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Your Office Coach

Save your precious time by learning to interrupt well

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Q: “Can you suggest a nice way to interrupt during a business conversation? For the past week, I have been meeting with vendors who hope to sell their products to our company. Some of these people spend a lot of time chatting or giving me unnecessary information.

“I am a polite and courteous person, but this is sending me over the edge. These incessant talkers are wasting time that I do not have. How do I get them to focus on the business at hand?” Trapped

A: You have not only diagnosed your own problem, but also identified the solution. Most people held hostage by long-winded conversationalists are simply being too polite. They believe interrupting would be rude, so they wait for the person to finish, silently gritting their teeth all the while.

The quick fix for this predicament is learning to interrupt in a courteous manner. When a long-winded vendor reaches the end of a sentence, you should immediately jump in and gracefully redirect the discussion.

For example: "Bob, let me stop you there for a minute. Since we have limited time, I want to be sure we review all the price and delivery options. What information do you have about that?"

An even better strategy, however, is to take control from the beginning. As the buyer, you hold the "power position" in these meetings, so you have every right to define the agenda and manage the time.

Start by saying "Here's what I'd like to cover today," then list the points you want the seller to address. To speed up a sluggish conversation, offer a gentle reminder: "Since we only have 15 minutes left, let's talk about contract terms."

Most vendors will appreciate this guidance, because they are eager to make a good impression. Annoying a potential customer is the last thing they want to do.

Do you have co-workers who overshare? Perhaps they should take this Quick Quiz: Are you guilty of TMI at work?

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