The Number One Listening Turn-Off

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Meredith Bell, President of  Performance Support Systems, Inc.

I was trying to have a conversation with this person.

But I found myself getting irritated with one thing he kept doing…interrupting me in the middle of a sentence and talking over me.

It became impossible to carry on a conversation because it seemed like I was never able to articulate a complete thought.

two-men-interrupting

This is an extreme case, but unfortunately, interrupting is a common occurrence.

We all do it at times. We get an idea while someone else is telling their story, and we blurt out what we want to say whether the speaker has finished or not.

So how can you avoid falling into this trap?

The first step is to catch yourself doing this. If you quickly apologize and stop talking, there’s no harm done. The speaker can pick up where she left off.

The problem is, you may be oblivious to this habit. And you could be ticking people off without realizing it.

This happened with my business partner Paula and me a few months ago. Since we’re a small company, we each juggle a lot of balls. And when we get on the phone to coordinate our projects, we’re moving fast. If one of us is talking and pauses for a second to catch our breath, the other sometimes jumps in too quickly. Or interrupts mid-sentence.

Fortunately, we both became aware of this unproductive pattern at about the same time. We discussed what we were doing – and why – and agreed to work on recognizing when we were doing it as we were doing it and give each other real-time feedback.

This solution has worked well. She’ll say, “You’re interrupting me” if I speak over her. I apologize and shut my mouth immediately so she can finish her sentence. And vice versa.

But that kind of exchange doesn’t happen often.

Instead, people raise their voices in an effort to be heard. Or the speaker may shut down and give up, deciding it’s not worth trying to finish.

The result is that what needs to be said doesn’t get said by the person who wants to say it…or heard by the one who needs to hear it.

Just a few vital reasons why you need to stop interrupting if you exhibit this habit:

  • You may miss important information that the person needs to tell you.
  • You send a message to others that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say.
  • You don’t learn anything when you’re speaking.
  • You’re communicating that you don’t have the patience or self-discipline to wait.

These behaviors push people away and damage relationships.

Start monitoring yourself during conversations. If you find yourself about to jump in before the speaker has finished talking, stop yourself. Focus on the words and meaning of what’s being said. You’ll be less likely to jump in with your own opinions if you’re trying hard to understand theirs.

“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
-
Deborah Tannen, Author and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University

 

by Meredith Bell, President of Performance Support Systems, Inc.
Performance Support Systems, Inc. (PSS) is a software company based in Newport News, Virginia.
Their goal since 1987 has been to create assessment and development resources to help people become stronger for work and life.  You can subscribe to Meredith Bell’s Golden Eggs ezine on this page.