Being interrupted in full flight

From Bryn Glover, Kirkby Malzeard, North Yorkshire, UK

“May I report a highly effective way to counter interruptions while talking?

“In the 1980s, I sat on the council of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs trade union in England. Meetings were always attended by the extrovert and voluble general secretary, Clive Jenkins. He would frequently interrupt speakers during what were otherwise disciplined and strictly non-interrupted meetings in order, as he put it, “to be helpful and progress business”.

“One member, who seemed to be interrupted more than others, developed the technique of instantly stopping speaking and waiting in silence until Clive, with his usual sweet smile of acknowledgement, had finished.

“She would then immediately continue speaking at precisely the same point in the sentence she had been delivering when interrupted. There was never any loss of sense, grammar or syntax. It was as if the interruption had never occurred. This was so effective that it eventually cured Jenkins of his habit. It is a very difficult trick to carry off, but it can be devastating”. (New Scientist, March 10, 2018)

One of the things that always brings me up with a jolt is when you are in the mid-sentence and your listener’s phone goes off, or there is a similar interruption. Then, at the end of the telephone call your listener totally ignores the fact that you were speaking and changes the subject totally, as if you had never opened your mouth.

I fear we are all sometimes guilty of this, myself included – it is probably not deliberately rude, just a matter of lack of attention. Should one simply stop worrying about it, or should one be developing the above technique of resuming precisely where one left off? Or am I a boring my listeners out of their tiny minds? (Will have to ponder that!)

Epicurus was, apparently, a good and attentive listener, whose popularity was based, not only on what he had to say, but the courtesy he showed by scrupulously commenting on the views of others. It helps cement relationships.

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