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How to Not Interrupt

10 Smart Tips to Curb Your Bad Interrupting Habit

We've all been there — an amazing idea pops into your head and, without even realizing it, you've interrupted whomever is speaking to share your thought. Talking over others stops the flow of conversation and is also disrespectful to the person speaking. This faux pas is forgivable from time to time, but when it becomes a persistent characteristic, interrupting may cost you your job . . . and even a few friends. Along with learning how to be patient, retraining your brain to change how it responds to instant ideas can curb your interrupting ways. Here are a few tips to take into consideration:

  • Write it down: When listening, if a great thought comes to mind, discretely write it down in a notebook while keeping up with the conversation, especially when meeting with senior managers or important clients. Wait for a break in conversation before asserting your opinion or new ideas.
  • Ask a question: Instead of busting someone's talking flow, wait until the end of a thought and share your view phrased as a question. Yes, you're still cutting in, but asking a question creates an opportunity to offer new ideas and thoughts while sticking with the direction of the discussion.
  • Get help: Enlist an office buddy or good friend to tip you off when you interrupt. Come up with a special hand signal or give your helper the OK to deliver a swift kick under the table to curb your interrupting ways.

Keep reading for more helpful tips.

  • Take a breath: The next time you have an idea you can't contain, simply open your mouth and take a quick, short breath. This tricks the mind into thinking that you've expressed yourself, creating a moment to focus and write the idea down instead of blurting it out.
  • Practice impulse control: Keeping your impulse control in check is the key to curbing the bad habit of interrupting. When you have the urge to interrupt, do something to forget. Remove a ring from one finger and put it on another, make an X on a sheet of paper, or simply count to 10 in your head. Before you know it, you'll be able to comfortably control your need to interrupt.
  • Stay focused: If you're in a business meeting and having a hard time keeping things to yourself, focus by taking meticulous notes. While writing down what's happening, include your personal thoughts and unique ideas to share at the appropriate time.
  • Be the best listener in the room: When you get the itch to interrupt, change the focus to the speaker and transform into the best listener in the room. Nod along, maintain eye contact, and lean into the speaker to show you're listening. This encourages the brain to connect with your auditory skills instead of brainstorming.
  • Apologize: The minute you interrupt, apologize sincerely, then immediately stop talking. Acknowledging you've butted in leaves a smart impression. Just make sure to not repeat the mistake.
  • Zip it: That's right, zip it. During important meetings, or even casual lunches with your favorite friends, keep your mouth closed while others are talking. Imagine your lips are permanently sealed until you're asked a question or the conversation is directed to you.
  • Wait for it: Part of being a good sharer is being a smart listener. Focus on the speaker's sentence structure and style of speech. You'll pick up on clues, such as a deep breath after finishing a thought or the shuffling of papers when moving onto a new topic, tipping you off to the right time for sharing ideas and opinions.
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