What do you do when you get interrupted?
- Do you get quiet? And then get mad at yourself for not speaking-up?
- Do you shut down internally and then start listening to the “committee” in your head that says, “Maybe what I was saying wasn’t that important?”
- Or, do you get angry and speak louder, hoping you can finish your thought, and talk over the interrupter?
Most of those strategies don’t help us stand-up for ourselves or boost confidence. And, they don’t work.
Here are some strategies that do work.
# 1. Among your colleagues and clients, know the “players” & prepare for the “interrupters,” those people who typically dominate meetings and shut people down.
# 2. Talk with your co-workers ahead of time and brief them on your message. Then, they can support you or bring you back into the discussion, if it gets hijacked.
# 3. In meetings, either in-person or virtually, speak early, speak clearly, and be brief. The average human attention span now, is only 8-seconds. So, there’s no time to verbally process your thoughts. You’ll lose people. So, get to the point.
When it’s a new situation for me or I don’t know the “players,” and I get interrupted, the first time, I’ll let it go. If it happens again, I’ll say, “Morgan, I’ll finish my point, then
I’d love to hear what you have to say.” And then continue your thought.
Do not apologize by saying, “Oh sorry. I’m almost finished.”
And don’t use “hedges.” That’s what linguists call those sneaky, weak, add-on words like, just and you know and, “Is that OK?” For example, “Sorry. You know, I just need a few more minutes. Is that ok?”
Instead say, “Chris, hang on. . . I’m finishing up.”
Studies show that when you use someone’s name, it activates a unique part of their brain that gets their attention and can stop them from talking long enough for you to make your point.
The key is practice.
Rehearsing these short, powerful sentences over and over, gives you time to hear the words come out of your mouth. Then, in a real situation, when you are interrupted, you will have heard yourself speak-up before. And, then, you can do it again!
People will begin to think of you as assertive and confident. And, you won’t be cut-off as often.
For the next 30-days, practice. . . in front of the mirror, in the car, or with a colleague or friend. (They’ll probably want to practice, too.)
And, then the next time you’re interrupted, you can speak up with confidence.