One of my clients raised an interesting problem recently. What do you do if you tend to fill in people’s extended pauses between thoughts? You want to jump in to fill the gap—but you know that interrupting risks alienating the other person. Try any of these five tips:
- When you realize you are with a slower or more thoughtful speaker, take a mental deep breath and prepare yourself to wait until he/she is finished speaking.
- Use a physical silencer. Keep your lips closed. If your mouth is open, it is more likely that you will speak. Hold a pen in your hand and squeeze it rather than speak when you have the urge to interrupt
- Count “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi” to yourself before speaking. By then, the person will likely have moved on.
- Have a pad with you and jot down what you want to say in notes rather than speak. Then, when the person is finished, you can talk.(This one worked really well for my client.)
- During a long pause, politely say words to the effect, “I have a thought about that. Can I share it with you?” If they are not finished speaking, they will tell you. If they are finished, they will say yes. In either case, your respectful interruption will be received more favorably than a simple cut-off to his/her conversation.
Do unto others…
Recognize that people, including you, have different speaking/thinking paces. Respect that difference in others, just as you would want them to respect your pace. Even fast talkers/thinkers--possibly like you--hate being interrupted!
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