I Wasn’t Finished! How to Work With an Interrupter

Woman in suit with hands in T formation like timeout

You’re explaining your point of view in the middle of an important meeting with your team, and then bam! A co-worker interrupts you and starts on their own tangent, moving the conversation away from your initial point. You might feel frustrated, confused, or stifled. Depending on how the conversation progresses, you might not get the chance to speak on your original topic again. Working with colleagues who constantly interrupt you can often result in longer meetings and conversations, lingering resentment, and a chaotic environment.

Some life science professionals might not think it’s a big deal if a co-worker constantly interrupts them. They might not want to “rock the boat” or make a scene in front of others. However, if you are not effectively communicating your thoughts, ideas, and solutions to problems it's harder for you to be noticed as a key contributor on your team. This can lead to you being passed over for promotions, raises, and interesting projects. Here is how to work with an interrupter and make sure you’re getting your point across.

Say, “I wasn’t finished.”

During meetings and conversations, it is common that others may become so excited they start adding on to your points, expanding on them, or moving the topic in another direction. Sometimes this is harmless and you can easily jump back into the conversation. In different instances, the interruption could be counterproductive. At that time, it's helpful to be vocal and say something along the lines of, “I wasn’t finished with making my point.” This gives you the opportunity to interject and redirect the conversation. Have confidence and make sure that your tone is firm, but doesn’t sound rude or emotional.     

Talk to the interrupter privately

If you’ve noticed a pattern, and one person seems to be consistently interrupting you, take a moment to speak with them privately. Let them know that while you appreciate their enthusiasm on a topic, your ideas are being cut off when they interject before you’re done speaking. Thinking about a few examples before having this conversation is also beneficial, in case the interrupter says they don’t know what you’re talking about. You want to remain calm and avoid an argument. The goal of you speaking to them is to help them be aware of how their interruption affects you and the team. You might also want to mention that you wait patiently to talk only after they are done, as a sign of respect.     

If it persists, talk to your boss

Unfortunately, the interruptions by your colleague may persist despite your conversation with them. If this continues to occur, consider speaking with your boss or manager about the situation. Mention that there have been times when your ideas and thoughts can’t be heard due to consistent interruptions. Also, say that you’ve spoken to your co-worker one-on-one about their tendency to interrupt, and it hasn’t made a difference. Then you want to stop talking and listen, even if there might be an awkward silence. Give your boss a chance to collect their thoughts, because they probably weren’t expecting to hear about this issue. Be open to any suggestions they may have and avoid sounding overly negative.

Figuring out how to work with an interrupter can be challenging. If you have trouble getting your thoughts out in a professional group setting, it can influence your career growth within an organization. You must have the confidence to address the situation directly. If you’ve been interrupted and see the conversation going in a different direction, let the group know that you weren’t finished making your point. If the same co-worker seems to be interrupting you, pull them aside for a private conversation to discuss it. Finally, if the pattern of interruption continues, talk to your boss about it. Remaining calm and collected during your conversations is important so that you’re taken seriously. How have you handled an interrupter in the past?     

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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