Stress Management Understanding the Psychology of Interrupting How to Deal With Chronic Interrupters By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert. She's also the former editor of Columbus Parent and has countless years of experience writing and researching health and social issues. Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 29, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk, "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight Constant interruptions can be difficult to deal with, but understanding a bit more about the psychology of interrupting can help you cope. Recognizing why it happens is a great place to start, but it is also an excellent idea to have a number of strategies prepared to help deal with the chronic interrupter in your life. A discussion can take only so many interruptions before it ceases to be a discussion. For this reason, chronic interruptions are conversation-killers that disrupt a healthy exchange of information. Here's what to know and do when people interrupt you. The Psychology of Interrupting Everyone wants to feel heard — but if you don't feel you are, the relationship can begin to erode. After all, consistent interruptions by the same person not only feel like a lack of respect for you and your thoughts, but they also demonstrate apparent self-centeredness. Interruptions also can make you feel insignificant and unimportant—that what you are trying to say isn't worthy of being listened to. Knowing some of the reasons why people engage in this type of behavior can help you better recognize the psychology of interrupting and strategize ways to manage it. Culture and Family Background Some tendencies to interrupt stem from cultural differences and family backgrounds. Interrupting just seems natural to them. A Need for Control Meanwhile, other interrupters are impatient, goal-driven people who like to get straight to the point. And their way of making that happen is to interrupt and usurp control in the conversation. Excessive Excitement Some people interrupt because they are so excited about what you are saying they cannot wait until you finish to contribute their thoughts and feelings. Lack of Awareness Likewise, many chronic interrupters have no idea they are even doing it. To them, interrupting other people is what makes the conversation interesting and dynamic. Gender Differences Interestingly, men interrupt women more than they interrupt men. For instance, a study from George Washington University found that men interrupted women 33% more often than they did other men. According to the researchers, during a three-minute conversation, men interrupted women 2.1 times. By contrast, when speaking with men for the same length of time, they only interrupted 1.8 times. Meanwhile, women on average only interrupted men once. Effects of Interrupting While you might understand the psychology of interrupting can help you make sense of it, it is also important to consider the effects that it can have on conversations and relationships. Undermines Respect Regardless of who is doing the interrupting or why they are doing it, the reality is that at the moment when an interruption occurs, the interrupter is communicating that their question—or what they have to say—takes precedence over your thoughts and opinions. Asserts Power Additionally, whether they are aware of it or not, chronic interrupters are asserting their power, their knowledge, and their ideas at your expense. And in extreme situations, interrupting can be anything but altruistic. Potential for Abuse In fact, interruption is often a tactic used by emotionally abusive people who use it as a way to assert dominance and control. For this reason, it's important to know how to handle interruptions with grace and dignity and still be able to get your point across. Of course, you might be able to use this same tactic with a partner by saying something like, "There are a lot of different parts to this story; so bear with me. I want you to be able to grasp the entire picture before you ask questions, OK?" Give the interrupter the benefit of the doubt. Some people simply do not realize that they interrupt as much as they do. And, if you frame your thoughts objectively, it's more likely to produce behavioral change. How to Deal With Interrupting It can be helpful to have a few different strategies in place to help deal with constant interrupting in different situations. Address Interrupting Before You Start Talking If your chronic interrupter is a coworker, it might be helpful to address interruptions before they even occur. For instance, before giving your presentation, you can preview what you plan to say andstipulate when would be a good time to ask questions or offer comments. If people do interrupt while you are talking, you could remind them that there will be a point for them to ask questions or make comments in a few minutes. Of course, you might be able to use this same tactic with a partner by saying something like, "There are a lot of different parts to this story; so bear with me. I want you to be able to grasp the entire picture before you ask questions, OK?" Discuss the Interruptions During a Neutral Time Whether your chronic interrupter is someone on your staff or your partner at home, it is a good idea to discuss the interruptions at a time when you both are calm and objective. Talk to the person about what you've experienced and explain how it affects you using "I" statements instead of pointing the finger or making accusations. It's also important to give the interrupter the benefit of the doubt. Some people simply do not realize that they interrupt as much as they do. And, if you frame your thoughts objectively, it's more likely toproduce behavioral change. Decide How to Handle Future Interruptions Once you have had a discussion or two about the chronic interruptions, you need to think about how you will respond when it happens again—because it will. No one can change a pattern of behaviorinstantaneously. As a result, when you are interrupted in the future, you have several options. For instance, you can ignore the interruption and keep talking; you can stop talking altogether, or you can ask "May I finish?" and then continue on. You can even walk away from the conversation if you want. The key is that you are prepared ahead of time on how you will handle interruptions, maintain focus, and not let them derail you. If you allow interrupters to hijack the conversation, there is no motivation for them to stop what they are doing. They are still getting what they want when they interrupt. One Helpful Tip If people interrupt you during a presentation or speech, try reminding them that there will be a point for them to ask questions or make comments in a few minutes. Consider Your Own Communication Style Take a good, hard look at how you communicate. Do you share long, drawn-out stories? Could you be succinct and to the point? Perhaps your communication style could be changed or improved to deter interruptions in some way, especially if you tend to monopolize the conversation. Learn Assertive Communication In 5 Simple Steps A Word From Verywell Be patient as you work through interruption issues. Changing behavior and communication styles takes time. But with persistence and patience, you might be able to have more balanced and effective conversations. After all, everyone in the conversation benefits when people feel heard. Frequently Asked Questions What is the psychology behind interrupting? People interrupt for a number of reasons:In many cases, the need to complete a train of thought leads people to interject comments at inappropriate times. At other times, interrupting can be a way to contribute to a conversation to help demonstrate that the other person is listening.In some instances, people interrupt as a way to assert power and attempt to dominate the conversation. It is also important to note that people with certain mental health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, are sometimes more likely to interrupt. What is it called when someone constantly interrupts you? This behavior is often referred to as chronic interrupting. In cases where that person constantly changes the subject to talk about themselves, they might be referred to as a conversational narcissist. Why do I unintentionally interrupt people? There are a number of reasons why you might interrupt others without meaning to. Some possible explanations include:Fear of forgetting: You might interject because you are afraid you'll forget your comment before you get another chance to say itLack of awareness: You might not realize that you are interrupting the conversationExcitement: You might feel so excited about what you want to share that you cannot hold back your commentsA need to belong: A desire to be included in the conversation and feel like part of the group might lead you to accidentally interruptBeing talked over: You might also interrupt because it is the only way you can get a word in over the constant interruptions of others How Poor Communication Causes Stress 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Hancock A, Rubin B. Influence of communication partner's gender on language. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 2014;34:46-64. doi:10.1177/0261927X14533197 By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert. She's also the former editor of Columbus Parent and has countless years of experience writing and researching health and social issues. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.