I Hate To Interrupt, But Maybe I Should? (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist)

I really detest being interrupted while I am trying to have a conversation. I hate when people jump to another subject before I am finished my point. I hate it when people believe they know what the end of my sentence is going to be and finish it for me. And in general I hate to be in the middle of talking to someone else only to be approached, without pause or deference, by another person.

Which means, in turn, I am very unwilling to do all of this to other people. And as a rule, I don’t. I was raised not to, and even as an adult, I see very clearly the reasons why I was raised not to do these things. It’s disruptive, rude, and shows a lack of respect to the other person talking.

Exceptions exist of course, even for me. When I am with some of my oldest friends just goofing around we talk over each other about the dumb crap we usually talk about. A football game or the lame ass we used to know back in school. That’s part of being good friends I dare say. But only when I know someone well enough, and even then, only when the subject matter is not of particular importance, do I feel that over talking and cutting off is acceptable.

But when I am first meeting new people,  I consider it very rude to not be allowed to finish what I am saying.

And yet sometimes I wonder if that is the only way people know how to converse anymore. And if that is true, is it the only way to clearly present the parts of you that are most interesting to a new acquaintance?

Anyone who follows me here, on Brazen Careerist, or on Twitter knows that I despise standard networking, and that I don’t do much of it. But some of the reasons I hate it I think have an effect on my interactions with people even when I am not networking. Namely, I like to let people finish their points before I offer something to a conversation.

But more and more, people don’t know how to finish their point, or are otherwise unwilling to just stop talking long enough for there to be any kind of pause to fill. As though people are afraid to stop talking. And so when they meet me, they end up talking in an unbroken string for 15 minutes, and I simply nod. That is because it is in my DNA not to interrupt someone new while they are speaking to me, if otherwise they are not being offensive, and not preventing me from doing something important. (And usually, they are not doing either.)

I wonder if the overall effect is that I seem like a boring person that hasn’t done much, or doesn’t have anything of interest to say. After all, if I had any passion for anything, I would interrupt once in a while, right? Maybe? And hence no connection is made.

I do hold other people responsible as well in this. The art of conversation, especially with people you have just met, dictates that you give and take. That you ask questions as often as you express an opinion or tell a story. But setting that aside, does the world find people who interrupt, and talk over, to be more interesting or engaging somehow than those that do not?

If so, I don’t know if I could ever adjust to doing something to others that I hate being done to me. (This is perhaps why I much prefer written communication.)

Nonetheless, what do you think? Do people like me need to become comfortable with talking over, or cutting off people, or finishing their thoughts in order to make more of an impression during a conversation?


  1. Anonymous

    OMG. thank you for articulating something i've been thinking/feeling for a LONG time. I also follow rules of polite conversation and I do feel I suffer for it. And not just conversation, but life in general.

  2. I am glad I am not alone then!

  3. @Ty — I think that there are good and bad ways to interrupt people. A good way stems from you being a good listener and responding to what someone has said with a good question or a good opinion. A bad way to interrupt someone is when you completely change topic on someone when they have something important to say. I think that there are two types of interrupters. Those who listen and interrupt with something relevant to the conversation (making them look smart) and those who interrupt with something irrelevant (which makes you look rude).

    Does that make sense? I think it does…

  4. I agree with Ryan: I call it “interjecting.” A conversation is in progress. An idea begets another, immediately, I offer it, and generally continue listening. But I'll interject again, if more interesting stuff comes by.

    But it's just that. Interjection. Not taking over the whole conversation.

    Happens sometimes, but more often, as described above.

    But I am also close to someone who seems to deplore my interjecting, or even interrupting, when she's dominating the conversation and I'm listening, regardless of how interesting what she has to say actually is–What color to paint the bricks/walls comes up way too often for my taste.

    What irks me is giving that kind of respect to a speaker, and not getting it in return. Then, when I do interject extendedly, but come back to hear where she had been going: “Oh, never mind, I forgot what I was going to say…”

    What a cop out. Manipulative, too.

  5. Good point, Jay. Interjecting as opposed to interrupting is a distinction, not unlike the one Ryan points out in his comment, that I have not always made in my mind. But just as no machine can be 100% efficient, perhaps no conversation can truly take place without some overlap. In fact, I know it cannot.

    But it just seems to be a trend that more and more “interruptions” (as opposed to “interjections”) are crowding the conversations of many people these days.

  6. Good listening is forgetting your own thoughts and focusing on just what the other person is trying to tell you. It takes effort and practice-the only interrupting should be to clarify what the other person has just said-but wait for a break!!! With my close friends and family I just say you are not listening to me-but you can't do that to everyone. Maybe we should take on that practice of holding the stick. Whoever holds it has the floor and it gets passed around. I just caught up with a friend I hadn't seen for years-she talked non-stop the whole night (at my place for dinner). Next day she texted me to say so what have you been up to are you still doing x?

  7. I agree w/ above comments.
    conversation aren't like debates where one person makes a point and then there is a rebuttal or a addon.
    good conversation is like a river. it flows in one direction, but inside it there are plenty of overlapping waves cutting each other off.

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