Readers, can you help us solve a problem???
I received this email from Betty:
“John, the 10 questions for better communication in your blog titled Why don’t THEY communicate better? is Just More Blame really helped me. They also made me reflect on a communication problem we’re having: People who interrupt. Two team members in our department frequently interrupt colleagues during meetings, including the director, who is our boss.”
After reading the rest of Betty’s email (below), essentially describing four scenarios, I couldn’t resist titling them. So the headings are mine, while the descriptions are hers.
Let’s continue with her email:
1. Give Up, Give In: When interrupted, the original speaker immediately stops speaking and allows The Interrupter to have the floor. We never get back to the first person’s point unless someone says, “Joe, what were you saying?” and with a grateful look “Joe” begins to share again.
2. The Bulldozer Effect: Some people, when interrupted, feel compelled to keep talking, getting louder and louder. They then run right over The Interrupter to block them from taking over.
3. Accountability Shifting: The Interrupter starts talking over you—or jumps in when you take a breath—and as you continue, it begins to appear that you are the one interrupting the person who actually interrupted you when you hadn’t finished speaking yet!
4. Confusion and Chaos: When The Interrupter interrupts and the original speaker keeps talking, the room becomes divided. Some folks keep listening to the first speaker, some start listening to The Interrupter, while others look back and forth not knowing who to listen to!
I have confronted one co-worker on this behavior a couple times and the response I get always sounds like this:
“Ohhhhh, I know I do that … it is soooo bad of me. People have told me that before. I even do it to my family!”
Okay, I think, then how about changing!?!
John, I believe that this interruptive behavior is really hurting our team. At the very least, it is discourteous and rude.
What is to be done with people like this?
My return email to Betty focused on the director—the team’s leader—who should confront The Interrupters on their negative behavior. As we write about in the Outstanding! book, management “sets the tone.”
However, in the spirit of the QBQ! book and its message of PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY, Betty can’t change her boss. So, since most of our readers work on a team somewhere, this is the question:
What should Betty do?
Please share your recommendation below!