Stress Management How to Deal With Chronic Interrupters By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 24, 2022 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, Editor-in-Chief Print Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight 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. Address Interrupting Before You Start Talking If your chronic interrupter is a coworker, it might be helpful toaddress interruptions before they even occur. For instance, beforegiving your presentation, you can preview what you plan to say andstipulate when would be a good time to ask questions or break-in. If people do interrupt while you are talking, you could remind themthat there will be a point for them to ask questions or make comments ina few minutes. Of course, you might be able to use this same tactic with a partner bysaying something like, "There are a lot of different parts to thisstory; so bear with me. I want you to be able to grasp the entirepicture before you ask questions, OK?" Discuss the Interruptions During a Neutral Time Whether your chronic interrupter is someone on your staff or yourpartner at home, it is a good idea to discuss the interruptions at atime when you both are calm and objective. Talk to the person about whatyou'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 theydo. 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 happensagain—because it will. No one can change a pattern of behaviorinstantaneously. As a result, when you are interrupted in the future, you have severaloptions. For instance, you can ignore the interruption and keep talking;you can stop talking altogether, or you can ask "May I finish?" andthen continue on. You can even walk away from the conversation if youwant. 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 theconversation, there is no motivation for them to stop what they aredoing. They are still getting what they want when they interrupt. 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. Why People Interrupt Others 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. 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. Learn Assertive Communication In 5 Simple Steps 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. 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. How Poor Communication Causes Stress Sources 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 is a published author and a bullying prevention expert. 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.