Even leaders can be confounded by exactly when and how they should interrupt others.
Here are four situations and a short guide on the art of interrupting.
1. When it’s your turn to speak. “Hang on” is a good way to avoid interruption when you’re not done speaking and you’ve taken care not to interrupt anyone else. Keep your tone light. Instead of putting up your hand in a “stop” sign, point up with one finger.
The fuller version is: “Hang on. I know you want to make your point, and I want to hear it, but I wasn’t quite finished.”
2. When they won’t let anyone talk. The chronic interrupter waits only a few words before cutting in to repeat the same thought. If you find yourself in the interrupter’s grip, use this magic phrase: “I’m getting the impression you don’t think I’m listening to you.”
3. When a meeting veers off course. In this case, step in and redirect the proceedings. Begin by saying, “I’m going to interrupt you.” That should set the tone—and your tone depends entirely on how heavy or light the situation warrants.
Then say, “That’s important but not everyone here needs to be in on it, so let’s take it offline.” Or, “That’s important, but we need to stay on topic for now.” And, “Can we follow up tomorrow?” or “I’d like you and Peter to follow up on this.”
Be both firm and encouraging.
4. When supporting words actually interrupt. Call this the noninterruption interruption. It happens when a listener is overly eager to agree and encourage, saying things like, “Absolutely” and “I know just what you mean.”
This can cause the speaker to lose his train of thought or pull back so the enthusiastic listener can tell her story.
Instead of voicing encouragement, the listener should lean in, nod and smile.
— Adapted from The Wow Factor, Frances Cole Jones, Ballantine Books.