“Stop interrupting me! You always do that! Let me finish my thought!”
“Well, get to the point! We don’t have all day! I know what you’re going to say anyway.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”
Interruptions! They happen all the time. Some are helpful and some are not.
Interrupting seems common in close relationships. Sometimes it’s even endearing that we can finish each other’s sentences—while the other person is trying to finish it too.
A mother and her adult daughter asked for a meeting with me regarding some financial and health challenges they were having. At some point I asked the daughter to share her thoughts. She was cheerful and articulate, but if she slowed down during her responses her equally cheerful, yet anxious, mother would interrupt and answer for her.
This happened repeatedly. The daughter wouldn’t stop her mother nor was she irritated with her mother for taking over. Also, the daughter never interrupted the mother.
They declared themselves best friends. But I left wondering if their closeness and tolerance of the interruptions was contributing to their life challenges.
Why did the mother feel the need to interrupt? And, why do we interrupt?
Some possibilities are: anxiety, arrogance, helpfulness, time, training, culture, and necessity.
Anxiety says, “If I don’t interrupt, this conversation may wander, ramble, or get boring and we’ll never get out of here.”
Arrogance says, “I know what you are trying to say. Plus, I can say it faster and better.”
Helpfulness says, “I can save you from the pain and struggle of finishing your own thoughts so I’ll speak over you and for you.”
Time shouts, “If we don’t interrupt we’ll be here all day. We got a lot to do! Let’s get them to the point.”
Training teaches, “It’s my job as a parent, teacher, or leader to direct this conversation and bring it under control.”
Culture claims, “We’ve always interrupted. That’s just how our family, friends, people are. We know what we’re saying and we are doing just fine. Stop interrupting our familiar, time-honored ways.”
Necessity asserts, “Interrupting saves lives. When someone is being hostile or harsh sometimes it is important to stop them by interrupting. Interrupt by saying their name (Frank! Frank! Frank!…) or title (Sir! Sir! Sir!) over and over until they say “What!?” That will give you a few seconds to make your next life-saving move.”
Wisdom reasons, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.” ― The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis.
Thanks for letting me “interrupt” your day!
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