everyone interrupts me — am I somehow causing this?

A reader writes:

I’ve been dealing with a weird problem in my work relationships for a long time, and it’s happening again in my new job. I was really hoping you’d have some advice on how to make it stop.

The gist of it is, people occasionally talk right over me, in the middle of a sentence (not where we both start talking at the same time). It’s never a situation where we’re talking about books and suddenly they ask someone else if they remembered to lock the safe. It’s more like we’ll be talking about books and halfway through my response to something, they’ll ask that someone else what they’re going to have for dinner that night. And I just…smile and go along with it. I don’t know what else to do. (Particularly if it’s just casual chatter, I feel stupid calling attention back to me. I just assume this new thing must be more important).

Even if I had some terrible habit people didn’t like, like going off on tangents and rambling on and on, or talking too slowly, I can’t imagine them thinking the answer is just to start up a conversation with someone else like I’m not standing there in the middle of a sentence. Who does that?

Looking back, I’ve kind of always had this problem from childhood. So…I think it’s really just me, independent of the subject or urgency and regardless of how concise I’m being. And it’s something I really want to change now that I’m older and working in a professional setting, but I have no clue how.

I actually fit in really well with my coworkers and we have a great relationship the rest of the time–it’s been that way everywhere I worked. Plus I’m always being complimented about the quality of my work, so it isn’t that I’m not being taken seriously as an employee. But sometimes this thing occurs and I’m left wondering what just happened.

If it were one coworker, I’d probably get up the nerve to ask them nicely what the deal is. But it’s me. It’s just a type of treatment I seem to invite. I’m wondering if you know a way I can change that. There’s so much advice out there on how to sound decisive so people want to implement your suggestions. All I want is whatever level of respect it takes to be able to finish a thought before being shut down.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 343 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Rachel

    You’re probably mid-sentence trailing off with your volume. “Yeah, I think that book was really interesting! I really had to stop and think about that part when…”

    As you get quieter, and especially if you break eye contact, the other person interprets this as a signal that you’re done. Even though you’re still talking, your body language and other non-verbals send a ton of information you might not realize.

    I’m anxious socially and I noticed that I often did this. I’m working on it, consciously making an effort to maintain volume and eye contact until I’m actually done.

    Reply
    1. Tara S.

      This is totally possible, but what the LW described happens to me as well (though not as frequently) and this is not the case for me.

      In the example you describe, I would still say it’s rude to completely change topics, since she obviously hadn’t finished her thought. But people do this! With peers I’ve had to point it out, “I’m not done talking,” which sucks because it often derails the mood, even if I deliver the same message with softer wording.

      With superiors at work, I don’t feel like there’s much I can do about it. I always bristle a bit at the “just mention you weren’t done talking” advice. Sometimes it works, but other times the topic moves on and you look self-centered to try and finish your thought. I’ve also gotten flack for trying to finish a thought after someone butts in or I have to say “I wasn’t done talking,” people rolling their eyes and such.

      Reply
      1. Flinty

        Yeah I think unfortunately “I wasn’t done talking” will only get a positive response if you have been very rudely and blatantly interrupted multiple times. Otherwise I just go with “anyway…” and continue my thought if it’s really important.

        Reply
        1. Anonymoose

          I think this only works if you’re speaking top-down, otherwise you come off like a brat*.

          * I remember finding out in college (Comm major – w00t) that this is not only regional but gender based too. I wish I had the study to reference but the quick summary is that a woman interupting a woman is NOT considered a personal dig, more like overly enthused about whatever they begin to talk about. However, men find interrupting off putting because it may appear that the interrupter is trying to shift a (minor) power dynamic without consent. Crazy right? Ever since then I’ve tried to pay attention to how men and women interrupt each other.

          Anyway. My other thought was that the hyper-drive to speak regardless of whether the reciever is finished also seems like a uber-driven company culture. I know that when I worked in high stress/volume companies that interrupting – while rude – was more acceptable due to lack of time/resources to handle whatever is being discussed – eg communicating quickly and succinctly to be the most efficient, regardless of personal feelings.

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        2. Sam.

          So this happened in my lunch room the other day – my coworker, Mary, asked if anyone had watched the Stormy Daniels interview, I said no, I was watching X instead, and the other three people in the room got really excited about X and started peppering me with questions. Once that tangent tapered off a bit, Mary said, “Anyway, back to Stormy Daniels,” clearly miffed that people interrupted her. The thing is, though: multiple people *enthusiastically* leaping to chase a different conversational topic is a pretty clear sign that no one else wanted to continue the original discussion. Instead of taking the hint, she dragged the conversation back (and by “conversation,” I mean she monologued about it for a while). So this does require some self-awareness on both sides, I think.

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          1. JM60

            That doesn’t even sound like an interruption. She asked people a question, which means she either asked a question without expecting a reply, or she gave up the ‘mic’. If you let someone else speak, and they speak, that’s not really an interruption.

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        3. GreenDoor

          I have a friend that does the “anyway” thing….and it’s because she insists on finishing a topic, oblivious to the fact that everyone else is bored with it or ready to move on to another topic or even end the conversation. Sure, she was cut off or interrupted, but she’s missing the clue that she’s taking to long to get to her point. So “anyway” or “back to what I was saying” isn’t always the best way to get along in a conversation.

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      2. Marcy Marketer

        I firmly believe it isn’t possible to say you’re not done talking without dramatically changing the mood. My husband only interrupts me when we’re talking to his parents (it’s quite odd because he never does it otherwise). After it happened once, I said, “please don’t interrupt me,” very nicely, and he apologized and waited, but it was still like I had suddenly doused everyone in the room with ice.

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          1. Sarah

            I often find an excited, “Oh, hold on, I want to finish this thought really quickly!” works, especially if you’re good about coming back around to them/remembering what they wanted to talk about. It’s also something that, as a more collaborative interrupter, would work really well for me – it’s something I understand (because often if I don’t follow up on them, thoughts disappear only to reappear out of context hours later, leading to me shouting things like, “Oh, the PORTUGUESE dishes! THAT’S what I wanted to tell her about!” in my car) and lets me know to try to mentally bookmark my thought so it doesn’t disappear.

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          2. Sketchee

            I grew up with many fast conversations that could juggled a bit or change subjects. Definitely took a while to also learn a slower turn taking approach.

            Now I’m pretty good at adapting and mirroring whatever conversation style works for others. It’s still more natural to do some switching.

            They probably do this to everyone.

            That said, their are other’s who are really great about indicating their conversation style subtley. They’re just polite without confrontation and with a happy tone say something out loud “It might take me a moment to finish this thought out loud if you don’t mind.” Then I know what they’re asking of me in this conversation.

            Just saying that you’re away of a conversation style without judgement often makes it easier for you and other’s to find the middle ground.

            Changing the subject in a quicker patient is a different social cue than you’re used to. That gives you the cue to mirror this behavior and to use focus the same way once they’re done with their aside.

            Perhaps a script like “Oh great, you got that info Jane. (observe what happened out loud as another part of the conversation) Hi Jane! Oh right I was about to say X, Y, Z.”

            That said, give them room to respond as you talk. I know some people don’t like distractions so much that they fill every void in a conversation. Which sadly just makes others less engaged and can become self-fulfilling when others need to distract just to participate. It’s a tough balance so keep expectations low on yourself and on others!

            Reply
        1. Plague of frogs

          I worked with a chronic interrupter, and once I saw a coworker stop him in his tracks by holding up his hand and saying, “Excuse me, Don.” It stopped him in tracks and didn’t interrupt the flow or change the mood. I always wished I could emulate it but have never been able to. The interruptee was an older gentleman with incredible dignity and also great kindness. I think I need to work on those qualities first.

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          1. Anonymoose

            Mr. Interruptee sounds super classy. I could never pull that off, I’d look like a child having a ‘oh no you di-int’ moment.

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      3. Sylvan

        I used to have a manager who interrupted me all the damn time. I don’t talk a lot, so she wasn’t cutting me off to stem the tide of tl;dr. I don’t mumble or make long pauses, so there was no way she thought I was finished speaking. She did it to my coworkers, too.

        In group conversations, I let it slide. But when she talked to me one-on-one, after three or four interruptions, I would wait for her interruption to finish, then pick up where I left off. “As I was saying, [whatever I wanted to say earlier] + [reply to whatever she interrupted me with].”

        It was probably kind of rude, but girl. Don’t say you want my input, ask me questions, and then only let me get half a sentence out.

        Reply
  2. Anonanonanon

    Is it possible that you have a tendency to have long pauses while you organize your thoughts? That is the one thing I can thing of that would make sense if most people seem to interrupt you. You may be accidentally sending the signal that you are done talking. You said that it if were one coworker, you would ask them why. I think that is still a good idea. Pick the person who does this that you are the most comfortable with, and the next time they do this, ask them why.

    Reply
    1. Curious Cat

      ^This. I have a friend who takes such long pauses between sentences and thoughts that at this point it’s almost comedic, but when we first became friends I would think he was done speaking and move on in the conversation when he really was just organizing his thoughts as he spoke. I felt terrible about it when he pointed it out to me one day that I hardly ever let him finish what he’s saying, and I just had no idea because I thought he’d be done!

      Reply
      1. Little Bean

        My dad does this, and to a lesser extent, my sister. I’m used to it, so I know to just wait in silence until he’s ready to talk. On the phone, I have at times wondered if our call got dropped because he’s taking so long to reply.

        Reply
    2. Epsilon Delta

      My husband does this. He will finish a sentence and stop talking, but he is really not done with everything he wants to say. So then he will finish his thought 2-3 seconds later, usually by talking over whoever started talking during the pause.

      It drives me insane.

      I have dealt with it by talking louder (doesn’t work well for me), stopping what I’m saying to loudly say “I’m still talking!” (usually works but annoys him), or just fuming silently until he finishes what he’s saying, then repeating what I was trying to say (even if it has nothing to do with the second half of his thought).

      Now, from his perspective, *I* interrupted *him* so he is also annoyed at me when this occurs. So I’ve agreed to give him longer pauses before I start speaking, and he agreed to wait to finish his thought if I start talking when he is gathering the rest of his thought. We also agreed to name it when it happens so we can both get better of recognizing it.

      OP could try calling it out in the moment in situations where she feels comfortable doing so (like with close friends) to ask what is going on. Did the speaker not realize she was just taking a breath? Did she start mumbling and trailing off? etc.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        In this previous discussion of this post, somebody noted research that suggested every culture recognized the concept of interrupting but there was massive variance in how long you could be silent and still be considered to own the floor.

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      2. the gold digger

        My husband starts a new thought after a two-second pause, which I think is the longest you can pause and still own the floor, and will steamroller anyone else who has started talking in that very long (to me) interim.

        He had a radio interview last week and I suggested that when he finish his thought, he very slowly count to four and listen to make sure the host had not started talking. Only if the host was not talking would it be OK for Primo to start again.

        I hate waiting for slow talkers but I also hate it when people talk over me after they have waited way too long to talk.

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        1. Specialk9

          I wonder if your husband is a very slow auditory processor and you are a very fast one. This sounds a lot like me talking to my brother. He’s wicked smart, but it takes longer for the thought to percolate. That’s not intelligence, it’s just auditory processing speed. Whereas I process lightning fast and laugh before everyone else in the movie theatre, but I also circle anxiously 10 times before other people have even understood what was said. So pauses are excruciating for me – they stretch 10 times as long as for other people. So when we talk together, I have to literally shove my fingers into my mouth to give him the time he needs to process.

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      3. Secretary

        Yeah my husband and I have a similar dynamic and it’s a family of origin thing. At Thanksgiving at his home, everyone takes turns when they talk so it sounds like this:

        Husband’s Dad: “So [Uncle], how have your chickens been doing?”
        *1-3 second pause*
        Husband’s Uncle: They’re doing quite well. *pause* We did have some raccoons try to break into the yard. *pause* they came in through the fence *pause* but we had fencing that, uh, helped immensely with keeping the chickens out.
        *1-3 second pause, making sure he’s done*
        Husband’s Aunt: “Would anyone like any of these mashed potatos?”
        *very long pause while everyone looks at each other, everyone takes turns saying yes or no with pauses in between.*

        At Thanksgiving at my home, everyone is loud, talks over each other and half of the things you say will never be heard. I had to learn how to slow down and make sure people are done, my husband had to learn to be assertive and be ok with sometimes being interrupted.

        I think this is a social awareness thing. The leader in the conversation is usually the one adjusting their communication to the person who they’re talking to. If the LW is being cut off a lot, they may need to adjust their habits.

        Reply
        1. GG Two shoes

          I had to have this adjustment to my husband’s family, too. They are like yours: loud, talk over each other, no one can hear anything, etc. It was SO stressful to me. I learned to deal with it, but his habit of 1. talking loudly in any group setting and 2. interrupting has been something he has had to learn to quell.

          At Christmas last year, my SIL brought her new boyfriend. He said (half to himself) ‘why is everyone yelling?’ I heard it and said, ‘it’s always this way. You’ll get used to it. If you have something you want to say you, you’ll have to yell into the void.’

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          1. puzzld

            Mom’s side is like this too. All very good natured, but all talking over each other… with occasional pauses to ask why my brother or I are so quiet. Dad’s family rarely speak at all and if someone starts yelling, it’s time to take cover. I’m very much a “wait, wait, I’m not finished” person. I find that it helps to give a visual signal when I’m searching for a word while speaking to a floor grabber. An index finger slightly raised usually works for me.

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          2. Tricksy Hobbit

            I love that “yell in to void” Sometimes I feel like that in large group settings. “Hello, I have thought… I want to share them, but not talk over you. Hello….?”

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        2. Turquoisecow

          Yeah, in my family I was taught that it’s very rude to interrupt, but at the same time the atmosphere at a party or holiday get together is such that multiple conversations are happening at once. Even when we’re all sitting at the same table, there may be several smaller conversations going on at once, and so no one is really interrupting anyone else. But it can get confusing and loud.

          Where I get confused is when there are only four people – say my husband and I and another couple. Husband and the man in the other couple will start talking about tech things and, not being part of that world, the woman will sometimes start a simultaneous small conversation with me about another topic. Sometimes the men will then shift and join our conversation and sometimes they will be so engrossed in their talk they don’t even notice that we aren’t paying attention.

          I don’t think this really counts as interruptions, but the smaller the group, the more confusing it can be, and the original speaker may still find it insulting to not have everyone’s attention.

          (Of course, this is all not at work, so doesn’t help the OP)

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          1. Little Bean

            This happens with me and my partner! It’s like he can’t be a passive participant in a conversation, or just listen. If someone isn’t directly speaking to him, he either wanders off or starts up a new side conversation. I actually find it a little off-putting when we’re talking to a couple of people, and I’m in the middle of saying something, and he just starts talking to one of them about something else. Like what I was saying was so boring that he had to change the topic. It’s also weird when there are an odd number of people and no one is speaking directly to him – he can’t just listen to the conversation that’s happening, he has to pull out his phone or otherwise make it clear that he’s not paying attention. He does have mild ADD so it might be attributed to that.

            Reply
            1. Wanna-Alp

              I was thinking “Oooo I wonder if he’s got ADHD” by your second sentence, way before I got to the end of your paragraph! Yes, I would say it’s definitely something to do with that. Not that that excuses being rude, of course.

              For me (also with mild ADHD symptoms) it works differently. He wants me to silently sit and listen to him, which I can’t do. I can silently sit, or listen, but not both. If I am really listening, then I’m doing so actively. Maybe with little “Mmm-hmms”, or quick questions to clarify a technical point, but constructive, not intrusive or distracting. Alternatively, let me knit or do something with my hands.

              He doesn’t like that. He prefers me to be quiet and still because he wants me to listen to him, and being quiet and still is what he interprets as me listening. Far from it! I can stay quiet and still and look at him, sure, but I can’t keep my mind on what he’s saying. It’s gonna wander off. And he thinks I’m a good listener!! Sure, buddy, you have your delusions. Just don’t give me a quiz afterward on what you were saying.

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        3. Oxford Coma

          Yes! My family does everything ridiculously fast, Mr. Coma’s does everything ridiculously slowly.

          Yesterday when we came home from Easter dinner, I was so stuffed I could barely stay awake, whereas he immediately started raiding our fridge. He eats so slowly that he always leaves the table hungry at my family meals, because everyone else has had two helpings and washed all the dishes while he’s still flapping his gums and chewing his third bite.

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        4. Empty Sky

          My family are in the second category, and my spouse had trouble adjusting initially.

          I think if you grow up in that environment it does make you a bit more resistant, in the sense that if someone tries to interrupt then you are more likely to just go on talking over the top of them without even noticing (the flip side is that you are also more likely to do it to other people, so you have to watch that part). Conversely people from the other style of family are likely to have less of a problem with manners, but may find it difficult to get a word in or deal with interruptions in a more contentious verbal environment.

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      4. Traveling Teacher

        “My husband does this… It drives me insane.”

        Wow, I thought I was the only one who had this problem! I absolutely, positively cannot stand it that my husband does this. Conversations take forever. He doesn’t really use vocal filler, either, so there’s just………silence………..for…………..so…………..long! People regularly try to complete his sentences so that the conversation can move forward. Coworkers have even asked me if it’s normal that he pauses for so long while “responding.” He’s so, so smart and chooses his words very carefully, but it totally drives me up the wall when I just want to ask a quick question.

        OP, if you are doing this, then you may want to warn people that you like to think about your response for a sec and then answer!

        Reply
        1. Jessen

          If OP’s anything like me, it’s not even “like to think.” If I don’t get that time you will literally not get coherent english sentences out of me. I absolutely need that extra time to come up with the words I need and put them in grammatical order.

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      5. Cucumberzucchini

        My husband drives me insane by doing this AND repeating what he just said three times by rearranging the order of his words without any change in meaning. I think fast and I understand quickly so I really don’t need the reiteration. It’s been a source of many arguments. It’s a speaking tic of his that he needs to work on for his professional success. My impatience is a shortcoming that I need to work on for my personal and professional success.

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        1. Khlovia

          Is he now, or has he ever been, a teacher? He may be subconsciously/habitually giving people time to take class notes. I’ve noticed teachers doing this in what should be non-teaching contexts.

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        2. Starbuck

          I do this sometimes when I’m not happy with my phrasing the first time around- if I realize there was some sort of grammar ambiguity issue or I didn’t emphasize the right word to get the full nuance of my thought across.

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      6. Blue

        One of my college roommates did this. Once, there was literally a 60+ second pause between thoughts (our other roommate timed it). We tried so hard not to talk over her, but it’s really not realistic to wait 30 seconds to make sure a person is done talking, and I know every person in our friend group developed at one point or another the habit of finishing her sentences to speed up the conversation. She was a good sport about it, but still, not a great thing to do, especially because it actually made me more likely to inadvertently interrupt other people who have similar speech patterns.

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        1. Starbuck

          Yeah, I got into the habit of playing fill-in-the-blank with my mom because she would lose nouns a lot, so having a conversation about chores or meal plans or whatever meant guessing the right noun based on context eg. “Take the thing out and put it next to the other thing!” “You mean get the napkins out and put them next to the placemat?” “Yeah, and then clean the—” “Table?” “yes”

          I also did academic trivia competitions throughout school, so I have very strong urges to fill in blanks and pauses and have a mental habit of trying to leap ahead and anticipate what people are going to say next before they’ve even started to pause. Turns out people where I work hate this and find it very rude! Oops. Fortunately by now I’ve figured out how to turn that off.

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    3. shep

      I have a tendency to do this sometimes. Not to the degree that people (usually) start talking while I’m thinking, but I had a friend in graduate school who would immediately start apologizing or amending something she said, and finally I was like, “Dude! I’m just organizing my thoughts!” She thought it was negative commentary (or silent commentary??) about her and what she’d said until I mentioned something.

      She’s definitely an outlier in my experience, but this could totally be what’s happening to OP.

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    4. Flinty

      Related to this, another reason people get semi-purposefully interrupted is if they are over-explaining and saying the same thing multiple times.

      “Hey, how do I tell alpacas and llamas apart?”
      “Llamas are bigger than alpacas”
      “Ok great!”
      “-and sometimes they are similar but llamas are always a bit bigger and alpacas are usually smaller-”
      “Got it”
      “-so you have to look carefully at what size they are and ask which is bigger-”
      “Yep”
      “-because you’ll notice that alpacas are always smaller than the llamas”

      I would recommend talking to someone about this though, because I feel like there’s a 20% chance you have one of the habits detailed in these comments and an 80% chance that 80% of the time it’s just habitual interrupters and not reflection on you.

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      1. C in the Hood

        I work with someone like this. I will even be walking away as she continues to go on & on about llamas and alpacas…

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      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

        Oh God, my husband is both a slow talker with lots of pauses and an over-explainer and rambler. This sounds exactly like him

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      3. Lil Fidget

        Hahahah oh you’ve met my dad. We also joke that he can’t explain any semi-scientific principle without first going back and explaining the atom. Even if it’s like, “why is the flight so bumpy today” – we’re back at the dawn of creation :P

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        1. KitKat

          Ahh mine too! It’s funny that women get stereotyped as talking a lot, when so many men take a simple question as an invitation to give a TED talk on the subject.

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          1. Tricksy Hobbit

            My dad is exactly like this.

            Me: Is the dog yellow?
            Dad: let me give you a very long-winded explanation using very technical terms about the history of yellow and then the history of dogs…..

            Oh, Dads got to love ’em.

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        2. Birch

          Oh my gosh, this is my dad too! He has to explain EVERYTHING. Even worse if you ask him and it’s a topic he actually knows something about. You’ll get a 90-minute lecture.

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          1. willow

            My ex got mad at me more than once when I stated that I don’t need to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to be a good driver.

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      4. The OG Anonsie

        I remember this coming up here a while ago, but I cannot for the life of me remember the subject of the letter exactly. It’s another regional/cultural thing, where I’m from you repeat the point until the other person acknowledges it directly to affirm that they actually understood or heard it. At least, when it’s something with a lot of detail or something where you need to be sure they understood or agree, you want to get a response that explicitly indicates they are on the same page as you with more affirmation than just “ok.”

        Of course, the goal is that you don’t have to repeat the point– folks here know what response to give so you aren’t usually repeating yourself at all. But when you deal with someone who will sit there silently waiting for you to be done and go away, you keep going… Are we good? Can I be done yet? I need your participation here!

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        1. teclatrans

          Aaaaaaa!

          I am so glad to hear that this is a cultural thing — now that you mention it, my husband is the only person with whom I spin and spin and spin, repeating the point in all its variations, trying to find the version he will acknowledge. (He, in the meantime, has decided he can stop listening, since I am clearly just repeating myself….)

          On the main topic, my husband is slow to gather his thoughts, and I have learned to slow my pace down to excruciatingly slow in order to listen respectfully, but I am still not good at it. My verbal speed is light, and I also was raised to build conversational structures with others, not play slow-motion verbal badminton.

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          1. JeanB in NC

            Slow-motion verbal badminton is a perfect description! I come from a pretty fast-talking family of 9 kids, and if you don’t get out what you want to say pretty quickly, you will very soon be left behind.

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          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            OMG, my husband and I had this exact same almost-argument the other day. I kept repeating what I was saying in different ways, and he wasn’t acknowledging any of them! Until finally he said, “I quit listening because you were just repeating yourself”, and I was like, “Well, I was repeating myself because you never indicated that you were listening in the first place!”

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            1. The OG Anonsie

              I know I’m biased here but I swear to god this is something the quiet-listening-type needs to be the one to fix. Because on our end, there’s no way to drill down what they’re actually thinking without more information, but on their end they can easily just give a complete response when we’re asking for it. Even if the response is just “I need to think about this and get back to you.” Cause like I said about my former partner below, you can never just assume they got it and move on, as that’s frequently not actually the case.

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              1. Marty

                Except, that their culture clearly has a mechanism for conveying that they are listening. Probably the quite respectful attention along with a rule about asking questions when they miss something. Since they consider interruption rude and miss the signal that you are done with the floor, they can’t tell you that they understand without interrupting, which would again be rude (even though you would probably consider such an interruption to be not only polite, but also merciful.)

                The solution, of course is for both sides to realize that the rules they prefer aren’t universal, and to try and figure out what the roles the other side is playing by are, and then emulate them.

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                1. The OG Anonsie

                  Ehhh “your experience is not universal” has a really hard limit, and that’s when you’re in a relationship (of any kind) with someone and refusing to communicate when a person asks you to because you like to not have to say too many things, or you don’t want to have to listen so much. It has nothing to do with interrupting, either, because you can wait in total silence and they’ll exit the conversation completely without giving a response. And 99% of the time when there’s a problem later, it turns out they ignored a lot of what you said and would have had an important response had they listened. Or they wanted to think on it, but just letting you know that’s what they’re gonna do is somehow an unreasonable expectation because they like to talk less (or not at all). Just asking them directly if they understood or to give you feedback almost never works in my experience, as they’ll insist it’s all good just to exit the conversation even if that’s dramatically untrue.

                  Then you’re carefully navigating your relationship with this person, trying to be brief, trying to give them the conversational space, and they’re giving you nooooothing in return because you’re the wrong one in their mind and that means it’s your job to fix. Nah. You need to listen to people when they’re trying to give you information even if it’s annoying. If someone asks you for feedback you need to actually provide it. Especially at work, you can’t just let a trainwreck happen because you didn’t feel like you should have to tune in to a long-talker giving you information. The verbose folks are out here already busting butt to try and be more brie– the quiet people need to be meeting us half way here by listening and replying when needed.

            2. Cucumberzucchini

              My husband does this to, but I don’t repeat myself. Instead when he doesn’t respond I’ll do his side of the conversation to underline the fact he didn’t respond but should have.

              Me: I wonder what your Mom is serving for dinner tonight?
              Him: No response, long pause.
              Me: Very interesting question. I think she said she was making meatballs… (in my best husband voice)
              Him: Oh I didn’t realize that needed a response
              Me: About to murder him

              Reply
              1. Julia

                Mine takes forever to acknowledge things I say – I think it is, in fact, an auditory processing thing, but since he also sometimes doesn’t hear me, I never really know what to do. Sometimes, he will just reply a few seconds later, and I get that he needs time to process, but I wish he’d give an indication that he heard me. Because other times, I tell him something and he will later claim he never heard and that’s why he didn’t do it…

                Reply
                1. Not myself today

                  You have my sympathy. Mine often doesn’t acknowledge stuff, not even non-verbally, then gets annoyed when I repeat myself.

                  Me: Dinner’s ready. Him: silence. Me: Dinner’s ready. Him: Yeah, yeah.

                  He seems to think I’ll realise he’s heard me, but I can’t tell without some clue.

                  Drives me batty!

              2. Wanna-Alp

                Ooooooooo thank you!!!! I will try this.

                My partner is the type to not respond to things because he doesn’t think it needs it. It is beyond infuriating to get no response at all in situations that call for it, e.g. when he was asked a direct question at a volume that he should have had no trouble hearing. Also it is pretty infuriating to get the 705th variation on the theme of “Mmmmm” as a response.

                Reply
              3. Starbuck

                I probably wouldn’t respond to that either, especially if I didn’t know the answer, because it’s phrased indirectly. My family has a habit of voicing thoughts aloud as a thinking process, not really to have a conversation. So a lot of our “I wonder” statements do just hang there in the air, unless it strikes someone’s fancy to start speculating.

                I would respond to “What is your mom making for dinner tonight?” or “Starbuck, do you know what mom is making for dinner?” Maybe the indirect questions are just not registering as questions?

                Reply
            3. crookedfinger

              I must be impatient! I tend to jump right to “Did you hear me?” if I get no acknowledgement of what I said the first time.

              Reply
          3. The OG Anonsie

            Yep, I had a long term partner who was like that and it drove us both insane. I’d have researched a home renovation and I’d give him the details and possibilities, costs, my feelings about which option was best, and he would just sit there quietly. Maybe “Mhm.” I’d be like… Okay, so, do you want to do it my way or what?? Because often it wasn’t really an agreement, just an acknowledgement, and then later he’d come back and go “I thought about it and I think we should do this other thing.” But eff me if you could get him to verbalize any part of that in the initial conversation, not even that he was gonna just get back to me about it.

            And then because I was “always talking so much” he wouldn’t really listen, and would actually miss things all the time and later insist I never told him something I had repeated several times. So then I’m even less likely to take that “mhm” as enough feedback, and then he’s even more mad that I’m still talking just sooo much.

            Reply
            1. Wanna-Alp

              Oooooo I feel you. I get that someone may not want to give a full response initially; that is absolutely fine, but why not just give a indication of delay? In what universe is a non-response acceptable????

              What is so *******ing hard about “Hang on a minute” or “I’ll have a think about that”???

              Reply
              1. The OG Anonsie

                Right! That’s all you have to do! I have no way of knowing what a silence means with no clues when your silence could mean that you’re thinking, that you agree, that you disagree but aren’t sure of an alternative yet, that you’re unsure how you feel about it, that you’re just processing what I said still, that you weren’t listening, that you were listening but tuned out at some point, that you have questions but are sorting through them, etc etc etc… If the same response from you could be any of those things or more, how am I supposed to proceed in this situation?

                Reply
          4. Windchime

            Slow motion verbal badminton is a funny thought. I also like verbal tai-chi. Very slow and deliberate.

            Reply
      5. JM60

        A related scenario is when someone can’t get a word in if another person is rambling. If someone is rambling too long, they might be unintentionally holding the other people hostage if they’re either trying to get a word in or leave the conversation. I’ve had times when my father would hold me hostage in a non essential conversation that I’m trying to leave, and the only way to avoid being stuck for a half hour is to interrupt and make an excuse for excusing myself. I’ve had family dinners in which I would have to wait forever to ask if it’s okay for my to take the last of the main course if I didn’t interrupt someone. At a certain point, interrupting can be less rude than making others wait while you’re holding the microphone for too long.

        Reply
        1. Marty

          Imagine how horrible it must be to me forced to hold the microphone so long because awkward pauses are also rude. The fact of the matter is that, often times, a well placed interruption is merciful for all involved.

          Reply
      6. Joielle

        Oh man, I have this coworker. Super nice guy, but we’ll end up having the same conversation three times in a row because it’s like

        Me – “What do you think of the new XYZ procedure?”
        Him – “I think it’s confusing, but I’m sure everyone will get used to it since we’ve done this kind of thing before.”
        “I agree, once everyone reads the documentation I think there will be fewer questions.”
        “Yeah, like I said, the last time we did this it took some time but everyone got used to it.”
        “Right, makes sense.”
        “So I’m sure like the last time this happened, everyone will figure it out, especially since we’ve done it before.”
        “Yep.”

        Except much longer. And eventually I have to get back to work so I sometimes end up cutting him off as a last resort. I don’t think the OP is doing this, but it’s definitely a thing that happens.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          I’m in a non-professional group that produces an annual event. And we’re currently being held hostage by someone who talks like this: she has to explain the Thing at least 3 times, she has to explain what emotions it all elicits, she has to give possibly-relevant examples from shared or personal history, etc etc. Even when the answer to the question “Would you do xyz event next year?” and “I’m not sure yet” is plenty of answer for the current conversation.

          It’s so very frustrating.

          Reply
          1. Marty

            See needs you to paraphrase a bit of what we said back to her. That way she *knows*that you actually heard what she said.

            Reply
      7. Turquoisecow

        Omg several of my coworkers are like this. One is a former boss. I feel like we could have gotten ten times the work done if he didn’t have to explain things three or four times, just with slightly different words.

        Reply
      8. Elizabeth West

        This was my last boss at OldExjob. He had to say everything at least three times and got mad if you stopped him to say you got it. You were forced to stand there and listen and pray the phone would ring so you could get away.

        Reply
      9. Specialk9

        The way you can tell which one is smaller is to look at their backs. Though some people like to look at their heads.And sometimes you can learn something by considering their hooves

        Arrrrrrhgggggghhhh!!!

        Ahem. Not that I am impatient or anything.

        Reply
      10. Oxford Coma

        I frequently find myself saying the same thing multiple times, because the person asking the question doesn’t like the answer I’m giving them.

        –How long until the alpacas are ready for sale?
        –At least two months. They haven’t grown enough to meet minimum USDA requirements yet.
        –We need them by the end of the month.
        –It’s going to take two months minimum. The logarithmic scale of alpaca growth is accurately vetted, and there are no shortcuts.
        –What can you do to cut that time down?
        –Nothing. Two months is how long it will take the alpacas to grow, and I can’t change that.

        Reply
        1. willow

          Oh, man, every day at work for me lately. The alpacas can’t grow faster. No matter how many times I call the breeder.

          Reply
        2. Ali

          I had a manager from a different department hijack a meeting for an hour demanding someone speed up a test (Which is literally do steps, wait 2 weeks, see if anything grows) after patiently explaining multiple times I ended up saying “Well Fergus you could invent a time machine”. I almost got a standing ovation from everyone there including my manager.

          Reply
      11. AnotherJill

        I used to work with someone like this. It was EXCRUCIATING.

        I think we should do X.
        Yeah, I think so too.
        Well, the reason I think we should do X is Y.
        Yeah, go ahead and do X.
        Well, I’m just saying, we should do X because of Y.
        Yeah, go ahead and do X.
        Well, I think we should do X and it will be….

        Reply
      12. EditorInChief

        Self admitted interrupter here. I listen when it’s necessary but I have a large staff to manage. They are all well aware of how I want information delivered to me, and I will interrupt the over-explainer, the irrelevant detailer and the chronic complainer.

        Reply
      13. MCMonkeyBean

        My husband does that –what’s more annoying is when he does it but isn’t quite answering the question, and I finally got him to admit once that he was basically stalling while trying to think of the actual answer to the question. I was like dude, you can just say you don’t know! It’s okay not to know things! And answering a question other than the one I asked doesn’t make it look like you know things, it makes it look like you can’t understand pretty simple questions.

        Reply
    5. The OG Anonsie

      Yeah, there’s a lot of variability in how long people think you should wait after someone’s finished to start talking again, which also alters how long you have to be quiet before people will think you’re done.

      Where I’m from, if you stop talking, someone will start up without any notable drop of silence in between. I lived for a few years somewhere that this is super weird, and there’s supposed to be a bit of a spacer before you go jumping in, and I ruffled a whole lot of folks who were pausing between thoughts even though (to me) they gave no indication that they were about to bring up another thing. Then a moment after I started, they would sort of extra loudly continue into their next idea with a sort of “excuse me, I was not finished” tone which felt super rude to me since then they’d literally be talking over me to reclaim their time. It’s a weird thing.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Unwritten rules, man. Everyone falsely thinks their micro-environment’s unwritten rules are universal, and anyone who breaks them is deliberately being rude. Move much, and you spend your life tripping over them.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It reminds me of that research suggesting that people who’ve spent more time in foreign countries have more flexible morality, apparently exposure to different sets of morals makes them realize how not set in stone they are.

          Reply
    6. Elizabeth West

      I have a friend who does this and I NEVER know when he’s done. I stepped on his sentences before I learned I had to wait what to me felt like an uncomfortably long time until he completed the thought.

      Reply
  3. MoneyPenny

    I LOATHE this habit in people. I’ve worked hard to not talk over people because I think it’s such an incredibly obnoxious behavior, especially in a professional setting. I’ve also worked hard to be as concise and brief in expressing myself out of an insecurity that I’m boring them. When people start to talk over me while I’m sharing pertinent information I know they have stopped listening and will just stop myself mid-sentence and star at them blankly. Once they’ve finished their interruption, I’ll often wait until I get an “I’m sorry. Go ahead”.
    I see this behavior more in people who are a bit higher strung and have shorter attention spans. In spite of my insecurity, I know it’s their deal, not mine.

    Reply
    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

      I am a chronic interrupter, and I can confirm that it is 100% my deal, not the person I interrupt. I’m getting better about it, especially at work, but it’s hard when I get excited about an idea (for example, in a discussion with friends or a brainstorming session at work).

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Yeah in my case it’s my enthusiasm plus my poor memory – I’m afraid I’ll forget my point if I don’t get it out – which of course is no excuse for making the other person forget their important point!! I’m aware of my tendency and now I’m working on it.

        Reply
        1. Wanna-Alp

          I’d be interested if you had any strategies for working on this rather than just not interrupting and making peace with the fact that your seemingly-important thought will be gone forever.

          Reply
          1. Lil Fidget

            Nope, I just let it go. It usually wasn’t as great as I thought it was in the moment it came to me.

            Reply
    2. Elizabeth H.

      I am also a chronic interrupter, and a sentence finisher which is so awful. I do it at work too and sometimes to my manager and I did it at least a few times to an extern I had visiting the other week. I deal with it by trying to ALWAYS stop and say “I’m sorry, I interrupted you, please continue” and acknowledging it hopefully makes me more aware of it.

      I feel like I have this habit partly because my best friend is a major, major word forgetter (she has been this way since we were like 10 years old) and so I constantly fill in her sentences when she and I are together which she actually appreciates. And then it can be a hard habit to break! Same with my parents to some extent.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Oh my god I can be a TERRIBLE sentence finisher if I don’t keep on top of it! But people speak so slowly! And I’m impatient! And also I want to see if I was right in my guess :D Yes it’s awful and I try never to do it anymore. (however, it does sound different than poor OP’s case, where people are changing the subject on her – that’s probably even worse!).

        Reply
        1. Shishimai

          I had a boss who would do that – he’d literally speak the last few words he thought you were going to say, OVER you. So incredibly irritating.

          I started setting up garden path sentences and zagging when he expected a zig just to trip him on his own tongue.

          Reply
          1. Ramblin' Ma'am

            My aunt does this, and her defense is, “But I always know what people are going to say!”

            She doesn’t. She’s almost always wrong.

            Reply
    3. Specialk9

      Yeah no, it’s you too. You’re assuming your way is right and they’re flaming a-holes, but it’s just a cultural thing. Your way isn’t right just because you happen to be from it, any more than your religion/lack thereof is right just because of your participation.

      Reply
        1. Marty

          You, MoneyPenny they are replying to you. Frankly, you are being far ruder than the person who interrupted you likely is. After all, you are assuming that they must have stopped listening to you halfway through (even though linguists have demonstrated that it is perfectly possible for humans to both speak and listen at the same time). You are assuming that your rules for conversation are universal, and that any breach of said rules must be an intentional slight against you, rather than someone operating from a different set of rules. Such assumptions are quite rude indeed.

          On the other hand, the person who interrupted you is merely attempting to hold up his end of the conversation, like you do in civilized society. According to the rules for conversation they learned while growing up, you signaled that you were done speaking, and now they are supposed to indicate understanding of and interest in what you just said by either contributing to the theme or asking clarifying questions. And you are replying to their signal of understanding and interest by staring daggers through their chest.

          Which isn’t to say that you should necessarily yield the floor, after all, interrupting an unintended interruption is fair play. But at the same time, there is no reason to be a jerk about a simple miscommunication. As for a few suggestions for how to do this: raise your finger to indicate that you weren’t done; or, just talk on as if they don’t exist. They will get the message, and, again, linguists have demonstrated that people can talk and listen at the same time just fine.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            Thank you, yes, that’s who I was responding to, it can be hard to know when the thread expands. Money Penny said that they LOATH people who interrupt, as of that’s a normal and universal thing to say, rather than a culturally specific reaction. (Links all over this thread.) It’s really ignorant, in both senses of the word.

            Reply
            1. Mad Baggins

              Yes it is charitable to give someone the benefit of the doubt, but it is natural to be offended by someone breaking cultural and social norms. We can recognize when someone might not know better while also noting the transgression. It’s unfair to say Money Penny’s cultural standards don’t matter—cultural difference is always a give and take on both sides.

              Reply
              1. Marty

                You missed the point: without agreed upon standards, there can be no transgression. The problem here is that MoneyPenny is saying that *only* their cultural norms matter, and that, to avoid being labeled as a jerk by them, someone conversing with them must psychically know what their cultural norms are. Of course, people typically aren’t psychic, and their insistence that people play by their rules despite never having been told said rules (along with the the dagger stare punishment they administer to those who fail to do so) are unreasonable and arguably rude.

                Which, again, doesn’t mean that they should yield the floor, just that there are far better ways to maintain the floor that wouldn’t lead to loathing nor being a jerk toward a person whose behavior has been perfectly understandable and reasonable.

                Reply
                1. Mad Baggins

                  I don’t think it’s a matter of acting as if “*only* their cultural norms matter”; I would rephrase it as “acting in a manner appropriate for the culture they know.” As you say, there is no absolute neutral when cultures interact. But being from a different cultural background isn’t diplomatic immunity to ignore other cultural norms (google “Gaijin smash”), and calling out transgressors is also part of cultural training! So both parties need to be aware of a possible cultural difference when deciding how to respond.

                  But I think we’re getting a bit off topic (and we’re mostly in agreement) so I’ll leave this here.

            2. Xenon

              Money Penny said they Loathe *the habit* in people, not the people themselves. There’s a slight but significant difference between the two.

              Reply
    4. Blue

      Traditionally, if I interrupted someone, it’s because I got excited about an idea and forgot myself. Unfortunately I now work very closely with someone who just interrupts as his normal communication style, which means his opinions are always in the conversation, even if he got them there in an annoying manner. To get my own take in, I often have to interrupt HIM, which is a vicious cycle that’s made me more likely interrupt in general. It’s really problematic and will be a pain to train myself out of when we stop working together, but I’ve found this to be the most effective way of communicating with him, unfortunately.

      Reply
  4. Renamis

    I hate to be this person, but… Is the OP a woman? Because I’ve noticed (and statistics verify) we’re far more likely to get talked over. And if we talk half the time, we’re seen as dominating the discussion. I’ve seen it plenty of times, and I’ve added it into how I phrase my responses.

    Also to be said… some people just DO this. One coworker I love to bits just talks and talks, and if he thinks of something when you’re talking, it comes out. So there are a lot of factors, not “just you” as well.

    Reply
    1. Bee Eye LL

      Ohhh you went there! Hahaha. Normally if it’s just one woman the men tend to be more polite. If it’s a group of women things swing the other way and the men get talked over. That’s been my experience. I really do think it’s an individual trait. Maybe more common with people who are 2nd or 3rd siblings who have grown up having to speak up to get noticed.

      Reply
      1. The Original Flavored K

        Ohh you went there! Hahaha. I just love a nice dose of #NotAllMen in the morning while I drink my coffee!

        For serious: this has been scientifically studied. It happens. What Americans culturally perceive as “men being talked over,” according to actual scientific studies as opposed to anecdotal sharing, is women talking between 17-34% of the time. Groups made up of greater than 15% of woman are perceived as “female-dominated.”

        Reply
        1. AMT

          Yep. Women taking up a proportional amount of space = women being “strident” or “chatty.” Women taking up a disproportionately small amount of space = “equality.”

          Having been on both sides of this (trans guy, not visibly trans or out at work), I have been in a unique position to see have how much women get conversationally bulldozed compared to men, sometimes in a hilariously obvious way. Even as a bystander, it’s a bit exhausting, since you either have to (a) be complicit in letting a woman get talked over, which is uncomfortable and unfair, or (b) actively ignore the bulldozer and encourage the woman who got interrupted to go on with what she was saying. It’s gross all around and not easily remedied.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            I really appreciate when transgender people share their experiences like this, because it’s fascinating, and it’s the only truly controlled studies we have. (No, really, everything else was *exactly* the same, except whether people thought dude or gal.)

            Thanks for sharing, that really adds a valuable perspective.

            Reply
      2. Jennifer Thneed

        I really do think that individual tendencies play into it BUT also that overall, women in mixed groups are seen as talking much more than we actually do. Ditto with people of color. Ditto with how groups of people are perceived visually: if the group is mostly white (or male), and 1/3 are people of color (or women), the perception of the majority group is that the minority group makes up more than 1/2 the group. There’s stats to support this, that I don’t have time to go hunting down right now.

        Reply
        1. Get out

          Yep. As a woman of color I get interrupted all the time by my white coworkers. That was my first thought reading this. I realize I need to work on how I end my comments, bc I’m so used to being interrupted that in different (better) spaces people aren’t interrupting me and I am shocked.

          Reply
          1. Plague of frogs

            I am sure you don’t do this, but I am picturing you ending every comment with “so fuck you, racist” because you know it won’t get heard….and then getting caught when you’re with non-interrupters :)

            Reply
          2. Specialk9

            Oh man that must feel so erasing.

            As a white person, I’ll try to watch myself on that. I hate the idea that I could be making people feel bad without even knowing to pay attention.

            Reply
        2. LouiseM

          Such an important point!!! When these minority groups contribute less or equally to the conversation than the majority, they are perceived as talking more. Very important for us all to recognize.

          Reply
      3. Washi

        I’m sure that is what it feels like! In a group of 4 women and 1 man, the man only getting to talk 20% of the time could very well feel like he’s being talked over because he’s conditioned to believe his perspective will dominate no matter how many other people are in the room.

        Reply
      4. Ann O'Nemity

        “Normally if it’s just one woman the men tend to be more polite. If it’s a group of women things swing the other way and the men get talked over.”

        Many research studies show the opposite. The most frequent interruptions are men interrupting women. Second, men interrupting men. Third, women interrupting women. Fourth, women interrupting men. Think about that for a second. Even women are more likely to interrupt other women than they are to interrupt men.

        Reply
        1. Renamis

          I talk REALLY fast now, and I think this is why. I’m on a timer, and I need to get the topic out with important details asap.

          Reply
          1. Dr Wizard, PhD

            My close friend and flatmate has this issue: he’s on the autism spectrum. If he’s rambling on or boring people he might pick up on VERY OBVIOUS signals like ‘yeah uh huh uh huh uh huh’ (all at once), but his response is often to talk more and faster because otherwise the person might cut him off before he gets out everything he wants to say.

            Reply
      5. Elizabeth H.

        The 2nd or 3rd sibling thing, I find is really fascinating. I think it might have more to do with family culture than just sibling status though. However, I have this theory about roommate behavior based on sibling order/number of siblings that is kind of related to that.

        Reply
    2. oldbiddy

      I wondered the same thing. I’m a woman, and I do sometimes pause a bit too long when I talk, and I get interrupted all the time. It’s a lot more common when I’m speaking to men than women.

      Reply
    3. I am super rude tho

      This totally happens all the time to my boyfriend, though, poor guy- it’s kind of funny, because I’m so horrible about interrupting people myself, but at some point in college I started to channel my obnoxious powers for good, and I will just cut people right off after they start talking over him and point out that he wasn’t done.

      But yeah it’s pretty universally dudes who do this to him, so I get to feel like I am striking a vicious blow to the patriarchy whenever I shut them down (even if it’s… to let another man talk, instead…). I don’t think I’ve ever had to justice-interrupt a woman in my life.

      Reply
  5. DCompliance

    I do like Alison’s suggestion of finding someone you think you can trust and see if they have some perspective of what is going on.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, I actually think this is OP’s only solution. The commenters here (me included) can only agree that this isn’t normally happening all the time, and guess what might be causing it. The next time this happens to OP she needs to privately ask the most kindly member of the group if they can please clue her in to the source of the problem.

      Reply
  6. Bee Eye LL

    I work with a couple of wannabe Alphas who do this regularly. One has hearing problems so he talks super loud already and when he gets fired up it’s almost like he’s shouting. They cut people off in meetings, one on one, etc. I eventually learned to just write it off as bullying behavior from people with inferiority complexes. Yes it is rude but in many cases it’s not you – it’s them.

    Reply
    1. saffytaffy

      My dad tends to talk loudly and interrupt when he’s in a social situation and the topic is something he doesn’t know much about. It’s so embarrassing, and it’s 100% his own social anxiety.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      I’m hoping you assumed bullying based on something other than their hearing loss. Speaking loudly is common when you can’t hear yourself. Cutting people off when you can’t hear all the cues can also be related.

      I know my brilliant and sweet-to-the-bone partially-deaf father was judged in a lot of negative ways because of his hearing, and it makes me sad. (On the other hand, my deaf uncle is an a-hole, unrelated to his hearing.)

      Reply
      1. Julia

        My loudly-speaking co-worker was a bully – not because she apparently had trouble hearing, but because she did things like tell me I was being too loud, then be twice as loud herself, or keep the TV on at high volume while I was trying to work on something complicated, then try to be gaslight me into believing that watching loud TV during work was normal.

        Was she a bully because she had hearing loss? No, she was a bully who also had hearing loss.

        Reply
    3. Snooze

      I have a woman I work with (I’m a woman) who does this all. the. time. She’s a bully. I look at her until she’s done talking and say, “As I was saying.” Most of the time she’s repeating something that the VP at the company is saying. She did this to me just last week when we had a conference call.

      Sometimes I will say, “That’s just rude.” Sometimes I say I’m done talking.

      And I am an assertive person. I’ve never had this happen in my career before, so I’m glad you brought this up. I feel like it might be dependent on the types of people interrupting you. Maybe think about the types of interruptions, and we can help you out a bit more. In my case, it’s a rude person.

      Reply
  7. saffytaffy

    As someone who really LOATHES when people yammer or just explain themselves dully, my response isn’t to talk over them. Instead, I stop making eye contact, hunch my shoulders, and give less and less verbal feedback. So that’s at least some small evidence that you’re not boring people to death.
    My mother is from a culture where talking over people is a sign of interest and engagement, and even though she’s my mother and I grew up around her family, it still took me until adulthood to realize this was their way, rather than something they were doing to hurt me.

    Reply
  8. LQ

    I used to have more of this. I’m a careful word picker in some cases and this can make it seem like I’m distracted or checked out of the conversation (the reason I’m bringing this up is because of the change in topic/person examples you used which don’t seem to be just talking over you or excitement about the next thing they want to say). I started adding in some …”I’m just thinking about the best way to phrase this” kinds of …verbal ticks? To indicate that I’m still engaged and that far off look is searching for a word/phrase/running through six descriptions to land on the best one, NOT that I’ve started daydreaming in the middle of our conversation. The people I work with have also begun to recognize the LQ is thinking face (which I definitely also worked on shifting to more of an intense thinking face rather than bland flat face which is my natural default).

    I didn’t think I was taking that long but I was running into similar problems and had someone say something about me being checked out all the time which was NOT the case at all and so I really tried to examine what behaviors were making them think that and pacing seemed to be a pretty big one. I talk real fast and then stop and think about what I’m going to say for a long time, this doesn’t go over well with everyone.

    Reply
    1. Washi

      It’s funny, people really hate on fillers like “like” or “y’know” but they can be super helpful indicators of whether someone has finished speaking or is just thinking! My husband is very precise and will sometimes take 2-4 seconds to choose the perfect wording, and it can sometimes be genuinely confusing whether he intends to continue speaking or not.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        Absolutely. The like and yaknow fillers aren’t enough for me (I tried them, but I really need at least a sentence because I’m a pause for 8-10 seconds kind of person) but they can be incredibly helpful if you’re a 3-5 second pauser.

        When I’m not talking and someone else is long pausing (we have another person who occasionally has long pauses and he’s in a leadership role, like the big boss) he makes clear “I’m thinking” head movements so people wait. But it’s weird to watch people get more and more uncomfortable waiting for him to finish his thought because the pause is so long.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          8-10 seconds of silence is a lot for the listener to sit through! I would struggle if someone gave me the “I’m still thinking” hand movements while expecting me to wait that long in respectful silence. I think someone who needs thank long to finish their point might be better served to skip their turn and come back to it, personally!

          Reply
          1. LQ

            It’s funny because I don’t think it’s a long time at all. Like are you incapable of hearing silence for 10 seconds? Of course not. It’s totally not conversationally normal which is why people used to interrupt me all the time, because they did NOT think they were interrupting! Hence a full sentence of filler word while I gather my thoughts.

            It’s odd because going, we’ll just come back to you, to me assumes that everyone in the conversation isn’t listening and engaged in what other people are saying but always instead preparing their own thoughts on the matter, which feels incredibly disrespectful. I know it happens but sort of blatant acknowledgement (and I’ve had people say this to me in conversation, we’ll come back to you, I want to shout, no! I care about what you are saying too!) that they don’t think their own point is important enough for me to listen to and be fully engaged in, they just want to talk more than they want me to hear and understand what their point is.

            Like I said, I know I’m unusual, and I’ve learned tools to help. I understand that other people use social filler to do what I’d do with silence, but that makes me uncomfortable so…

            Reply
            1. Marty

              They are assuming that you can listen and prepare what you want to say at the same time. For most people, this is quite possible, so the request doesn’t seem out of place.

              Reply
            2. JM60

              I agree with Marty. I assume that the overwhelming majority of people can both listen and think at the same time (unless the thing they’re thinking of requires a lot of focus). It would never occur to me that someone isn’t going to hear what I say just because they might be thinking about what they might like to say.

              For what it’s worth, I was diagnosed with (mild) Auditory Processing Disorder, so I’m not exactly a very verbally/auditorily skilled person. Yet, I usually have no problem thinking and listening at the same time (unless I’m thinking about something that requires intense concentration). Your difficulty in both listening and thinking sounds usual to me. I’m not saying that to slight you, but rather to point out that most people in that situation probably aren’t going to realize that you’re not going to process what they say.

              Reply
            3. Someone

              I come from a family where it’s common to interrupt people to get a word in a conservation (and there’s rules that govern it, like at which points you can interrupt and that it’s ok to continue talking if you feel you didn’t yet make your point, and the interrupter just has to stop mid-sentence and wait a bit before making another attempt – it works for us and we have very interesting and exciting conservations)

              I don’t think I could ever stand having a conservation with you – nothing personal, but I’ll have considered all likely endings for your sentence plus a rough draft of my thoughts on each of them before you’ll even have finished talking! You could say that I usually need a negative amount of seconds to come up with an answer… 10 seconds would feel like eternity.

              Reply
          2. Jessen

            See, I’ve found when I try to do that, the conversation moves on, and then it sounds like I’m being weird and not listening when I say what I was going to say, so I have to take more time to come up with something that also acknowledges what other people are saying, only me taking that time means the conversation moves on even faster, and I end up either dropping out of the conversation or being the rude person who’s ignoring what other people are saying to make her own points.

            For some reason my brain doesn’t process language at normal speed, so a lot of times I literally can’t come up with anything to say that makes sense in a normal person time frame. I just flat out say that now – like “hang on, word organizing” or “one moment, can’t english right” or something.

            Reply
        2. Specialk9

          I would not be able to be friends with you. I process so fast that 8 seconds pause on your end would be 80 seconds on mine, and my anxiety would roar out of control, and then I’d die. (The dying part is hyperbole, the rest is literal.)

          Reply
        3. Traveling Teacher

          8-10 seconds? It’s good that you’re trying to be up-front with people about it, but that is really on the tail end of the bell-curve of response times. Are you sure it’s not more like 3-5?

          10 seconds is actually how long it’s recommended for teachers and other speakers to wait for a student to raise their hand and answer if no one has immediately offered an answer to your questions and/or you want other people to engage before moving on. Average wait time if a teacher doesn’t think about wait time is 1-3 seconds. Because it is excruciating for everyone involved to have to wait ten whole seconds, people will get desperate and say anything to fill the void.

          Reply
          1. Marty

            Which is why teachers need to do that, the discomfort is what convinces the students that commenting is worthwhile. Especially if said comment or question reveals the student’s ignorance.

            Reply
  9. Andrew

    This is absolutely a real thing that happens and I totally relate to the letter writer. This used to happen to me all the time with my family, my friends, and my work.

    I moved a few years ago and made some new friends –they are generally nicer and more empathetic and they do a good job ‘taking turns’ in conversation. It is honestly so nice and refreshing!

    No such luck yet on the other two fronts (family and work). Can’t do much about the former, but trying to also upgrade the latter. :)

    Just wanted to add my voice to say that the letter writer is not making this up!! This definitely happens and is a real (and frustrating) thing!!

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      This is so fascinating to me. I’m probably more on the “interrupter” side of things and my sister is my conversational opposite. It’s taken us a long time to figure out how to have a conversation where she feels heard and I feel like we’re actually having a conversation instead of taking turns monologueing at each other. I’m sure you’ve been super patient with your family already (and I’m sure they think they’ve been patient with you), but there is definitely hope! It just takes practice and way more up-front communication than I ever would have guessed.

      Reply
    2. BookCocoon

      Yes, thank you! This happened to me ALL the time growing up. My friends would fake interest in what I was saying, and I wouldn’t realize they weren’t interested until they would turn to someone else and start another conversation when I was right in the middle of a sentence. When I moved and made new friends, this happened way less frequently, and I realized it was just the people I was around most of the time.

      Although I don’t have the problem of people starting a new conversation mid-sentence as much anymore, I have found that it’s difficult for me to insert myself into group conversations sometimes. My voice isn’t as high-pitched as many women and not as low and resonant as many man, so sometimes people literally don’t hear me trying to speak if a lot of people are talking. I wonder if the two problems are related; that is, while I’m speaking, it’s easy for someone to overhear a nearby conversation if the speaker’s voice carries better than mine does, so they’re more likely to jump ship to the other conversation.

      Reply
      1. Andrew

        Hmm … yes, that’s an interesting theory!! Maybe the pitch of your voice does come into play with this sort of thing. For the most part, though, I think it is the people who are around you. Find people who listen to you and make eye contact. Take turns in conversation. When someone else is speaking, really listen to what they have to say.

        Once I started surrounding myself with people who understood these things, it really helped.

        Reply
    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

      This is a thing that happened to me as well. I think part of my issue was that I’ve always gravitated towards very gregarious, outgoing but sometimes narcissistic people. They took a lot of emotional burden of carrying conversations off of me (I struggled with some social anxiety issues), but at the same time, when I had something I did want to say/discuss/whatever, well – they weren’t really used to that or good at letting me speak/listening.

      In addition, I have a very high-pitched, child-like voice that I think is often/easily dismissed. I think this leads to my voice being overlooked or not registering as contributing to the convo at hand.

      When you put the two together it really felt like I was being interrupted and ignored far more than is normal.

      Once I saw the pattern, I started trying to be open to more balanced people (and make a conscious effort to cut out/back on the narcissistic ones). This really helped. I think I my voice is still overlooked at times due to pitch, but it doesn’t feel like such a constant issue with less of the personal life interruptions happening.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        This is a really interesting thought, Sunshine. I especially like the reflection on how we can get pegged into roles that make it hard for us to be perceived as somebody to be listened to.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth H.

        Interesting – I haven’t had that experience although I also have a high pitched/young sounding/squeaky/whatever you want to call it voice (not quite Starlee Kine level but sort of along those lines). I have never felt like it made any difference whatsoever in term of getting heard in conversation. I think I have a pretty confident manner in contributing to group discussions, and I always thought it’s more tone of voice than literal pitch/voice quality. I do notice that I tend to pitch my voice lower when I’m trying to assert myself or sound super professional – we all tend to do stuff like that to some extent.

        Reply
      3. Specialk9

        Oh! I know some people like that, and like you I used to gravitate to them because I got shy in groups. But you’re right, sometimes the ones who love to talk in groups aren’t great at listening when you need it.

        Reply
  10. Snark

    “Hey. Are you aware you just interrupted me in the middle of a sentence?” Repeat as necessary, calmly but forthrightly. My wife, who’s as direct as a tomahawk to the forehead and about as easily interrupted, deploys this when men – it’s always men – who haven’t gotten with the program try to run her off the conversational road.

    Don’t just roll with it, and don’t assume the new thing is more important. You’re worth being able to express your thoughts completely, for crying out loud, and you’re entitled to ask that people allow you to do so.

    Reply
    1. Tara S.

      This definitely works, but there’s also a definite social cost to doing it. I always *want* to do it, but it’s not always appropriate, especially when I’m talking to people way above me at work.

      Reply
    2. Anonygoose

      Yupp, that’s what I do! My husband has a habit of talking over me when he isn’t really listening, and this has really curbed it quite a bit. He never realized he did that to people until I started calling him out on it every single time he did it.

      I also will just stop talking altogether if somebody interrupts me, wait for a break in their speech, and then say ‘anyways, back to what i was saying…’

      And, if I need to be a bit more polite than that, I will keep talking while they talk (especially if it is something important!) and then when they are done, I will say ‘did you hear anything I said? I was just telling you the plans for x, y, and z.’

      Reply
      1. Student

        My husband does this to me, too. After many years, I found a response that works on him, but wouldn’t be appropriate in a business or social setting (and isn’t really a great marital response in my opinion, either).

        When he does it, I stop engaging with him immediately and completely, and I refuse to re-engage on that topic. I’ll change the subject – but I won’t let the “conversation” (monologue) that he wants continue. It at least makes him aware he’s done it, and ashamed about it, and it prevent shim from being “rewarded” for interrupting me because he doesn’t receive my attention and a captive audience for his monologue, which seems to be what he wants. It’s decreased the frequency of his interruptions markedly. It makes me feel like a total heel every time I do it to him, because adults ought to be able to use their words better, but it’s the only thing I’ve tried that works.

        Reply
    3. K.

      “Hold on, I wasn’t finished speaking” is my go-to and I always, always deploy it when I’m interrupted, ESPECIALLY at work. I’m a woman of color and to be blunt, my white coworkers tend to interrupt. If I let them get away with it I’d never finish a sentence and my ideas at work would never get heard. I fight an uphill battle for that as it is – I’m not about to roll over and make it easier for folks to diminish me.

      Reply
      1. Plague of frogs

        I’m glad you and several other people have mentioned this–I don’t know if I do it, but from now on I will be sure that I don’t.

        Reply
      2. soon 2be former fed

        Women of color here, and ITA. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten somewhat of a bitch reputation for asserting myself, but that is their problem too.

        Reply
        1. K.

          Yes – I wouldn’t use the phrasing that Snark suggests because that would burn too much capital. Black women tend to have to fight against stereotypes of being aggressive before we even open our mouths, so something like what Snark suggests would definitely be seen as such coming out of my mouth. “Hold on, I wasn’t finished speaking” tends to go down easier.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            It’s infuriating that you have to spend this much time coddling the feelings of people who already don’t respect you enough to let you finish a sentence.

            It works well for my wife, who’s also a POC, but I admit that she’s also a) not black, which unfortunately carries that pernicious stereotype and b) she delivers it in a certain calculated tone that holds back a lot of the sting.

            Reply
    4. Specialk9

      And how successful is your wife socially? Do people tend to include her and go out of their way to help her? Because those are the things we women lose by being direct with men who interrupt us.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I don’t think she much gives a damn if it does, but it hasn’t had an apparent effect on her social connections or career.

        Reply
    5. LouiseM

      Agreed with others who noted that there’s definitely a cost to this kind of phrasing. I like the suggestion that others have made here and elsewhere to say some version of “sorry, I wasn’t quite finished!” although I think it works best when you were talking about a professional topic.

      I’ve got tons of sympathy for OP here because in my graduate school days, I was constantly interrupted in seminar by men who, though they were pretending to respond to my comment, actually didn’t let me finish so didn’t understand my point. My strategy was to wait until they had finished their entire comment, smile, and say “actually, I think you’re missing [x]. I didn’t get to finish my thought, but what I was getting at was [y].” Sometimes, though not always, they were a bit chastened and remembered to not interrupt me for the next 30 minutes.

      As general comment I will say these men almost always identified as feminist and would have been very offended at the suggestion that they talked over women. But they did. They just thought they were so smart, and were so impressed with the way they put words together, that they cared more about that then the effect on the conversation.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I’m curious about why y’all are reacting like she’s throat-punching people while hissing “I AM NOT FINISHED YET” with slitted eyes. It’s not particularly aggressive phrasing or delivery.

        Reply
  11. Birch

    I think this just has to do with culture around conversation and personal preference. There are so many of these kinds of things in social interactions, and it’s good that you’ve recognized that the common factor is you, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it but just accept that it’s a way of speaking. I also find this irritating, but you are going to have to play along. If you really wanted to finish that thought, either keep speaking a bit louder as you’re being interrupted (and people will usually realize your point was longer than they thought and they’ll trail off to listen) or come back to it later after the interrupter is done speaking. But don’t make a big deal out of it–I’m sure your coworkers don’t even notice that they’re doing it!

    Reply
    1. Marty

      According to the rules they are operating by, it is quite likely that your sudden upon the slightest interruption is simply an indication that you were hoping someone would interrupt you. This is a cultural thing, and different groups of people have entirely different rules for managing it.

      Reply
  12. Enter_the_Dragonfly

    You know, this really could be a cultural thing. It happens to my mother all the time. She’s from Maryland (but hasn’t lived there for decades) and therefore tends to talk pretty slowly. Whenever she pauses in her sentences people tend to jump in thinking she’s finished! This is even true within the family, we all did to her growing up and it’s taken me years of concentrated, concerted effort to stop (or at least do so less). Also, as Allison mentions, my dad’s side of the family is rooted in one of those cultures where it’s perfectly normal to interrupt and talk over each other, it’s a way to show you’re paying attention and invested in the conversation.
    Are you, or anyone who might have influenced your speach patterns, from a particularly slow-speaking part of the country?

    Reply
      1. Marty

        Well, that depends on what you are comparing it to… Compared to someone from South Carolina, they speak at 100 miles per hour, while by comparison to New York, you are probably holding still.

        Reply
    1. Manders

      Yes, I picked up the “cooperative overlapping” style of conversation young, and now I have to really concentrate to make sure I’m not doing it. My husband speaks in the same way. I’m sure our conversations are incredibly frustrating for anyone else to overhear.

      That said, conversational overlapping is more about continuing someone’s thought, or jumping ahead to the next logical point in the conversation. If people are changing the subject or trying to speak to someone else, there may be something else going on, like the speaker taking ages to get to their point or not judging casual conversation topics appropriately. When I interrupt to change a subject, it’s usually because a conversation is heading into TMI territory or running way too long.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        OMG there’s a name for it?!?! “Cooperative overlapping” – love it. And of course it’s a Tannen-ism. *adds books to my to-read pile*

        Reply
        1. Manders

          Yes! If you’re curious, I’d also recommend looking up “Jewish conversational style” because it’s very common in the speech patterns of American Jews. Listening to my extended family after reading about that was a revelation. It really doesn’t come across as rude when everyone has the same conversational style, but when only person in the room speaks that way, it sounds like they’re steamrolling over everyone else’s speech.

          Reply
          1. Sarah

            My ex literally used the term “steamroller” for me in conversation – this is such a revelation! I get excited and feel like I’m adding to the conversation, but apparently for people (like my sister) who are high-considerateness conversationalists, talking with me is exhausting. I’m trying to be better but as painful as conversations with me can be for her, the inverse is true, too – I feel like talking with her isn’t a conversation, it’s just listening to her talk at me while I’m not allowed to engage. Oof. I can totally understand how people from different areas end up with different cultural ideas of how conversations should go, but I’m really curious how two people in the same family ended up with such different ideas of what a conversation should look like.

            Reply
            1. Lil Fidget

              Thank you for articulating how it feels for me, to be a bit of an interrupter (although I’m working on it) when trying to engage in the opposite conversation style! I find it really frustrating to sit quietly and wait while the other person slowly picks out their point.

              Reply
              1. teclatrans

                My people! I am a bit of an ADHD-interested, but mostly I find overlapping conversation to be deep and meaningful and full of connection, while “monologuing at each other” feels like polite party chit chat and, honestly, pretty lonely.

                Reply
                1. teclatrans

                  ADHD-interrupter, that is. Although, now I wonder if I am pathologizing something that’s primarily cultural.

                2. Sarah

                  When conversations overlap it feels like we’re building something together. If I interrupt and seem to steer the conversation totally different it’s usually because my brain is in overdrive and it seems like a natural extension of whatever we’re talking about – though I’ve often forgotten to articulate a few steps. But when I’m not allowed to do that it’s like being told that one of the things I love best is Wrong and I am Wrong for liking it.

                3. Sarah

                  Which isn’t to say that other people are wrong for having preferences – just that a) I think we tend to call interrupters rude (though re-reading the LW’s letter, I’d definitely say the person + conversation shift is different than what we’re talking about here) and forget that it can be as difficult not to interrupt as it is to be interrupted and b) that at a certain level, natural instincts take over – if I am super excited about something, it is MUCH harder for me to remember how to leave space for other types of conversationalists.

            2. Mr. Rogers

              Oooh thank you for pointing this out! My family is all overlappers, I’m one, and so is my best friend. But my boyfriend isn’t (unless we’re throwing jokes back and forth), and it can feel like….. oh, so you don’t actually want to have a conversation WITH me, you would be fine with a somewhat sympathetic looking brick. So just a reminder to all the people who cry “interrupting is rude!” to us overlappers, the reverse can also feel rude.

              Reply
              1. S

                So true! I feel like forcing me to listen to you talk for 5 minutes straight is so rude. Get to the point so it can be a two way conversation. I have a co-worker who always points out when I interrupt her, but no joke, it takes her 5-10 minutes to get to a breaking point, and then she only breaks for a second and then continues. I get so frustrated, sometimes I walk away entirely (into my office to grab something but not out of ear-reach) and she will still be talking by the time I get back. I end up working on something else while she finally gets to her point.

                Reply
      2. KitKat

        Actually, as a quiet person, I enjoy conversations where everyone is a conversational overlapper! It’s fun, and if I feel like saying something, I can kinda just throw it out there instead of waiting for the perfect timing when no one else is talking.

        Reply
        1. hbc

          Yes! Timing is less crucial, and I don’t feel like I have to have a polished, complete thought before taking My Turn.

          Reply
          1. Marty

            And you can be relatively confident that, when your thought is incomplete, someone will pick it up and bring it to an interesting, surprising, and possibly even enlightening conclusion.

            Reply
      3. Kelly L.

        Yes! I picked up “cooperative overlapping” somewhere, and my SO is a long-pauser. I had to actually teach myself to count to five when he seemingly stopped talking, to make sure there wasn’t another sentence on the horizon.

        Reply
    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      My son has pointed out that he gets interrupted a lot in the family. My husband and other child and I are all comfortable talking to one another amidst a generally chatter and with conversations overlapping. My son grew up with this, but he has a temperament where he feels talked over and disrespected. He isn’t comfortable plowing into the conversation and he naturally waits for pauses. Well, with us, there are no natural pauses. We’ve had to learn make space in the conversation for him; if he’s in the middle of saying something and his sister or dad start in with something else, I stop the conversation for him so that he can finish what he was saying. His dad does the same if I’m the one jumping in too soon.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        “Cooperative overlapping” — I don’t know how I missed that! But yes, my husband, daughter, and I have a cooperative overlapping style of conversation, and my son has a gentle temperament and has felt that he hasn’t been able to successfully navigate that conversational style in our family, so we have to consciously create space for him.

        Reply
  13. Shishimai

    LW, are you secretly me? This happens so much, and it’s so tremendously aggravating.

    It’s an interesting perspective that some people think it’s just…okay, to completely change the subject midsentence or even walk off on you. (And not like…a long and difficult idea! Just, ‘yeah how about the thing in our mutual interest, Bob? Bob…?’) I hadn’t considered that it may be a cultural marker. It might be worth writing down when and where (and who) and seeing if I can spot some patterns.

    Whatever you end up doing about it, know you’re not alone in the frequently-interrupted boat. I hope you’re able to find a way to work around this.

    Reply
    1. High Score

      Next time you’re alone, use your phone (most cell phones have a record function or app) and pretend you’re telling someone about something that interests you. Then play it back while pretending it’s someone ELSE speaking. Does that speaker allow others to comment, interact, change the subject, pause too long, talk too softly, etc… How long would you enjoy listening to them? Listening to yourself can help you determine if there’s a speech pattern you have that you need to work on.

      I’m almost never interrupted. I’m a female in a male dominated field. Maybe I’m just not sensitive to that or don’t notice. Maybe try focusing on all the times you are not interrupted. ?

      Reply
      1. Shishimai

        I’ll try that, thanks.

        The annoying other side is that I do a lot of training and presentation in my job, and people tell me I’m interesting and engaging in that context. Maybe I get tongue-tied when I’m not on stage. :p

        Reply
        1. ValancyJane

          I’m always more confident in front of a group of people than conversing with them! Participating in theatre, speech arts, stuff like that actually helped tremendously with my social confidence.

          Reply
      2. willow

        I love this idea. I also thinking videotaping someone (with their consent) and replaying it for them is invaluable for showing them how they come across to others. When you watch yourself from the outside, it may be way different from what you are watching from the inside.

        Reply
    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      I don’t know if it’s *all* cultural. I think it’s partly cultural, but I think individual temperament plays a role, too. Someone upthread brought up the subject of the “cooperative overlapping” conversational style, and that is what I grew up with and am used to. My husband, daughter, and I all fall into that conversational style, but my son is frustrated by it, even though he grew up around it. He is temperamentally disposed to wait for another person to be completely finished with what they’re saying before he says anything, and if he starts speaking and anyone else utters a syllable, he will immediately cede the floor. I envision it like people are jumping double dutch rope on the playground, and the jumpers run in and out while the ropes are still turning. That’s how we all talk in my family. My son, though, will wait for the kind of opening where the ropes have completely stopped turning and no one else looks like they even want to jump in before he will jump in.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Do you change topics though, the way OP describes? That is what’s weird to me. I’m in an interrupt-y family and am an interrupter myself, but we wouldn’t cut someone off and then start a whole new topic, usually.

        Reply
        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Oh, no — it’s never to start a new topic! It’s just general conversational flow with people interrupting to contribute to the same topic. Thanks for pointing that out — I don’t know what people are doing when they interrupt to change the topic.

          Reply
        2. Myrin

          Yeah, that’s actually what makes the fact that a problem such as the OP’s exists is so weird to me. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the starting-a-conversation-with-someone-else-about-something-completely-unrelated-to-the-previous-topic situation unless it was meant as an obviously and blatantly rude dismissal that was meant to convey annoyance with the original speaker (and even that is just guesswork – I can’t pinpoint a specific memory but I have a vague feeling I’ve seen something like it before). And to think that OP has experienced this since childhood! It’s so alien to me that I’d really like to be a silent bystander to get some sort of feeling for it.

          Reply
          1. Lil Fidget

            I think that’s why I’m wondering if OP has some kind of unconscious conversation tic, like long pauses, or looking away, or rambling / being repetitive / thinking out loud / perseverating – that is making people want to help her wrap it up, even though I hate to “blame the victim” here. If it was only at work, I’d suggest her coworkers are being rude or disrespectful to her. But … everyone does it to her?

            Reply
            1. High Score

              If everyone is doing it to her, that tells me either she’s too sensitive or she has a tic she doesn’t realise. That’s why I suggested recording herself and listening to herself. Maybe the subject changes indicate she’s taking about topics that are sensitive, uncomfortable, unpleasant, TMI or somehow not appropriate and others pick up on that and are trying to steer her to a better topic but she doesn’t realise it.

              Reply
              1. Safetykats

                Yes, this. I have a very few coworkers and one friend to whom I see this happen a lot. The thing they have in common is that it takes them forever to get to the point – so much so that it can seem like there is no point. I know them well enough to know that they are actually, in their minds, just providing the necessary background and supporting information up front, but honestly it often seems like they are just rambling. It’s a good habit to get to the punchline early – and then deliver the backstory, to the extent needed.

                My 12-yr old niece has this habit too, I think because she is an only child and doesn’t have to compete for attention at home. Her current teacher is trying to train her out of it, in part because if you let her go on and on none of the other kids get to talk. The teacher’s method is to let her get one good sentence out (which is always just set-up and never the thing she intended to say) and then to say “Good point, thank you” and move on to the next kid. The look of confusion on her face is sort of comical. I’m hoping she catches on soon.

                Reply
          2. Ramblin' Ma'am

            “I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the starting-a-conversation-with-someone-else-about-something-completely-unrelated-to-the-previous-topic situation unless it was meant as an obviously and blatantly rude dismissal that was meant to convey annoyance with the original speaker (and even that is just guesswork – I can’t pinpoint a specific memory but I have a vague feeling I’ve seen something like it before).”

            I’ve only had this happen when it was a very obvious power play. There was a director in my office who had a habit of butting into watercooler conversations and loudly changing the topic to whatever interested her. Let’s say my coworker Joaquin and I were talking about a new restaurant. This woman would literally physically insert herself between us, turn to Joaquin–thereby cutting me out of the conversation–and say something like, “So, Joaquin, did you see the new Star Wars movie?”

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              Yeah, that’s what I was envisioning/half-remembering as the only times I’ve ever encountered it. It’s such a strange and unnatural thing to do otherwise.

              Reply
            2. Jessen

              I actually do this a lot in very casual discussions. More like an “oh, by the way, here’s Cool Thing that was at the front of my brain!” But it’s generally restricted to casual discussions – sort of a conversational “hey look shiny.”

              Reply
      2. Plague of frogs

        My husband and I are from very different cultures (both in the US) and I get steam-rollered around his family. I have never had what I would call an actual conversation with most of them.

        I noticed that there are a number of people in the family, who have grown up in that culture, who just never speak. It’s awesome that you’re making sure that your son isn’t that person.

        Reply
  14. BlueWolf

    I realize I interrupt people sometimes, but not to start a completely new conversation with another person, that part sounds kind of weird. I do sometimes finding myself interrupting people, but it’s usually with something related to what the person is saying (although I know this is still rude and have to try to consciously work towards interrupting less). Honestly, I think that’s just how people in my family are. Many of the people in my family talk a lot, so if you want to get in your two cents, you have to interrupt or else you will never get a word in.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah I’m an interrupter sometimes but not like, in whole new conversational direction. That part does sound odd to me too.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      Me too. Interrupting culture, but it’s to support and buttress the other person. (“Oh yeah, that makes sense” “He said that?!” And providing words when they’re at a loss to show that I’m really paying attention)

      Not to change the subject or talk to someone else! I only do that if someone has been monopolizing the conversation forever, or being offensive.

      Reply
  15. kittymommy

    Like Alison said, it’s probably something they do to others as well (probably in conjunction with the points others made here), and I say this because thinking about it, I believe I do this sometimes myself! The times I can think of that I do it, it’s multiple factors, but mainly because while I wouldn’t say I have a short-attention span, I do have a brain that goes on a million different rabbit holes all at once. So while I’m paying attention to person 1 and talking about books, I also am listening to a conversation about dinner to the side of us, which makes me think about dinner, which makes me think about if I need to go to the grocery store, which makes me think about getting gas in my car, which makes me wonder if the Shell discount card is working, which makes me think about traffic…. and I’m still following the book conversation noticed they paused, and asked person 2 what they’re having for dinner, because I know I’ll forget if I don’t ask now. (I have a tendency to write letters/emails to friends like this too.)

    In my defense, I do go back to the original person after the one question, which it doesn’t sound like they are doing.

    In other words, this is a them problem, not a you problem, which may not actually help solve the problem, but might make you feel a bit better?? (I hope!)

    Reply
  16. Ann O'Nemity

    My family frequently interrupts me, always has. My dad is particularly bad. (Plus, once he gets started talking he doesn’t stop.) When I joined the working world it happened there too, especially my male coworkers.

    Personally, I’m not very good with the “just keeping going” approach where you don’t stop talking even when someone tries to interrupt. Instead, I found that it helps to have a few canned interjections ready – “John, let me just finish my thought here,” or “One more thing,” or “Wakeen, can I finish what I was saying?” Sometimes I let the interrupter get their thoughts said, then redirect back with a “I’d like to go back to what I was saying before.”

    Over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable interrupting an interruptor, but I also think that standing up for myself a bit in these types of interactions has decreased the likelihood of getting interrupted in the first place. John – Mr. Chronic Interrupter – knows I’m not going to just let him talk over me. (My dad, on the other hand, is probably never going to change.)

    Reply
  17. Naptime Enthusiast

    I have a coworker that does get cut off mid sentence a lot. I hate to say he “deserves” it, but every time it happens it’s because he’s about to start complaining about how much work he has to do if X changes even though X is the correct process. Or he’ll drone on and on about his task when all that’s needed is a status update along with everyone else’s status. Or he’s saying some very career limiting things about his peers and managers that the people he’s talking to do not agree with, or don’t want to be associated with.

    If none of this sounds familiar to your situation then I would follow Alison’s advice to see if people also do it to others, but you notice it more when it happens to you.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Ooooh good point, I’m guessing OP isn’t doing this but it’s something that happens to The Complainer around here a lot. Nobody wants to listen to her whinge on the same topics ad nauseum.

      Reply
  18. The Original Flavored K

    Whether or not this is something you’re causing, since none of us have actually witnessed your conversations, I do think there are some tactics you can take. If it’s just a case of expressing yourself too slowly, or getting cut off while you pause to gather a thought, maybe interject an, “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t finished speaking.” Enough repetitions of this and the quick-talkers around you may figure out to wait for you to finish a thought before they jump in.

    I also wonder if this could be gendered, and if it is, I really strongly recommend you keep pointing out that people are interrupting you and that you weren’t done.

    Reply
  19. Lauren

    This has happened to me at my current job. None of Allison’s advice applies. They only do it with me, I don’t talk too long, my voice doesn’t trail, I’m not signaling don’t pay attention to me, etc. I have never had this problem at any other job, just this one. I stopped hanging out in the break room at lunch because I got tired of this (and other things), and I’m looking for another job.

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      Thank you for the comment. I love her, but I do think Alison had a hard time relating to this one and maybe didn’t give the best advice this time around.

      Some people just do this. And my suspicion is that they know they’re doing it, too — there’s some research out there that links number of interruptions to dominance-seeking behavior. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressions_of_dominance

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Lauren’s situation is different from the OP’s, though. With Lauren, it’s just at this job–with the OP it’s a lifelong thing, not just a specific group of people.

        Reply
    2. Bea

      I’m in the same boat. I also wonder if the OP is now gunshy about being cutoff which leads to poor communication skills that end up leading to more people talking over her. I had to shake the PTSD that my aggressive family gave me as a child who felt invisible by 6 years old. I didn’t even talk to my boyfriend fluidly until a year in, God only knows it almost broke us. Now I’m aggressively against this piss poor behavior and know it causes great mental harm in others.

      Reply
  20. RandomlyGenerated

    Posting as a person who interrupts other people a lot (I’m extroverted and think/speak quickly). I’ve been paying attention to when I do this in order to not be quite so interrupty, so hopefully this can provide some contexts for what might be happening. I’ve focused on the ones where other people also behave as I do, to address OP’s feeling that everyone’s out to interrupt her.

    Context 1: the interrupted person speaks with long pauses, and I assume they’re done but then it turns out they are not. The problem here is that I don’t want to wait TOO long because if they ARE done, then they frequently take my silence as oh-god-i-said-something-stupid and then they rush to say more things and it gets real awkward. My strategy here has been to note which people take pauses when they’re not done yet and give them extra time to speak.

    Context 2: the interrupted person speaks in a really long-winded manner (they’re thinking out loud), and I’m in a rush to get to the point. I try to limit these circumstances because it is quite rude, but sometimes there’s a legit emergency, so I try to conclude/summarize/move on for them. Doesn’t seem like that’s what is happening here because true conversational emergencies are pretty rare.

    Context 3: the interrupted person is speaking about a thing (usually a work thing, but sometimes extended inside jokes, etc) that’s relevant to only some members of the audience group, so I have asides with other people for whom the content is not relevant (usually to move actual content forward; see emergencies above). I try to speak quietly here and not distract the speaker, but some people have better hearing than others and/or pay more attention to whether people are paying attention.

    Context 4: I’m super excited about the topic and interject with my super excitedness. This doesn’t seem like what’s happening either, because it seems that people are interrupting with unrelated conversation?

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Yeah, I have one colleague who would drone on all day if he wasn’t stopped. While in general the rule is that you wait until somebody’s done speaking, it’s one of those rules that requires people to be fair-minded about how long it takes them to be done (especially in comparison to the value of what’s being said), otherwise there will be justifiable mutiny.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        Yes, I’m a habitual interrupter (in the style that linguists call “high-involvement cooperative overlapping”) and I’m trying to get better about it, but every once in a while I run into someone who will keep speaking indefinitely if I don’t jump in.

        The fact that OP’s colleagues are changing the subject or trying to talk to other people, not interjecting with their own enthusiastic thoughts and agreement, makes it sound like they’re trying to escape the conversation instead of continuing it. Interrupters who are engaged with the topic of conversation should be able to stay on that topic, even if they’re butting in during the middle of sentences.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Though I also think that there is the possibility of the OP seeing as personal some fairly common conversational shifts–in casual workplace dchatter, which is how the OP describes at least some of this, if I’ve done a full three sentences on Harry Potter and Jane walks into the room, I think it’s pretty common and, by me, kosher for you to turn to Jane and say “Hey, Jane, are you going to get that pizza tonight or what?” For social conversation at work, I don’t think there’s the same listening covenant–this is a limited amount of time away from what we’re supposed to be doing, and that tends to mean the ground has to be shared more closely than out of work.

          I’d therefore be more concerned with work-related conversations where this happens. If the OP had a manager she had faith in, I’d raise it with that manager sometime to see if there’s a way she can make her communication more irresistible.

          Reply
          1. Manders

            That’s a good point. I’m not sure if “halfway through my response to something” in this case means the OP gets interrupted just seconds after they start speaking, or if this is just the normal flow of casual conversation after the OP has been talking for a little while.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              And of course “normal flow” is subjective; I think you and I probably think it’s more normal for conversations to move around kinetically than big pausers would. But I am, perhaps wrongly, picturing the OP in a standing conversation by the doorway or the microwave or the watercooler, and IME those are inherently hovering like hummingbirds.

              Reply
  21. Queen of Cans & Jars

    This happens to me a lot, so I really appreciate Allison’s advice here! Upon thinking about it further, I think I’m hyper-aware of when it happens because I’m very anxious and tend to take things personally when they really are absolutely not. That being said, I have a very close friend who has a tendency to do this, generally when we’re having a mundane, “how was your day” sort of conversation. It took a lot of, “Dude, WTF,” but she has definitely gotten much better at listening. It’s really about her poor listening skills than anything to do with me.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      In a work setting, once there’s a natural break in what the interrupter is saying, you could say something like “if I could quickly go back to X, I want to point out/it’s important to keep in mind/what I’ve learned is Y.” Typically this works really well for me, and it has never been perceived as confrontational. If it’s an important point, people will value the fact that you made sure they are aware of it.

      Also, I have a hard time knowing when people are done speaking, so it’s interesting to see this from the other side.

      Finally, I recently moved to another part of the country and found that at least in my new office, some people just gather based on their natural affinities with eachother, and have no inclination to be a positive, welcoming colleague to others. It’s really uncomfortable, but it’s not personal. They do this to others as well. I’m sharing this because you might be experiencing a combination of things, even though it feels the same across the board.

      Reply
  22. Sunshine Brite

    This happens to a colleague of mine a lot… she’s extremely quiet and generally thoughtful with her words so can be drowned out fairly easily

    Reply
  23. Professor Ronny

    In my work environment and circle of friends/family, this is just the default male conservation style. My recommendation would be to just talk right back over them.

    Reply
    1. High Score

      If it’s *everyone* doing this and *always* involving subject changes, it would be wise to look into what topics people are being away from before re-interrupting.

      Reply
  24. Guacamole Bob

    One painful but often useful way to suss out whether there are things in your speech patterns that might be inviting this would be to record some conversations and watch or listen to yourself. (Be careful of laws about recording other parties without their consent.) You may not feel like you talk much more slowly or quietly or have long pauses or look away from people mid-sentence or whatever, but when you watch yourself in comparison to others it might become apparent that you do.

    Of course, Allison may well be right that it may not be about you at all. But if you suspect that there might be aspects of how you’re presenting yourself that you could change to ward it off, seeing yourself on tape might help you figure it out.

    If you decide you do want to change something about how you present yourself, would Toastmasters help? It’s focused on public speaking, but it might be a way to get the kind of feedback you’re looking for.

    Reply
  25. Andy

    ok, so I have a friend who I noticed that I was interrupting BUT I only noticed it because she would do this thing…it’s very specific and almost like a face-dance.
    She would close her mouth (fully but not pursed) tilt her head just slightly (like questioning but not quite) and eeeever so subtly raise her eyebrows. It was perfect.
    You should try this thing she does, it REALLY helped clue me in that I was talking over her, but in the most supportive ‘I just want you to know this happened but we’re moving on’ type of way. Everytime she did it I immediately knew that, although she was interested in what I was saying, it’s just that in fact she was also saying something interesting. Also the little eyebrow lift was juuuust enough concentration-emotion to indicate that she was desperately hanging on to what SHE was saying while I was saying MY thing. And after I was done she would seamlessly pick back up her train of thought. (It’s hard being friends with me, y’all)
    Didn’t take long, she trained me up pretty good and now (years and years later) I look back and realize the subtle genius of her face.

    Reply
    1. Plague of frogs

      I had a pet rat who would make a chirping sound when I did something that she did not care for but she was letting it slide. Sounds like this is the human equivalent.

      Reply
  26. BookCocoon

    As someone who has experienced this, I want to emphasize on OP’s behalf that this is a different behavior than someone interrupting you mid-sentence to say something else to you — what someone above called “cooperative overlapping,” which is something I myself do. This is someone interrupting you mid-sentence to talk to another person nearby about something completely unrelated. That means it’s sometimes hard to signal with your body language or even to make a comment bringing them back to the conversation, because they’re now in a conversation with someone else and no longer looking at you.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, I would call that a social cut. Someone started ignoring you once someone “better” came in to talk to.

      Reply
  27. Bea

    It’s not you. It’s them. I’ve grown up with people who steamroller conversations and it’s made me withdraw, which makes it worse most of the time but I’ve developed a “okay fine, you talk now.” They then decide I don’t speak much and how shy I am, bleh. Rude AF.

    Reply
    1. High Score

      I wouldn’t judge them as rude they just don’t understand you. Most of the time I never interrupt anyone, but I have one friend that we interrupt each other and talk quickly and it works for us bc we both think fast and it showed us to exchange a lot of info quickly and we’re both ok with it. Before you decide they’re rude, either try it their way or explain you don’t like to be interrupted.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        When you have an established friendship the rules are different than in professional situation.

        They’re clearly not interested in the words coming out of my mouth, instead of letting me know that after I wrap up my thought, they pull a powerplay by speaking over me. That’s rude. They aren’t thinking of someone’s feelings, that’s dismissive and again rude.

        I’ve found many people in life who don’t do that to me. Once in awhile is one thing, that’s the idea of being excited or just in a hurry, that’s not a problem. It’s the pattern that’s rude.

        I find the sort of people who do this regularly the more aggressive kind of people and I don’t play their game, it’s exhausting.

        Reply
    2. Specialk9

      You’re making assumptions. There is a whole thread full of possibilities that don’t start and end with everyone else being terrible and you being 100% fine.

      Reply
  28. MicroManagered

    Moreover, in some cultures people talk over each as a matter of course. And I don’t mean just cultures in some far-off land — it’s a conversational marker of some demographic groups right here in the U.S. It can feel incredibly rude if you’re not from that cultural background yourself, but to some people it feels normal

    Can anyone point me toward more on this? I’m curious about it and not even sure what to begin googling…

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Look up “high-involvement cooperative overlapping.” It’s been noted particularly in Jewish conversational style, but I’m a shiksa and it’s totally me.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        That’s a pretty strong word, not sure if you know how strong? Like I would say fuck in front of my rabbi, but not that.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Huh, maybe this is different by region or subculture or something? I’ve never understood it to be any stronger than, say, schmuck. I just googled to try to find out more, and I did find some sources saying “yeah, it’s offensive,” but they seem to be in the minority — so there might not be widespread agreement on this one.

          Reply
          1. Manders

            I think it’s a subculture difference. The original translation is really, really strong (like, “abomination” or “impure” level strong), and some groups of Jews still use it that way, but many wouldn’t use it with that level of intensity.

            In my family (all reform or secular Jews) it would be mildly disparaging at most or sometimes even a term of endearment for a non-Jewish partner.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              Huh that’s interesting. I’ve mostly heard it as a quasi joke that’s not remotely a joke, in the context of *really* disapproving of a good Jewish boy marrying a shikseh, with strong overtones of a Jezebel subverting and polluting. It comes out really ugly. But apparently my experience isn’t universal.

              Reply
    2. Manders

      Here’s an article on the “cooperative overlap” style I mentioned above: https://www.thoughtco.com/cooperative-overlap-conversation-1689927

      Here’s a piece about a specific demographic group, American Jews with family from Eastern Europe, who tend to talk this way: https://www.jweekly.com/2000/05/12/interrupters-linguist-says-it-s-jewish-way/

      Here’s the wikipedia article about turn-taking in conversation, with a section about cultural differences: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn-taking

      (I’m not a linguist, I’m just interested in this because I speak in the cooperative overlap style and it’s something I always have to be aware of.)

      Reply
  29. Jesmlet

    I’m an interrupter – I’ll own it. I grew up in a huge extended family where we all jostled to get our points across. If someone is pausing a lot or speaking too slowly, I’ve definitely interrupted them, not so much intentionally, but moreso because my mind gets bored with what they’re saying, something pops in my head that I want to bring up, and I do it before I can think twice. Add it to the list of things I’m working on.

    Reply
  30. Miles

    Oh dear, this could have been written by a coworker of mine as the rest of us have gotten in the habitat of interrupting him. In his case, he’s an epic rambler who will happily monopolize the conversation for ten or fifteen minutes at a time with an incredibly detailed, multi-topic monologue. While the topics are interesting to him, they’re often not interesting to anyone else (details about a report that no one else is involved with, gossip about someone none of us have ever met, a hobby no one else shares) and there’s no room for anyone to interject to change the subject more naturally. Of course it’s still a rude thing to do, but there aren’t a lot of non-rude options for dealing with the issue. I have no idea if that’s what’s happening with OP, but I’d recommend anyone else in the situation to pay attention to body language and conversational flow. If people’s eyes glaze over a bit, or they stop meeting your eyes and their responses shrink down to “oh really” and “yeah” that is a sign that you need to stop talking or change the subject. Also, make sure that other people are talking as much as you are during the conversation and that their responses include things like questions that prompt you to continue before you keep talking on a subject for more than a few minutes.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Haha if the OP perseverates on a topic that’s not of general interest – a specific TV show, a pet, an obscure solitary hobby – that would fit the facts in evidence :) We have a guy like that here, and honestly, you can’t NOT interrupt him and change the subject, if you ever want to get past his fandom theories.

      Reply
      1. Miles

        Obscure fandom theories sounds painful. My coworker once spent 12 minutes listing off companies that make bicycle parts and where their factories are located and whether they have moved in the last 20 years (possibly of interest to another cyclist, but I don’t even own a bike), and another time spent 7 minutes talking about the difference in regulations about running lights on cars between the US and Canada in the 90’s. Even if someone interrupts to point out to him that he’s already told them this particular story or collection of facts, he will just reply “right” then continue on word for word with the thing he already told us. He’s a very nice guy so no one wants to have to avoid talking to him altogether, but he’s a terrible conversationalist.

        Reply
    2. Lehigh

      Yeah, there are a couple of people in my social circles who routinely get interrupted or have people turn away while they’re speaking – they just don’t read non-verbal cues or leave space for the other people around them to talk. No idea if this is the OP or not, but at some point if someone won’t “yield the floor” in a somewhat normal manner most people will either relax their usual standards of non-interruption or will start avoiding that person altogether.

      Reply
    3. High Score

      Ugh, we have one of these where I work, he *knows* everything too. Some stuff I agree with but I avoid the whole area he works in and never eat lunch at the same time in order to avoid getting in conversations with him. It’s tedious having to hear about the best diet, the best way to plant my tomatoes, the only computer to worth having….

      Reply
    4. Nonny

      This. I hate to suggest it, but it should be something the OP considers – is it possible you have a tendency to go on a bit, particularly fixated on one topic?

      The OP’s post could have possibly been written by my sister, if she ever noticed that other people were interrupting her at a certain point and changing topics. She overtakes any conversation she’s in with excessive detail about things others are not interested in, from the dramatic details of trying to change the lock at her apartment, to complaints about work, to her favorite YouTube channels. Last week, there was a 2-hour phone call where I probably talked for a cumulative 10 minutes, and at a certain point I just read my emails while she talked. The only way to get a word in is to interrupt her, and by then it’s usually a desperate attempt to change the conversation to a new topic. Family members have talked to her about this, so I think she may be better with other people (hope so), but it’s hard to talk to her. To some extent, this is a family trait, so I know it’s hard to re-train yourself. But, she takes it to the next level.

      However, I think it’s just as likely there are plenty of rude people around and interrupting you because of cultural norms (including considerations re: gender, race, etc.).

      Reply
      1. I heart Paul Buchman

        I wondered this as well. My husband always interrupts my best friend and I know she thinks it is rude – the thing is that she monopolises conversations terribly and tends to turn every conversation to long anecdotes about her job. She can literally talk for hours on a topic with little input from me. She never used to do this but suffered a trauma and I think she is very anxious and that makes her ruminate out loud. My husband can’t stand it and after 10 minutes or so of polite cues he will interrupt. I think the OP needs to consider if they are ignoring other cues before they are interrupted.

        Reply
  31. Foon

    I “suffer” (for lack of a better term) from the same issue, so I don’t think OP is having a cognitive bias. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and I’ve come to two conclusions:
    1) It’s a confidence issue. There are several ways that low confidence or shyness manifest themselves in your conversations- speaking too quickly or at a high pitch, vocal fry, repeating yourself, stumbling over words or pausing while you think of the correct word, and not enough eye contact. These things can be vicious cycles. I’ve caught myself speaking very quickly when trying to get a message across, and when I asked myself why, I found out that I was trying to avoid being interrupted. Instead of fixing the problem, speaking quickly led to more interruptions because I wasn’t communicating effectively. The increase in interruptions hit my confidence, which led to a mild stuttering problem. After you realize exactly what you’re doing, you can improve with a little more conscious effort. Speak slowly and clearly, maintain eye contact, and remember that you are just as worthy of a person’s attention as anyone else. Remembering to breathe and preparing what you will say before more structured conversations, like phone calls and meetings, also helps.
    2) The people who are interrupting you aren’t making a conscious decision to be rude, they are more likely getting distracted by your verbal ticks, losing track of what you’re saying (it only takes a second!) and trying to recover by introducing a new topic, as they are no longer able to respond to what you are saying. I imagine their stream of consciousness is something like this “Jane is telling me about her weekend. Sounds like she saw the new Marvel movie. Why is she talking so fast? What was the last movie I saw? Oh yeah, John and I saw a Disney movie last month right after he took me to that new Thai place” And then out loud: “Hey Jane, have you tried the new Thai place?” Again, all of this is happening lightning fast on a near-subconscious level.

    I hope this helps!

    Reply
  32. Joshua

    Alison (or others) – I’m interested in the part of Alison’s response that references the conversational styles of different demographic groups and cultures. Anyone have a good resource that might provide greater context into this?

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Manders’ post upthread has some great links; also have a look at Deborah Tannen’s work generally.

      Reply
  33. Minnie

    A loved one is constantly interrupting people. He has ADHD. I will shoot him dirty looks and he now catches them and apologizes. There are just rude people, and then there are ones with million miles an hour kind of brains.

    I personally just give a slight stare down, which tends to cause the interrupter to shrink down to size ;)

    Reply
  34. it's all good

    Any advice for an 11 year old with this problem? Besides the interruptions, sometimes the kids just walk away when she is talking! She is confident and adults often comment how mature and thoughtful she is for her age (when she sees someone left out, she will bring them into the conversation). Is she just too nice? She is so hurt by this conduct.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I think the advice here is relevant; I believe some of us also provided some feedback in the open thread when you posted it (that was you, right?). Did any of that resonate?

      Reply
      1. it's all good

        yes, it was! but I can’t find the post, I did not subscribe to the comments. any advice on how to find it? I could not find a search. I am a new poster, thanks for the help!

        Reply
        1. Elsajeni

          The easiest way to find your thread is probably to hit ctrl+F (or command+F if you’re on a Mac, or… actually I have no idea how to do this if you’re on mobile) and search for the username you posted under.

          Reply
    2. Student

      It’s time to explain to the 11-year-old that different kids mature at different speeds. She should be noticing that some kids are bigger than others – they grow faster on the outside. Similarly, some kids become more mature mentally or socially faster than others. This lasts… a lifetime, judging by my colleagues and friends in their 30s and 40s. So, good for her to learn it now.

      The little kids don’t know they’re being rude, or don’t care. She’ll have to learn not to take it too personally when it’s a limitation of the kid she’s speaking with instead of her social skills, and learn to take the hint when it is her social skills causing it. She’s also have to figure out appropriate consequences and enact them. At her age, it might be saying something she’s practiced in the moment, like, “Hey, it hurts my feelings when you just walk off like that.” Or, realizing it’s time to take a snack break and try again later.

      Reply
      1. it's all good

        good point, I like the analogy to physical maturity, I think she will understand that. I will review with her. Thank you for commenting!

        Reply
    3. Sylvan

      Does she spend more time socializing with adults than with kids? Is she an only child? She shouldn’t lose or change her thoughtfulness, but she might want to think about whether the kids around her are doing anything noticeably different from the adults.

      Reply
      1. it's all good

        Her older sister is in college, so during the school year she is an only child. She is active in girl scouts, musical theatre, etc. so she def. has social outlets to mingle with other kids.

        Reply
    4. Huddled over tea

      If adults think she’s mature and thoughtful, could it be that she’s talking above people her own age? In which case, confidence and maturity might be coming off as insufferable know-it-all.

      It’s difficult because at that age, more of your friends are circumstantial (ie. you’re friends because you’re stuck with each other five times a week) rather than people you would genuinely get along with because of shared interests, similar to work friends vs friend-friends. If they’re not interested in what she has to say, I can only suggest that she finds friends who actually like her.

      Reply
      1. it's all good

        That’s true. Outside of school, she does have good friends that treat her well so I try to get her to focus on that. But being at school she feels left out. I’ve told her when I go to clients it’s the same thing. Everyone has their “friend groups” that they do lunch, etc. with. And it’s ok, because mommy has friends that aren’t at work.

        Reply
    5. Bea

      If she’s being told she’s mature and well versed in speaking to adults,it’s possible the children she speaks to think she’s talking down to them or being bossy. I have a niece who’s smart and well spoken. I’ve heard her talk to others while in the other room, she doesn’t know I’m listening her and she’s a bossy brat trying to pull the “well I’m mature for my age so I’m the leader!”. Most kids aren’t down with it and walk away in a similar fashion.

      Reply
      1. it's all good

        Yes, that can def. be the case. I’ve asked her teacher if she has noticed any bossy tendencies and she no. But perhaps she does and the teacher does not notice. We have role played “ask others something about themselves first, “how was your weekend?”, a complement, etc. to get the potential friend to open up. She said she has done that but when it’s her turn to talk they walk away or start another conversation. We have also discussed taking turns and asking other opinions, just in case she is bossy but doesn’t realize it. She said many times she doesn’t get a turn, they will skip over her :-( (physically she is one of the smallest girls in her grade. Her BFF is almost a foot taller than her. I’d hate to think that has anything to do with it).

        Reply
  35. Argh!

    Let me guess: LW is female?

    Being interrupted is sometimes the result of rambling rather than being cogent and definitive. If people think you have already said whatever would be of interest, they may cut you off because you don’t cut yourself off. Try to make a note of it the next time it happens — write down your last few words, or a note about what you said.

    There’s a lot in the writing style of LW that makes me think there’s some wishy-washiness in communication style. It’s a stereotypical female thing. Note the words that are self-effacing or mitigating your points:

    weird problem in my work relationships … really hoping … people occasionally … I just…smile and go along with it. … I feel stupid … I just assume this new thing must be more important…
    … I’ve kind of always had this problem … really just me… really want to change … I actually fit in … I’m left wondering what just happened.
    … a type of treatment I seem to invite. …I’m wondering …..how to sound decisive … level of respect …

    Some people are just rude. Some people are impatient. I see two possibilities: you’re overly sensitive to the normal range of interaction or you don’t edit yourself well enough.

    I recently asked a coworker about a comment a fellow coworker made to me in a meeting. I took it personally and I was offended, but she’s been in more meetings with him and she said “Oh that’s just Jim. He’s like that to everybody.”

    (IMHO he should NOT be like that to everybody, and we shouldn’t enable his rudeness by putting up with it, but that will be my Friday rant, I guess)

    Reply
  36. Girl in the Windy City

    Oh, OP, I feel for you! This sucks and can be very hurtful. I experience this frequently with my family members and I think in my case they just don’t care enough about what I’m saying to respectfully listen and engage with me. While that may or may not be true in your situation, I did discover something that has helped. I got so frustrated at one point that I decided whenever someone interrupted me, I would stop talking and not come back to what I was saying. (It’s not as easy as one might think.) Most of the time, it’s jarring enough that it makes them realize they’re being rude and they’ll apologize and ask me to continue. I’ve even noticed it happens less frequently now. While I’m not sure why this is happening in your case, it could be worth a try!

    Reply
  37. Eye of Sauron

    So I read and reread your letter. If this was something that you noticed in childhood I’m going to guess that it is something that you may be subconsciously triggering somehow or you just notice it happening to you more than others actively notice.

    I would describe my communication style as rapid fire, I’m one of those people who can have 4 different conversations going and keep up with all of them. I have noticed when others will do as you describe (change conversations while I’m mid sentence) but I pretty much roll with it and jump into the new topic. It really doesn’t bother me. I’m kind of curious how often it happens that I just don’t really notice or care? The only time I would say anything is if it’s work related and I need to get a point across.

    I’m thinking a couple of things might help you with this situation, the first is participating in a group like Toastmasters and the second is learning about the DiSC communication styles.

    If you don’t have a confident speaking style than toastmasters may help you develop one, and hey never hurts to get used to speaking in front of people. I’ve mentioned the DiSC thing here a few times, it’s a bit of a personality type assessment. But more than that it helps you to recognize other peoples styles and gives you tips for effectively communicating with them. For instance, I know that I’m a rapid fire, get to the point quickly kind of person but I can’t expect someone who is opposite of my communication style to interact in the same way. It’s helped me to see the signs of who I’m speaking with to adjust my style a little to be more compatible.

    Reply
  38. Lou

    Not to excuse anyone talking over you but I used to work with someone who talked really slowly and took long pauses. It was deeply frustrating, particular when the conversation was on a frivolous topic, and really stalled everything because it always took twice as long for them to talk compared to everyone else. I know it wasn’t coming from a bad place, but it did lead to people occasionally butting in when they thought they were done.

    Mind you, I say that as someone who always talks too fast the moment any attention is on me, so I’m hyperaware of it.

    Reply
  39. Nesprin

    This might be an opportunity to use ‘um’s. As in, sentence 1 ,ummmm, sentence 2. These much maligned spacer words indicate that you’re not done talking and hold the floor for a minute.

    Reply
    1. The OG Anonsie

      Or at least do something with your body language to indicate you’re thinking and about to speak. I’ve known a few people that will finish a thought, stop, look around at the group in silence for a few seconds, then when someone else starts talking they’re finally getting into their next thought that no one else could tell they were working towards and start talking over that next person.

      I get this is regional, cultural, even individual to some extent. But I also feel like you gotta kinda figure out how to go with the flow of the group. I’m an overlapper and I will talk a lot; When I’m in a group that does not do that, I make sure I’m not plowing over people. When everyone else is springier with their contributions, if you’re a long and luxurious pauser, you’re gonna have to do something that lets everyone else read that you’re still going.

      Reply
  40. Anna

    This may or may not have anything to do with it, but….are you a quiet/low talker? I am and I have the tendency to be talked over sometimes. Thanks to growing up with a couple of family members who have loud voices, I’ve become accustomed to simply repeating myself or re-bringing up my point until others listen or at least I can complete my thought.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      You know it’s true, my sister speaks very softly and I think she’s more likely to be overrun by the rest of us, who are louder. I should watch that better. Somehow her volume subconsciously makes me feel like she doesn’t think what she’s saying is important or interesting, so it makes you feel like she’s ready to change subjects – but I think that’s just her natural speaking style.

      Reply
  41. Eye of Sauron

    I’m curious with some of the suggestions here for people who are talked over, do you repeat yourselves or point out you’ve been interrupted in a purely social discussion? Or do the familiarity of the participants make a difference. Would you call out a spouse/family member vs. a social acquaintance vs. a coworker?

    Is your approach different if it’s a professional discussion vs. a water cooler discussion? I’m seeing some pretty umm… direct statements that I would find really odd in a social conversation. Statements like “Just let me finish my thought”, “I wasn’t finished”, “Let me get this out”. Now I could see some of these in work setting but chatting in the break room about books? I think I would find that a pretty odd reaction by someone. Of course I generally don’t place high value on chit chat so that may be my thing.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yes part of it to me is, what is the point of the communication. If it’s just team build-y chit chat or family catch-up, I would be unlikely to insist on Having My Full Turn in the conversation because the purpose of those conversations is to build social cohesion and bonding, which is achieved whether I share all my exact weekend experiences or not (although, with a loved one who always had this pattern, I would say something eventually before I started to feel disrespected). With a peer or a subordinate in a work setting I would be more likely to say something like, “let me just finish this point,” especially if it was about a work topic and I had knowledge to share. With a boss I’d likely let it go. Most critically, if I was presenting publicly on a topic of my expertise, I would probably be quite blunt if I was interrupted before I delivered my material. It’s all contextual.

      Reply
      1. puzzld

        I get talked over a lot. If it’s just chitchat I tend to let it go. If I’m explaining something to my favorite coworker who tends to head off on a tangent 1/2 way through… I say “LET ME FINISH” and she shuts up, doesn’t hold a grudge. If I’m going to be speaking at a meeting / to a group, I tend to stand up and not yield the floor until I’m done. If there isn’t a podium I’ll write something on the white board, project something on a screen so I can stand up and point to it… If I don’t have a prop, well I have a librarians glare that usually works.

        Reply
    2. fposte

      I think it depends on how you deliver it. A bubbly “Hang on, there’s still more!” and a dive back in is very different from a cool “I wasn’t finished.” Or, as commenter TL has offered, “Wait! I wanna finish my story!”

      I think a big difference is whether you sound reproving or not. If this is just all part of the flow and you’re cheerfully redirecting, it’s not that big a deal; if you’re making it sound like something wrong has happened, that’s going to have a bigger impact.

      Reply
      1. Birch

        Yeah, this. I can’t imagine saying “Please let me finish speaking”–that makes my skin crawl, especially because the times when that’s been said to me has been that someone else interrupted me, I re-interrupted to finish my point, and I took the brunt of blame for interrupting. You just can’t know how the other people are going to view whose floor it was in the conversation, and it’s so easy if there’s any silence at all for other people to think you’ve interrupted them.

        Reply
        1. Marty

          At that point, it is entirely reasonably to get a little annoyed:

          B:
          A:
          B: “Please let me finish speaking”
          A: (coldly) “Frankly, no. And you just interrupted me for the second time in one breath. You can wait until I am done.”

          Calling someone out for doing the very thing they attempted to call you out for is *entirely fair*.

          Reply
        2. Marty

          stupid html angle bracket strip, the first two were supposed to be:

          A: [interrupt]
          B: [polite friendly re-interrupt]

          Reply
    3. Anonygoose

      I call my spouse out on it because he does it frequently, and I know he would hate to think he’s steamrolling me, and he’s improved a lot since I started doing that. With close friends and family I would probably do the same, although it would depend on the importance of what I was saying. With work colleagues, if I was actually saying something important, I would probably just wait for them to be done and then repeat myself with a ‘back to what I was saying…’

      Reply
    4. Sylvan

      I think tone can really soften those direct statements. They don’t come across as harsh or angry.

      I usually don’t say anything if someone only interrupts me a couple of times, or if whatever I was talking about wasn’t very important. But I will speak up if I feel like I’m not being allowed to talk.

      Reply
    5. Marty

      One very useful technique is to do whatever you would have done if they had said nothing. Talk over them as if they had never interrupted you. They will get the message, and it won’t even interrupt their ability to understand what you are saying.

      Reply
    6. Argh!

      I agree. Sometimes in a meeting there will be one person who repeats or rambles and with a limited amount of time, that shuts out everyone else. If the person chairing the meeting doesn’t take control, one of us will interrupt to get things back on track. And if someone really has to (or thinks they have to) get to the end of a long monologue before discussion is worthwhile, then they hate being interrupted.

      There are also people who run together many complicated points, and if they go through the whole thing without letting people ask for clarification or add input, they de facto become The Voice of the Meeting. It’s kind of a bullying tactic, and I absolutely hate it. I’m a colleague, not an audience member.

      In other settings, I try to practice active listening one-on-one, and sometimes that’s interpreted as interrupting. The one person at work who really can’t handle that also happens to be rather narcissistic (and male).

      Reply
  42. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    Hm.

    Do you tend to dominate conversations? That’s when I tend to interrupt people — if I know that Person A will go on for longer than is reasonable or takes up more than his fair share of air time, I will use a strategy of preemptively* short-circuiting their comments to make sure that I or others can fully participate.

    *By preemptive I mean I won’t wait until every comment the conversation dominator makes be long-winded before I interrupt. I’ll actively work to limit his air time and make sure others get a chance to participate.

    Reply
  43. TalkToTheHand

    I work with a woman who constantly talks over me and I almost wrote in to AAM for advice. Fortunately I found out our office was moving – I used to be in an open cube right across from her office door where should could and would overhear and jump in on almost every topic. From restaurant recommendations, local doctors, everything… I’ve got to the point where I try to just finish my conversation but the day she interrupted me giving a new staffer directions to the restroom I finally held up my hand and said “I think I can handle this”. Now that we’re in the new space, and I have an office and a door (heaven!) it’s much better.. until we’re in a meeting… sigh…

    Reply
  44. Student

    Do you engage in conversations, or do you give monologues?

    In a conversation, the person who’s talking changes frequently. You may only get one point or idea out on your “turn” before it’s somebody else’s “turn”. If you’re three points in, you’ve gone on for too long and you should pass the conversation to somebody else. So, you can say, “I thought that movie was great! The special effects in the scene where they’re throwing javelins off the roof of the car were very impressive. What did you think of the movie, Sandy?” You gotta stop after one or two points and engage with other people, even if you’ve got seventeen favorite things you liked about the movie to talk about.

    In a conversation, you also need to listen to what other people are saying, and respond to it directly. If Sandy says she doesn’t like the special effects, but loves the costumes, you follow up with something like, “Oh, which costumes in particular?”. You do that even if you don’t, personally, care about the costumes – to give the other person a chance to talk about what they like and share what they like with you.

    Lots of people are bad at conversations. Lots of people prefer monologues, and just wait their turn to give a monologue, paying little or no attention to what other people are saying, wanting to get all their points out even if the conversation has since moved on. I’m not great at conversations. But, I know that if I’ve been talking for more than 2-3 minutes in a row, I’m giving a monologue and I probably ought to turn the conversation over to others.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      It’s always fascinating to me to break down what feel like instinctive norms into clear rules, for the benefit of people who for whatever reason don’t come by it naturally. I remember someone somewhere describing “levels of friendship” to someone who self-identified as autistic; they were describing what was appropriate for each “level” and how to get from one level to the next. (Also, rules on how long to maintain eye contact in conversations). I’m not autistic but was super charmed to hear something explained that I’d never put into words before. Counting the “conversational turns” feels like that to me.

      Reply
      1. Mad Baggins

        Sounds like Harvest Moon (or Stardew Valley)! Giving someone their favorite thing on their birthday will really up your friendship level!

        Reply
  45. Eye of Sauron

    Ok one last thought. Now I’m sure this was only an example of the OP’s and she’s not guilty of this, but for the love of green apples, please do not tell me the entire plot of a book, movie, or tv show!

    I know people who do this and it makes me want to run in the other direction. If someone asks you about a book you have in your hand it’s ok (and preferable!) to keep it brief. “Oh this, it’s the second of a two book series. It’s a mash up of sci fi/fantasy, dystopia, and Ocean’s 11*. I loved the first one and this one is really good too. Have you read anything good lately?”

    I know people (Yeah mom I’m looking at you!) who when asked if she’s read any good books lately she’ll go into an agonizing book report that brings me back to the horrors of 4th grade when I had to listen to an hour’s worth of kids describing the boring books they’d read. If it’s a good book, just give me the blurb on the inside cover. That way I can read it and enjoy it too.

    *This is a real description I gave to my husband when he asked me what I was reading.

    Reply
      1. Eye of Sauron

        Ha! “Six of Crows” and “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo. I really really suggest the audio version. She has another series in the same universe which is also great.

        Reply
        1. Dr Wizard, PhD

          Nice! Are you a fan of Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” and sequels? Basically fantasy Ocean’s Eleven.

          Reply
  46. mf

    When this happens to me, I say, “Seems like you’re preoccupied, so I’ll come back later.” It’s a polite way of calling attention to the fact that the other person is disregarding me.

    Reply
  47. Wendy Darling

    Some reasons this could be happening, from someone with a linguistics degree who was super interested in interactions between gender/region/ethnicity and language:

    – You’re somehow accidentally signaling that you’re done (long pauses, drop in volume, maybe you’re doing something with pitch that seems like the end of the sentence?) — if you have one or more super honest coworkers/friends you can probably ask them about this. (“I’m noticing people interrupt me a lot — do I do something that makes it sound like I’m done talking in the middle of a sentence or something?”)

    – You talk a lot and this is the only way anyone else can get a word in edgewise. You seem relatively introspective so probably not this? But if you’re worried maybe it is, hit up that brutally honest person you talked to in the last bullet point.

    – You’re a woman and you work with a lot of men. Men can tend to bulldoze women in conversation. (When I was a TA for intro sociolinguistics I always had at least one dude try to fight me about this because his girlfriend talks nonstop. Sigh.)

    – You work with highly prestige-conscious dbags. This isn’t a linguistics observation, but a work one — on one team I was on there were a couple people I described as “climbers” because they desperately wanted to get ahead, be seen as leaders, etc. by climbing the pile of the corpses of their defeated peers. They interrupted anyone who wasn’t their superior CONSTANTLY because they were fixated on being the person who had the ideas and said the smart things in meetings — if you let anyone else get a word in edgewise they might show you up, after all. The only way I ever found to stop them was to say “Cersei, I. WASN’T. FINISHED.” in a voice that was borderline non-work-appropriate levels of pissed off, and that only stopped them for about 20 minutes.

    Reply
    1. Elsajeni

      I also think it could be a perfect storm of a bunch of different factors. I used to have a group of housemates who made me feel like I could never get a full sentence out, and I think that’s what it was, a combination of several things — I was the only woman, I was the newest member of the group and didn’t know them as well as they knew each other, I’m a long pauser, and I was a bit socially anxious and would just cede my turn rather than interrupting back.

      Reply
  48. Danae

    If you’re not going on forever and ever, what I suspect is going on is that you’re inadvertently giving up your conversational turn. English speakers have a few different ways of indicating that they’re done with their turn–pauses, uptalk, certain head movements, directly meeting the eyes of the person you’re giving your conversational turn to. It varies among English-speaking cultures, too. It’s a weird exercise, but if you video record yourself in conversation, you may be able to see when you do this.

    I have the opposite problem. I’m good at holding my turn when I have it (because before I speak I generally have the full sentence I’m about to say in my head, so no pauses necessary), but I have a hard time managing to grab a turn when it comes up, especially when there’s more than one other person in the conversation. My threshold for an “I’m done with my turn” pause is about a half second too long, so if I’m hanging out with people whose thresholds are a little shorter than mine, I can go hours without saying a word and instead using my “I’m interested and present in this conversation” body language (which is generally an adequate substitute for actually speaking, social-participation-wise). Generally, by the time a long-enough pause happens, the conversation has moved on from whatever thing I had a comment about, so I never actually get a word in edgewise.

    I’m on the spectrum, though, so my conversational skills are all very practiced and the result of long study of how humans do conversations. I’m still not great at conversations, but I get by with all of my rules most days.

    Reply
  49. Soft Speaker

    When somebody rudely interrupts me, I just say “Oh, go ahead!” in a polite way as if they asked me whether they could cut in. This works to subtly call everyone’s attention to the fact that they interrupted me without making you seem like youre overreacting. The person almost always will pick up on it and sheepishly apologize.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Oh, that is a good tip actually. There are several social situations where I can see that working well – politely cueing the person that they actually cut you off, and possibly making them more conscious of it next time you’re talking.

      Reply
  50. Elizabeth West

    I have also been interrupted like the OP says. I’ve started paying attention to the way I say things, since I have a tendency to moan about stuff and it happens most often when I’m doing that.

    I’m not saying that’s OP’s issue, but it’s worth having someone trusted to listen in and see if there are any conversational pitfalls. We all have them.

    Reply
  51. Indie

    As someone from a big family of interuppters, there’s a simple test to see if this is conversation culture or power play driven:

    See if it’s ok to interrupt back. If chaos rules genuinely apply, they’ll have one ear tuned to all interruptions which are all welcome. Their interruption wasn’t supposed to signal ‘you’re done now’ but just that they will keep throwing out random thoughts to whoever to show that everyone is welcome to chime in . Power players will usually mow down any attempts to rejoin the conversation again.
    Saying ‘as I was saying’ or even ‘argggh I wasn’t finished’ playfully will be understood by any fast talker from a big family.

    Reply
  52. Safely Retired

    I’ve had that experience plenty. It took me quite a while to realize that I was boring people and they were trying to escape from listening. A quite reasonable reaction actually, as things that interest me often do not interest others, and I am not the best story teller.

    On the plus side it acts as a sort of filter. If someone becomes my friend it generally is a sign that they don’t find me all that boring, which is something you want in a friend! And my best friend, my wife, doesn’t think I am boring at all. (Or she hides it really, really, really well.)

    Reply
  53. JK

    Just keep talking when you are interrupted, and if you get weird looks, just laugh about it like a joke. Usually, the other person will realize and stop and let you finish.

    Reply
  54. nep

    This happens to me but I’ve got chronic bad breath and I’m sure it’s to do with that. People want me to stop talking so they start talking — and I can’t blame them.
    I like what Soft Speaker suggests — making note of the interruption and calling attention to it.
    LW, please update if you’re so inclined.
    All the best.

    Reply
  55. ValancyJane

    Hey LW, I used to have this problem too, and my issue was twofold. Firstly, I was talking way more quietly than I realized. I’ve always been socially anxious and hypersensitive to noise, which led to my inadvertently speaking so quietly that people had to strain to hear. Secondly, like you, I assumed whatever other people seemed to want to talk about was more important. At some point I realized that my thoughts were plenty interesting! and important! and I could just direct the conversation back to what I wanted to talk about! loudly, if necessary! I think that sometimes if someone is a little shy/softspoken/acts like others have the conversational right-of-way, others will pick up on this subconsciously and speak over them without even realizing it. Reevaluating the importance of YOUR words and opinions may be enough to make others listen up.

    Reply
  56. Where's My Coffee?

    Unless you’re friggin’ fascinating, no one wants to hear you for more than 90 seconds at a go.

    Don’t include disclaimers and apologies. This is when many people cut in.

    Reply
  57. Angela Curtis

    I’ve had this problem myself, I found that my problem was that I tended to not project my voice, so people didn’t perceive me as speaking TO them but just generally speaking – particularly in group situations where it might not be clear. I found that working on projection helped a lot except for the sort of standard interruptions that are more common.

    Reply
  58. Greg

    This happens to me as well. Part of it is that I work with a bunch of Israelis (my boss has a go-to joke when he gives a speech: “You do not need to follow the American example of waiting until the end of my speech to ask questions, but I ask that you also not follow the Israeli example and at least wait until the end of my sentence.”) In addition, there are definitely people in my life (my wife being one) who are “Wait to Talk”-ers. That is, they’re not really listening to what you’re saying as they are waiting until the earliest moment they can say whatever it is they want to say.

    All that being said, I do agree with others that it probably has something to do with your communication style. If you speak more assertively, if you don’t lower your tone when you get to the end of a thought (very difficult for me to avoid as someone who generally thinks through my thoughts while speaking), you’ll find fewer people will interrupt you.

    Reply
  59. She Who Must Be Obeyed

    I have a friend who just picks up her topic again where she was interrupted as soon as there’s a break in the conversation…and she’s somewhat long-winded. She doesn’t get spoken over, either; she’s just a slow talker and seems to be done, but is just pausing to…something…so people think she’s done until she goes on after the next break in the conversation. But she acts like no one ever changed the subject. The alternative, of course, would be for no one else to ever talk until we were sure she was finished, but, since there’s really no way to tell unless we asked her to say “The End,” it goes on as is. Maybe you should suggest saying “The End” when you’re done? (Not a serious suggestion)

    Reply
  60. lazuli

    I’ve been facilitating a discussion group, and something I’ve noticed about a few of the participants is that they have long pauses in the middle of their sentences/thoughts, but rush right through what I would think of as normal pauses between sentences. It’s something like, “I was working yesterday and I realized…………….I really enjoy my job I love working with the kids and the parents are so wonderful and I think I want to keep it It’s really important to me to be working at a place………….. where I feel……”, etc. And it’s almost impossible to respond in a way that’s not interrupting, because the conversational pauses are all in the middle of sentences. So it may be helpful to think about where you’re pausing, and whether you’re giving people “room” to respond in ways that don’t cut you off.

    Reply
  61. Noah

    The regularity with which people are not just interrupting, but interrupting to change to a completely different subject, is confounding. I feel like there must be something missing from this letter. I’m not sure what, but it appears to be something OP is not perceiving for some reason.

    Reply

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