Etiquette Questions, Answered: Social Situations
Can I Correct Someone for Interrupting Me?
Q. How should I handle people who interrupt me when I’m talking?
A. There are a number of reasons why folks may interject themselves compulsively into a conversation. Maybe they’re anxious, or they’re overly eager to signal that they understand what you’re saying. Or they’re convinced that if they don’t talk over others, they won’t be heard. In fact, I know a recovering Interrupter who claims that when he was a child growing up in a boisterous family, cutting off another speaker was the only way to get a word in edgewise. Over the years, he has taught himself to be a good listener because he realized it’s deeply irritating to others to deal with someone who won’t wait his turn to talk, no matter what the rationale—or the rationalization—for interrupting may be.
The good news is that you can see an Interrupter coming a mile away: He tends to radiate impatience. You can certainly try to avoid him. But if you can’t and he interrupts you (surprise, surprise), be courteous and let him finish his thought. When there’s an opening, say, “If you don’t mind, I would like to go back to what we were talking about earlier.”
Once you’ve said your piece, you can add this flourish: “I’m sorry for jumping back in. I just wanted to explain myself fully before we all moved on to another topic.” With any luck, he’ll look chastened and think twice before he pipes up again.
Of course, you don’t need to apologize. But by being overly polite to the overly rude party, you force him to join you on a higher plane of discourse, rather than being dragged down to his talk-at-any-cost level.
Far from boring, this go-to neutral can take any room to new stylish heights.