5 Ways to Respond the Next Time You’re Interrupted

November 18, 2019

5 Ways to Respond the Next Time You’re Interrupted

You’ve been working on a new idea. It’s something you’ve researched for weeks and you’re confident it can make an impact. 

As you begin to explain your point of view, you’re cut off right. The conversation gets derailed. 

It’s infuriating. And when it turns chronic, it’s demoralizing. 

But don’t back down.

To rebalance the dynamics of a conversation, you need to be your own best advocate and take action to rectify the situation both in the room and after the meeting ends.

5 Ways to Respond Next Time You’re Interrupted 

#1 Confront the issue one-on-one

It can be difficult to accept criticism, especially if done publicly. Instead of calling out the grievance in a group setting as it’s happening, which can put people on the defensive, schedule a time to discuss the problem in private. 

Especially when you’re dealing with someone who isn’t consciously aware of their actions, this approach can foster a more candid and constructive discussion.

For instance, Rezvani shares a story of working with a woman named Simone who was chronically interrupted by her manager. When Simone confronted him privately, he apologized. Then he took it one step further, apologizing for his behavior in front of the entire team. 

In advocating for herself, Simone prompted a behavior change in her manager that would also have a positive impact on everyone he worked with. 

#2 Address it in front of the group

If interruptions are rampant, you may need to call out the interrupter in front of the group. Just be sure to do it in a non-judgmental way. 

Keep your comments based in fact, like “That's the third time Michael got cut off” or “I'm not finished.” Your goal is to speak up in a way that gets you heard and maintains your reputation as a positive team player. 

If you do confront the interrupter in front of the group, be sure to also circle back and check-in one-on-one. Especially if the interrupter felt attacked or singled out, this extra step to gauge how they’re feeling models good listening and will help the person still feel part of the team. 

#3 Carry on speaking

What? Keep right on talking? 

That’s right. Your perspective is just as important as everyone else’s, and repeat interrupters need to know it’s not okay to diminish your contributions. 

Resist the temptation to stop, yield, or give your attention to the intrusion. Instead, affirm your voice by continuing to talk.

If you carry on talking and still feel invisible, try talking louder to “regain command of the room,” says Rezvani. 

#4 Make your body language count

There’s a lot of information on the importance of body language in making a positive first impression and projecting authority and empathy

You can also turn up your body language to fend off interrupters. Rezvani recommends using  physical signals like these: 

  • To communicate you’re not finished speaking, raise a hand or finger to indicate “wait” as you carry right on talking.

  • If you’re sitting, stand up to make yourself more conspicuous.

  • If you need to stay seated, turn your torso to face each member of your audience. 

  • Spread out papers or files in front of you to claim more space.

#5 Find an ally

Maybe you’re not comfortable confronting the person directly or maybe you’ve tried this and still, the problem continues. Dealing with interruption isn’t a battle you have to wage alone. 

Look for an ally—a teammate or manager who can back you up. Maybe it’s someone with a good relationship with the person or the same seniority in the company. 

Share what you’ve observed and encourage your ally to use phrases like “You keep interrupting people” or “The way you’re speaking is making me uncomfortable” in the moment the interruption occurs.

Remember to approach the situation with empathy, because chances are, the interrupter doesn’t realize what they’re doing. The end goal is to help the interrupter change their behavior and help make everyone feel on the same side of making the workplace as productive and inclusive as possible. 

Check out Being Your Own Fierce Self-Advocate with Selena Rezvani for more ways to adopt a self-advocacy mindset and stand up for yourself every day.

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