Being Interrupted While Talking Can Be Harmful To Your Relationship, Explains An Expert
We all have at least one pet peeve and mine is being interrupted while talking. I just find it quite ill-mannered; maybe it’s the way I have been raised. Ever since childhood, my parents and teachers (yes, I was a goody goody girl who paid attention in school) taught me that you are not supposed to cut a person off when they are talking. And to date, I listen intently and apologise if I end up interrupting them and ask them finish.
It’s just a thing with me – I cannot connect with a person who is a bad listener. And for me, someone who doesn’t let you finish two sentences without interrupting you is a big bad listener. Of course, that irritated me a lot but today I stumbled upon an Instagram post by Alexandra H Solomon, Ph.D., Professor and Psychologist at Northwestern University and it just helped me delve deeper into this glitch in our connections.
Turns out, it is a big deal and it can hamper a couple’s connection. “Interrupting someone is a boundary violation of sorts, one that interrupts understanding, connection and trust,” the quote read along with a long caption explaining it.
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“Interrupting is a common relational behavior, and how we perceive it and react to it is context-dependent,” Dr. Solomon wrote.
She further explained there are two kinds of speakers – high intensity and low intensity. Depending on what kind of a speaker you are, it affects how you perceive the interruption.
Dr. Solomon explained high intensity speakers actually welcome interruption. “These folks are uncomfortable with moments of silence in conversation and consider talking at the same time a sign of engagement,” she wrote. Low intensity speakers on the other hand “find simultaneous chatter to be rude and prefer people speak one at a time in conversation.”
She says that a high intensity speaker doesn’t mind being interrupted as long as you are agreeing with them. Dr. Solomon wrote, “If you’re a high intensity speaker, you likely don’t mind being interrupted, so long as the other person is agreeing with you and amplifying what you’re saying.” However, if you are a low intensity speaker, even that will not be welcomed. “If you’re a low intensity speaker, even that chaps your ass. But people in both groups agree that when the interrupter is changing the topic or raising their voice, it sucks,” Dr. Solomon explained.
I guess I belong to the low intensity speaker category because if someone has a habit of interrupting, I just stop talking much and just listen. I mean, it feels like a task to put one point forward and I don’t have the energy for that. “I’ve seen many conflicts escalate when people are interrupting each other. I’ve also seen conflicts head down gnarly side streets when people fight about what counts as interrupting. Perceptions of and reactions to interrupting are, to some extent, idiosyncratic, so couples must create ground rules,” Dr. Solomon advised.
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However, somehow, with this post I realised that although it is annoying I can show a little empathy to the interrupter. They are probably just trying to be enthusiastic and they don’t even know that’s annoying unless you’ve already told them. Being interrupted while talking isn’t pretty but it’s important to try to see things their way as well.
“Maybe in your partner’s mind, when they jump in, they are showing their enthusiasm and empathy. But if you tell your partner it feels rude to you, then your partner’s work is to practice letting their face, not their voice, show their investment,” Dr. Solomon wrote.
However, she said that on the other hand, the speaker must be mindful about just how much time you are taking. See, it’s supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue. If you need that time and space to rant and just be heard, it’s alright. But it cannot be that way all the time. “One more layer. If your partner agrees to stop interrupting, I want to encourage you to be mindful about how long you hold the floor. Your partner may be interrupting bc they feel you are going on a bit too long and not leaving space for their perspective or questions. I don’t want to put a time limit/word count, but it’s important to attune yourself to your listener,” Dr. Solomon explained.
She suggested the speaker must be able to gauge the engagement of the listener too. “How engaged do they look? How much space are you making for them? What’s driving you to talk right now? What are you afraid might happen if you give your partner the floor?” she wrote.
I believe our conversations can make or break a connection and being interrupted while talking definitely doesn’t build it. Honestly, being heard is really important and that helps you feel safe enough to open up to someone. “How we manage the process of a conversation can build or erode trust. If we agree to stop interrupting, we must also agree to share responsibility to ensure everyone is heard,” Dr. Solomon concluded.
So it’s important for both partners to be heard and have the opportunity to speak. That may seem like such a small thing but I believe it really enhances your connection.