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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Get interrupted less. Here's how.

Updated: Feb 27

Mr. Fintech kept interrupting me. It was like he couldn't stop. At lunch with friends, I'd been asked to share about the keynote I'd given the day before. As my subject was "Strategies to Contend With Bias in the Workplace," the ongoing interruptions were a little ironic. To be clear, both women and men interrupt women twice as much as they interrupt men. The good news is, just reading that line will make you more conscious of who and how you interrupt. 

Women interrupt frequently to reinforce, ask for an explanation or supply a word or phrase someone is looking for. Gender researchers have a name for that kind of interruption. (I think they have a name for everything.) They call them cooperative interruptions. 

This was not that kind of interruption. Mr. Fintech did what is called aggressive interruption: he just took the floor. 

Research by Debbie Tannen, the leading world expert on gender, shows women get interrupted twice as often as men. According to research by Washington State University, female supreme court judges were interrupted three times as much as their male colleagues, including by their direct subordinates. So yes, this happens at every level. 

Other forms of aggressive interruption include dismissal, topic change and summarization that paraphrases and minimizes the speaker's point. Have you experienced those?

But before you get upset about this, here's some good news: you can learn strategies to help you contend more effectively with interruptions - even with a host out of control fiasco.

1. Ask for what you want in advance. "Hey everyone, let me finish the big picture of the strategy before you jump in with questions or ideas. Cool?"

You are mid-presentation, now what? 

2. Just keep going. I've seen this baby used to wonderful effect by the ex-head of the Israel Women's Network. Two people tried to interrupt her simultaneously but she just kept calmly sailing on. No drama. She didn't speed up, take offence, raise her volume, nada. She just kept speaking. Debbie Tannen recommends this one. 

3. Call it. "Hey Josh, thanks for that thought. I'd like to finish the whole plan before we open it up to discussion, ok?" You could call him out - and I have a variety of colorful suggestions for how to do that but public cursing is unlikely to yield the results you want. 

4. Let it go. You don't have to fight every fight every time.

I used all of these at lunch that day. To preserve the relationships at the table, I took the fourth. I let it go. What helped me was my partner met my eyes and raised his eyebrows to say, "Isn't that what you were just talking about?" 

5. Have speaking strategies in place that help you command the table with more confidence. 

If you are looking for strategies so that you speak with confidence and clarity at work even in impromptu settings, let's chat. If you already know you want to change the way you talk so you get interrupted less, click here now:

And, obviously, if you notice you are a frequent purveyor of talkus interruptus, give her a chance to be heard. 

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