feedback about your own body language to get some insights into how it may be perceived by others. Understanding and modifying your own cues and tells can also help ensure you are interrupted less frequently.
Ultimately, interruptions can lead to negative consequences if they aren’t handled properly. You’ve got to avoid power interruptions and use rapport interruptions in conversations. Interruptions can also occur in different ways, including non-verbal interruptions, where the interrupter does not verbally interrupt the speaker but does so through facial expressions or gestures. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of these different types of interruptions.
As I mentioned, I’m an interrupter. I’ve been trying my best not to interrupt people and so I’ve started to raise my hand more, especially on Zoom meetings. But I was recently called out on this as well, as being just a different way to interrupt – even if I think just I’m waiting.
Using Active Listening To Avoid Interruptions
It’s most essential to understand how interruptions affect business communication. Interruptions can negatively impact business relationships and businesses need to create a communication culture that promotes active listening and respect. When business owners and employees listen actively, they can create an atmosphere that allows everyone to share their ideas and opinions, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving.
Actively listening is a bit like sitting on your hands. It’s a conscious approach to listening. You’ve got to consciously keep your mouth shut and listen, remembering points, checking for verbal and non-verbal cues, nodding at the right moment and gesturing for others to continue if they aren’t feeling confident but have a point to make.
Setting The Ground Rules For Good Communication
To minimise interruptions in business communication, it’s important to set ground rules for conversations and meetings. For example, the use of hand signals to indicate the need to speak can be introduced to avoid power interruptions. Just bear in mind, in some situations, this can be interpreted as a form of interrupting as well, so limit its use. It’s also important to ensure everyone has equal opportunities to speak and contribute to the conversation. Business owners and managers should lead by example and actively listen to their employees, setting the precedent for the kind of respectful communication you’d expect in your organisation. The problem comes when you’ve got someone like me – who is in that leadership position – who struggles to get this right.
Understanding And Dealing With Manterrupting
One important thing to consider when it comes to interruptions is the gender dynamics we work within a business setting. Women are much more likely to be interrupted than men. This can have a significant impact on their participation and success in the workplace. This is known as “manterrupting” and it refers to men interrupting women.
Manterrupting makes women feel less valued and heard, which can lead to decreased confidence and job satisfaction. It can also lead to fewer opportunities for women to share their ideas and perspectives, which can ultimately limit their career advancement. Additionally, manterrupting can contribute to a culture of sexism and discrimination in the workplace.
To address manterrupting and promote gender equality in the workplace, it’s important for individuals and organisations to take action. First, individuals can work on their own interrupting behaviours by paying attention to when and how they interrupt others and making a conscious effort to give others a chance to speak. This is something I’m trying to do more now it’s been brought up by my colleagues. Additionally, individuals need to speak up when they witness others being interrupted and they should advocate for a more respectful and equitable conversation. Fortunately, the GrowFos are a great bunch who all look out for each other and they all chip in if I or anyone else talks over one of the others.
Organisations can also take steps to address manterrupting and promote gender equality. To do this you need to create training that will teach employees about the importance of respectful communication and how to avoid interrupting others. Businesses should also consider their existing policies to promote equal participation in meetings, such as ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak so interruptions are minimised. Finally – and probably the most important thing – organisations need to work to create a culture that values diverse perspectives and encourages respectful communication.
How Technology Is Increasing Interruptions
Technology is also changing the way interruptions take place. Most of my interruptions take place on Zoom for example, although admittedly, I do interrupt in real life too. With the rise of remote working and virtual meetings, interruptions can take on a very different form from those we’ve been used to. For example, speakers can find themselves being interrupted by someone typing in a chat box or by sending a private message. Additionally, technological issues such as rubbish internet connection or loads of background noise can disrupt the flow of the conversation. People can also get distracted and check out of active listening mode because they are trying to do several things at once, such as listen and answer emails at the same time.
To address these issues, individuals and organisations can take steps to ensure that technology is being used effectively and respectfully. This can include setting the ground rules for virtual meetings, such as asking participants to mute their microphones when not speaking, using the chat box for questions or comments and turning off their emails when they are in a virtual meeting.
In conclusion, interruptions can have a significant impact on the communication, culture and success of a business. By understanding the different types of interruptions, such as power interruptions and rapport interruptions, we as individuals and professionals can respond accordingly and promote positive communications styles and techniques. And by addressing issues such as manterrupting and the role of technology in interruptions, businesses can create more respectful and equitable team cultures. Ultimately, effective communication is key to success in any business and dealing with interruptions is an important step in achieving this goal.