Excuse Me While I Interrupt

Posted by: Shel 14 Comments

Excuse Me While I InterruptThere are good interruptions. Such as: “We interrupt this commercial to give you great news.” Or when the bleeding of a wound is interrupted by the wound being staunched – a life-saving interruption. But many interruptions are just plain rude. And while rude is rarely good, it’s even worse when directed at our spouse – the other half of our life team.

Here are some web definitions for ‘interrupt:’

  • to prevent or disturb
  • to barge in (on)
  • to hinder continuity
  • to cut in (on)

Whether physically or verbally, would we appreciate someone barging in on us, cutting in on us, preventing or disturbing us, or hindering the continuity of what we are saying or doing? I’ve actually heard people say: “I quietly interrupted him. . . ” If we use one of the alternative expressions, does that even make sense? Can one ‘quietly’ barge in on someone? Is it okay to ‘quietly disturb’ or ‘quietly hinder someone’s continuity?’

Interrupting people while they are talking is generally rude. It doesn’t matter what our intention is. Whether it’s just a bad habit from lack of focus on the other, we assume we know what the other’s point is, or we’re just anxious to get to our own point, the end result is disrespect. It’s a way of demonstrating to the other that you don’t care about what they have to say because clearly whatever you have to say is more important. That’s a hurtful message to send your spouse.

And it’s not just interruption during a conversation that can be offensive. Do you ever bellow a question to your spouse from a different room – totally oblivious to what they may be doing? And then get self-righteously annoyed because you don’t get an immediate response? Because the question we are asking is obviously more important than our mate’s train of thought on whatever they’re writing, reading, or watching, right?

We’re not talking about having to wait through a movie marathon to ask a question or waiting until they finish a book to share a funny anecdote from our day. We’re just talking about being a little more considerate toward our spouse. Can the question wait until a commercial? Will the anecdote lose any of its humor if we let our mate enjoy a little winding-down time with the newspaper? If, like me, you believe the likelihood of actually remembering what you intended to say is drastically reduced by every passing minute, write it down  and put it in a spot where you can’t help but see it later.

One solution for breaking the habit of interrupting during conversation? Have a prearranged code word you can say to the other when interrupted. A silly word like ‘scallywag’ or ‘bubbliscious’ so one smiles when it’s said instead of feeling admonished. An even better solution? Focus on listening to what the other is saying. It just might change the response you were planning to make!


 Related post you may find of interest: Laudable ListeningIntroverted, But Not Shy – Does Your Mate Need Space?

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  • What a wonderful, powerful post, Shel! You hit the nail on the head with this one, which is better than the fist in the mouth of those who interrupt! I forwarded this link to a good friend whose turn it is to host the St. Patrick’s Day brunch…and that, for her, is a nightmare. Her husband’s mother, sister and brother interrupt every sentence before my friend can finish. I think this will give her some insights.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks for sharing, Marylin. Maybe your friend can ‘accidentally’ leave a copy of it at her in-law’s!

  • Kay

    You gave me a laugh about “talking to slow”! As much as I hate to admit it, I have been one of those rude people who has interrupted others, and then had to apologize. I am trying to do better, and after reading this blog, it has inspired me to work even harder not to interrupt people. Thanks!

    • Shel Harrington

      At least you apologized – many are oblivious to interrupting because they’re so focused on what they want to say. I still struggle with the urge to “help” somebody finish up their thought when they’re taking (in my opinion) too long state it. I’m a work in progress!

  • ahhhh great add! Knowing not to interrupt is one thing, then knowing how to deal with it when it happens is gracefully is another. Such a sweet,smart article, Thanks Shell!

    • Shel Harrington

      You’re right Marie – handling interruption gracefully is a challenge. It’s so easy (and oh-so-tempting) to out-rude the rude one!

  • I am not a natural interrupter, but my husband is and it’s rubbing off on me. Plus, our current house is a little too large so we both tend to call out to each other and need to hear back right away so we know where the other one is in the house!
    Love that interruption of a show with good news–yeah right! haha

    • Shel Harrington

      We do that, too, as we move through the house. “Where are you?” I’m not sure why – it’s not like we haven’t seen each other quite recently! We also announce when we are NOT going to be able to respond – as in “I’m going downstairs” or “I’m running the trash out” or “I’ll be in the office.” It’s a courtesy I enjoy and would miss if we didn’t stay plugged in that way.

  • I think interrupting not only indicates “interrupters” consider what they have to say is more important, it also indicates they aren’t truly listening in the first place. They are already thinking ahead to what they want to say.

    • Shel Harrington

      I agree – another rude behavior that many of us fall into. I really think it’s a rare person that is listening to the extent that they are not also (or only!) planning their response. I’m trying to cultivate my own listening skills – the effort it takes to really focus tells me I have lots of room for improvement!

  • My best friend of over 40 years has a terrible habit of interrupting when I’m speaking. I tend to over look it because normally it’s because she gets so excited during our conversation, I don’t think she even realizes she’s doing it.

    • Shel Harrington

      I can relate to that. 4 out of 5 times I roll with it, but every once in a while snarky me pops out and I say something unnecessary like: “I’m sorry – was I talking to slow?”

  • How do I deal with being rudely interrupted? Well, um, I get rude right back, especially when it’s my family who’s interrupting me. Yes, this is embarrassing to admit, but you asked! Over the years my husband and I have learned to ask each other, “Are you talk-able?” before launching into whatever we wanted to say. We’re not always perfect at doing this, but when we remember, it really helps.

    • Shel Harrington

      I usually say “Can you hear me?” knowing darn well he can but giving him an opportunity to process that a question is coming. I like your way better, Maria – it gives the other an opportunity to say “give me a few” or whatever the real answer is thus avoiding the resentment of having to switch gears when they don’t want to. I think I’ll adopt that – thanks!

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