Interruptions: tips on how to stop them

May I report an effective way to counter interruptions while I am talking?

In the 1980s, I sat on the council of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs trade union in the UK. 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 as 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.

From Bryn Glover, Kirkby Malzeard, North Yorkshire, UK. (published in the New Scientist).

My take: Some people assume a conversation to be competitive – who can “win” the debate and best persuade the audience. This attitude starts in childhood, and is very British. The habit (really annoying, and one I used to be mildly guilty of) gets back to upbringing. Glad to hear that a public figure (which Clive Jenkins certainly was, in England) was capable of absorbing the message.

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