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I am the youngest and the least experienced member of my team of eight. Everyone else has at least six years' experience.

I have been observing that, for a long time now, whenever I try making a point in my meetings or want to share something, my team members won't let me finish. I am very aware of the fact that somehow whenever I am talking - whether my points or views are relevant to the topic or not - somebody in the team cuts me off and does not let me finish.

I really want to know how to politely stop them again and tell them that I was making a point and to let me finish. This keeps happening over and over again. What can I do?

  • 5
    Bring a conch shell to the next meeting. When you are interrupted, hold the shell over your head and say, "I have the shell, I get to talk." Most will get the literary reference, but those who don't will soon learn of it, and NO ONE will ever forget that moment. Won't ever be a problem again. – Wesley Long Jul 13 '14 at 1:39
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    I see this happen when people are bad at communicating. Particularly when they don't ever seem to get to the point. Then when someone "thinks" they know where the person is going they interrupt and try to say what they think the other person was trying to say, only more succinctly, rather than keep everyone suffering. Rather than blame others, first look at yourself. Do you ramble or make your points short and succinct? It is hard to interrupt someone who makes good, short and succinct statements. You are always free to expand upon your statement afterwards if others are interested. – Dunk Jul 14 '14 at 16:15
  • Hi, i did and do introspection before thinking outwardly on the problem. and i respect your judgement that we must first figure out if the problem is within oneself. but its more about the domain knowledge and experience that probably gives them the need to talk when i am saying things. also, later when i try to expand on what i was saying, they dont lett me break in. we have ramblers in our team who people dont interrupt!! i wonder how they r doing it! – nysa Jul 14 '14 at 16:36
  • @nysa:My guess would be either those ramblers have already established that they won't be interrupted with the team or they have earned the team's respect with their knowledge that the team is willing to wait for the rambling to be done. Nothing works as well as having people confident in your judgment in order to get them to listen. Maybe it'll just take time for you to build up your credibility. Of course, if there's a number of people who take over the conversation then you are going to have to learn to play that game also. You can always let them talk then say "I'd like to get back to...." – Dunk Jul 14 '14 at 19:31
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Go straight to the point, avoid long introductions. Try to express your opinion in a single sentence. This way you have a better chance to attract your colleagues attention. After that you can explain what you mean but again keep it to the point.

Another thing you might want to check is your tone. Record yourself - imagine this is your last meeting and record what you wanted to say. Then listen to it. Do you sound confident? Is it boring and making you sleepy? If your tone is too flat you might want to work on it. Do your speech again, modulate your voice, stress on the important things. Restructure your speech if necessary. For example, if you say "There are 3 problems we have to solve" and then state the problems briefly, it makes it easier for the others to follow what you are saying.

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    Agreed, if you are always taking too long to get to the point then of course you are going to get interrupted. Nobody wants to sit and listen to someone rambling on waiting for them to get to the point. Perhaps try making the point first, then give any background info/reasoning after. At least then you've made your point instead of getting cut off trying to make a point. – Dunk Jul 14 '14 at 16:05
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When you are interrupted, speak up and say "Excuse me, could I please finish what I was saying?"

I don't know if you're a woman, but this commonly does happen to women in the workplace (and outside of it), as described here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/10-words-every-girl-should-learn_b_5544203.html

Male or female, if you're being interrupted regularly, it's important to learn to speak up for yourself. And the best way is really just to call attention to the fact that you were just interrupted, and you'd like to finish your statement/recommendation/thought. Most people don't realize they are doing it until you call them out. Politely, always, of course.

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    Listen to recordings of Margaret Thatcher speaking in Parliament. She was constantly interrupted, and said every time "please let me finish", over and over, till they did let her finish. – RedSonja May 22 '15 at 10:36
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Be aware that this can sometimes be cultural. The length of pause indicating an acceptable break-in point can be anywhere from zero-to-negative (in New York) to 2 seconds (in the Midwest), and folks may be completely unaware that they're doing it. The rudeness of interrupting also varies. Standard recommendation for Deborah Tannen's book, That's Not What I Meant!, which provides some insight into this kind of variation and suggestions for dealing with it.

And as others have said, if you're interrupted that's implicitly permission for you to interrupt back, including to say "hey, I'm not done; let me finish."

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Given that all your team-mates do this, it is likely either triggered by something you do without knowing it, or has become a cultural norm in the team. You don't need to figure out which one to solve the problem.

Back in the days of newspapers, reporters would submit a story and then editors would decide how much of it there was room for. So a 12 paragraph story might run as 12, 11, 7, 4, or even 2 paragraphs. Editors didn't have time to rearrange the story either, so it had to be written in a way that still made sense no matter how short it was cut. Lead with the important thing, then add details, any of which can be chopped.

You can take this approach in meetings. Start with the conclusions - "I can do that", "it will take 3 weeks", "the client hasn't told me yet", "it's all on schedule" and then add details in bite size chunks, pausing occasionally to see if that's all your teammates need. If they then pick up the thread of the conversation, it doesn't mean they interrupted you, it just means your turn served it's purpose and now it's someone else's turn.

Saving your best point or conclusion for last leaves you frustrated when your turn ends before you got to make your best point or conclusion. Turn that around and you won't mind so much when someone else starts talking.

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    I only read the first paragraph of your answer, and I'm afraid I'm left none the wiser by it ;-) – Steve Jessop Sep 25 '14 at 0:35
  • Valid point, I didn't write the answer in that style :-) – Kate Gregory Sep 25 '14 at 2:17
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Pick one of the 6 and ask them one on one. They might not be aware they are doing it. Or they might have advice on how to deal with it. Or the person you ask might be willing to look out for you on this issue for a little while to help make things better.

Repeat as needed until you get to someone where it works.

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