How to Deal With Chronic Interrupters and Get a Word In

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Whether you're at work, having dinner with the family, or sitting on the couch with your significant other, everyone has experienced being interrupted at one time or another. You may even be guilty of it yourself.

While an occasional interruption while you're talking might be annoying, it probably doesn't really phase you in the grand scheme of things. But if you're dealing with a chronic interrupter, that is an entirely different story. The constant interruptions can start to wreak havoc on your relationship—especially if you feel like you never get to finish a thought.

Why People Interrupt Others

Let's face it. Everyone wants to feel heard. And if you feel like you're not, then it can begin to erode the relationship. 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.

Some tendencies to interrupt stem from cultural differences and family backgrounds. Interrupting just seems natural to them. 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 the control in the conversation.

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.

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.

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.

But regardless of gender or who is doing the interrupting, 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.

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. 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.

How to Cope With Chronic Interrupters

The reality is that there are only so many interruptions a discussion can take before it ceases to be a discussion. For this reason, chronic interruptions are conversation killers that disrupt a healthy exchange of information. After all, if everyone is talking, then no one is listening.

Consequently, it is important you know how to handle frequent interruptions before they completely erode your relationship or your work environment. Here are some tips for dealing with chronic interrupters in your life.

Address it 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 and stipulate when would be a good time to ask questions or break-in.

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 to produce 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 behavior instantaneously.

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.

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.

Be open to feedback from the interrupter about your communication style as well. It could be that you are being interrupted because you are not giving anyone else the space to share their ideas as well. It also helps to have confidence when you are talking. People are less likely to interrupt when you are speaking with authority.

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.

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.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.