Why We Need To Stop Interrupting People When They Speak

Picture this: You’re sitting with your friends in Peirce, maybe in one of your dorm rooms, having a conversation. You are all engaged and excited to share how your day is going, or show everyone the funny cat video you found earlier. Perhaps you are having a more serious, intellectual conversation about feminism or cultural appropriation or support systems for LGBTQ+ youth. (These are all conversation topics I have experienced at least once recently, if not multiple times, so I promise you, it happens.) Every person wants to share their side of the discussion, and sometimes you are so eager to respond to something you just have to interject and say what you have to say right then and there, while it is on your mind.

Suddenly, you’re fighting to be heard over those around you. You want to be the first to respond, sometimes speaking up before the person to whom you are replying has finished their thought. There is a fear that what you have to say will become irrelevant, so the solution is to say it right now while it fits with the conversation.

 

As someone who is interrupted too many times in a week to count, it is disheartening, disappointing, and overall annoying. As someone who also struggles to have their voice heard, I understand this compulsion to get your words out there however possible since getting the courage to actually speak your mind is only the first step in responding to something in a discussion.

I would be a hypocrite on many levels if I said that I never had problems with holding my tongue when someone else is speaking. You want to speak because you think it will add to the nuance of what they are saying. Perhaps you are fairly forgetful (like I am) and want to comment or introduce your anecdote before you have forgotten it or the conversation moves past the possibility of its introduction. You want to share, but sometimes you struggle to do so. While I understand why people often do thisand I will say that most of the time, people do not notice when they are interrupting someone else speaking because it is habitualthat does not mean this is something we should not be noticing. Cutting this habit can help us to be more respectful to our friends now and more professional after graduation.

 

I will admit I never thought about this much until about a year ago. I have a vague memory of some adult in my life throwing around a study about how people our age are more likely to interrupt someone’s speech than those from older generations, and that we need to learn to wait to speak now before we get hired and accidentally interrupt the boss in a major meeting because we youths don’t know any better. I am likely exaggerating a bit, but you understand where I am going with this. It is true that this person’s conclusion was rude and degrading to young people, I would agree that the people within my own age group are more likely to interrupt other people in conversation. While interrupting my friend’s story about cute cats is not important, if I maintain the habit of interrupting others while they speak, there can be repercussions outside my friends being annoyed with me. As someone who has been on both sides of this situation, if I want to be treated better and not be interrupted as much, I should meet people halfway and show them the same courtesy.

As young people, we can often be the most vocal about what we believe. We are so eager to speak our minds, to be heard and be a part of the conversations about which we are passionate. Especially around our friends, we want to be heard by those we love. It can be hard to think outside of what drives us and our choices, but if you are annoyed when you are interrupted, your friends are likely thinking the same thing when you interrupt them to include your point of view. It is kinder to them to let them speak, and once you begin pointing out what they are doing, they might start noticing it as well. You will both be striving to change and to be better.

It seems like it has already been decided that this is something we youths do, and we have to accept that the way to fix it is to just stop doing it. Like breaking any habit, it is not that simple.

I have been working on breaking this bad habit since I began noticing it, and it is not easy. I am trying to fix it on both sides, so my approach to the problem is a little more complicated sometimes. When I interrupt someone, it depends on when I notice it. If I notice right away, I apologize and let them finish first. If I notice in the middle of what I am saying, sometimes I will sum up really quickly, acknowledge that I interrupted them, and let them continue if they wish. The most important thing is to acknowledge what you did, to apologize and then keep moving forward.

 

When someone has interrupted me, it becomes more challenging. If it is something I didn’t care about that much, I usually let it go. I know. If I am writing about wanting to be heard, why am I not always fighting for my voice? Sometimes, it is what it is, and it’s best to just let it go. When it is something I am excited about or I am telling a story I enjoy, I get far more frustrated by the fact that I was interrupted. It makes me feel as if what I have to say is not as important to them as their own words. This in turn makes me feel that I am not that important to them. It hurts.

I have also noticed that who interrupts me alters my reaction to the behavior. I have a few friends with whom I am completely comfortable saying “Wait, I was not finished yet.” Sometimes, I will let them interject and when they finish, I’ll say “Yes, I see your point, but if you let me finish what I was saying, I’ll get to that as well.” But I have realized there are others that I am less comfortable with doing this, which has perplexed me. Does it mean there are people in my life with whom I am happier to concede to? What does this say about my relationship with them? And how can I try to break this down for both of our benefits? All I can think of is to strive not to discriminate between when I take action and when I do not. It’s about equal response to every person, and thus affecting a real change on both sides.

I am well aware that as a woman, I am more likely to be overlooked, pushed aside, or taken less seriously than men. I have to fight to make my voice heard and to ensure I am being given equal attention for what I have to say. It is true that we need to pick our battles. There is a time and a place for calling people out and bringing up things that bother you with your friends. But it is also worth fighting for your right to be heard. I believe that when you are respectful of others, you will be respected. Speak your mind, but let others do the same.

 

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