11

I have noticed that many of our analysts and techs can be disruptive in meetings. When someone is talking, the tech may interrupt that person, speaking loudly. Even though they are speaking about the topic at hand, I feel that it's not polite.

I'm junior in my workplace, but I am bothered by this. I might feel the need to deal with it soon. How should I let them know my feelings?

  • 5
    Is the fact that they are talking loudly the problem, or is it the fact that they interrupted someone else's explanation during a meeting? Those are two different things IMO. – Brandin May 28 '15 at 9:27
  • They interrupted someone else's explanation during a meeting. – Jude Niroshan May 28 '15 at 9:36
  • 3
    By the way there are a number of styles to "get one's turn" during a meeting. Although I'm a fan of the "raise your hand" approach to gain the floor, it is often more effective to try to take the floor whenever you have a chance. It's possible that the analysts you're describing are the steal-the-floor types. They may not mean it in a rude way. But you may have to push back occasionally and insist "Excuse me, I wasn't finished yet." – Brandin May 28 '15 at 9:48
  • 5
    As someone who is prone to steal-the-floor I can confirm I really appreciate it when somebody calls me out on it. It makes me acutely aware of the situation, and allows me to correct my behaviour. – Martijn May 28 '15 at 10:35
  • 2
    If the point of the meeting is to come to a resolution, I will interrupt if I think the other party is not on point or I think the other party is going round and round. I am an "I've seen enough, I've heard enough, and I've had it. Let's get it done" type. – Vietnhi Phuvan May 28 '15 at 10:57
12

There are several things that can come into play here.

First extroverts tend to interrupt as part of their ordinary way of doing business. This tends to make introverts more uncomfortable as they tend to prefer not to interrupt. You are not going to change people's basic personalities. You can learn to live with the interuptions understanding that to them there is nothing rude about it, they get excited about an idea and just start talking. There will alwys be at least some level of this in a group with extroverts. I bring this up becasue not all interupting is meant to be rude, just a differnt way differnt personality types communicate. Doesn't mean they can't learn to hold back some if they are out of hand, but there will always be some level of this type of interuption and if the end result is a good brainstorming session, then I wouldn't worry about it.

However, there is interupting that is rude and meant to shut down the other person. If you think the interuption is trying to do that, then you can speak up even if it is not you being interrupted. If it is someone else being interrupted and you want to go give them support to say what they want to say, then you interrupt the interrupters with, "I want to hear the rest of what Kathy was saying." If you are interrupted and don't want to be, then say, "Excuse me, I wasn't finished yet" and start talking again. Try to do this realtively infrequently and only when it seems to be important. Otherwise you can come across as looking like the rude person.

There is also interupting to get a person back on track or to get someone to stop talking about something that shouldn't be brought up. This kind of interuption is valid and entirely correct. This interuption is about managing the flow of the meeting to make sure the right information is being covered. Usually it happens when someone has gone on and on and on and is thoroughly off the topic or when someone looks to be saying something that might be confidential.

So basically use your judgement about interruptions. Sometimes they are productive and sometimes they are not. You need to learn to recognize the times when interruptions are just part of the process of throwing out ideas and when they are being used legitimately to get the discussion back on track and when they are being used to prevent certain people from contributing. Watch people's expressions/body language to see if they feel annoyed or put down. Watch for patterns. Does a specific person always get interrupted and shut down. (This tends to happen to women in mixed groups.) Does the interupter then proceed to suggest the same thing the interrupted was saying in order to grab the credit?

  • 1
    If you are the one talking and someone interrupts you there's no harm in interrupt them by saying "I'm sorry, can I just finish what I was saying?" I have no doubt that the extrovert will be understanding. You can do similar if someone else is talking. Don't let them interrupt, interrupt them saying "I'm sorry, can you just let Jenny finish talking? I'm really interested". Make it a point to express how you're not mad at them and understand their urge to participate, but that you want whoever is talking to finish first. And then when they're done, prompt the extrovert to say what he wanted. – bpromas May 29 '15 at 18:26
  • @BrunoRomaszkiewicz, the problem is when you do that every two minutes, it becomes tiresome and you are the one who gets viewed negatively. I reserve that action for when it is most important so that they know I am not just being a pain and take me seriously. – HLGEM May 29 '15 at 19:23
  • Also the more senior you are the more often you can do it. The meeting organizaer is perceived as keeping teh meeting on track if he or she does it. – HLGEM May 29 '15 at 19:24
  • I butt heads with the "Excuse me, I wasn't finished yet"-persons often, because more then often they're: "Monologue-guy", talking way too long and trying to cover so many bases that need a reaction, that basically the rudeness is on them. You have to actually keep notes to react to a person like this. – Pieter B May 29 at 8:29
4

It depends on the situation/interruption, but usually you don't want to say something immediately (I assume we're talking about meetings here):

  • They could be interrupting you because they find you don't go deep enough into some detail. Let them explain the basics and if you planned to come back on this later on (e.g. because extra background is useful) then just say so. Otherwise let them talk.
  • They could maybe see already some huge issue with your explanation. Same thing applies, if you already thought of it, shortly explain or say you'll come back to it. If you didn't think of it, this is the right moment to discuss it because the whole remainder of your talk could be rendered useless by the outcome of this discussion.
  • They might think you ramble. E.g. by going too much into trivial details that everybody already knows, repeating the same thing 10 times, ... . While it's maybe not the most polite thing to do, remember that time is money and meetings cost tons and tons of money.
  • It might of course be that they just thought of something and wanted to say that quickly, it can even be completely unrelated to your current expose and you should see this happen with other talkers also. I see this all too often in brainstorm meetings. The best you can do is to have a talk with the person organizing/leading the meeting. They might take action to bring more structure in the meeting, but be prepared, they might just as well say "that's how we work and it has proven efficient to us". Next to that, try to hold your thought so you can pick up your topic later again.

If it's less of a discussion and more of a presentation, just say in the beginning: We'll have an extended Q&A/discussion afterwards (or at regular, predefined intervals), please hold your questions/comments for now.

And if this is really just the way meetings work in your team (again, not necessarily a bad thing), try to get used to it. I know it's certainly not easy as a junior team member to speak up in a meeting, but remember that the seniors wouldn't have asked you there if they didn't think you could contribute!

2

I'll try to give some extra input as a participant, a meeting moderator every once in a while and also as a person who has a tendency to interrupt (but I am fighting it).

As a participant you can say to the person interrupting: "Wait a minute I want to here what name wanted to say". I find it polite and helpful.

As a moderator you can help by stopping the conversation when X or more people (my X is 3) are talking at once, and giving the floor to one of them.

And on a personal note since I tend to interrupt (I come from a big and loud family :-)), I really appreciate it when someone tells me: "Please, let me finish". It makes me notice my behaviour

1

If you are not the one being interrupted, then you should not do anything. "Coming to someone's rescue" isn't going to win you any friends in the room.

If you are the one being interrupted, you can try to stand your ground and say something like:

Excuse me, I didn't finish my thought. (and then continue)

Interruptions in business meetings are frequently power plays.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.