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Don’t interrupt me!

We all bring habits formed in childhood to work with us, some helpful, others not! Interrupting can be one of the most dangerous to your career. Whether you like it or not, when you interrupt someone, you are sending one or more of the following messages:

  1. my time is more valuable than yours
  2. you don’t know what you’re talking about
  3. what you are saying is unimportant
  4. I want to be in control
  5. I’m impatient
  6. I’m not a listener
  7. my emotional control is limited
  8. my situational awareness is limited
  9. my potential is limited
  10. it’s all about me

speedbump for the mouth

Yes, there are times when it’s appropriate to interrupt. In many circumstances, it may be perfectly reasonable for your boss to interrupt you for reasons one through five.

But, it’s not okay for you to interrupt your boss, a customer, or a hiring manager in a job search interview for any of those reasons.

Yes, some people talk a lot. Sometimes you need to interrupt to do your job. Practice interrupting politely. Say the person’s name, reflect back what you just heard and then move the conversation in a new direction. For example:

“Santa, I hear you saying that we need to build more Jack-in-the-Box’s  because kids love them — and I want to… but the thing is, we need more little metal boxes, so if you can help us find more we’ll get right on it!”

When you can do this skillfully and your situational awareness is high, then by all means, interrupt when necessary. Just make sure you know when and why you interrupt, that you are choosing to do so instead of interrupting habitually and/or for the wrong reasons. Know yourself, know the risks and balance them.

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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  • I feel that employees should not interrupt anybody unless it is very important to do so. This doesn’t only apply at the job, but in any circumstance as well. I detest the fact that someone would think that their time is more valuable than anybody. Although some people may have higher positions than others, I feel as if everyone’s time is equally as important. If I were to be a boss, and someone were to interrupt me where it wasn’t necessary, I would automatically start regretting the decision that I hired that person. Interrupting is a huge sign of the person not having respect for both themselves and others.

    I have never been the type to interrupt people because personally, I view everyone else in this world just as, if not more important than me. There is no one whom I would feel that is less important than me. I think others should also grasp on the idea that there should be no one who they would consider less important than them. People, especially employees should not interrupt unless it is truly necessary.

  • Working as a technical assistant for the former real estate commissioner of Pennsylvania, I never stopped to discuss alternative solutions to his problems. I have only listened and executed the assignments he gave me. However, after several weeks, I figured that the way he wants me to work is not optimal. So one day while he assigned me several tasks to perform, I interrupted him and asked him if he would like to perform a task differently. With my suggestion in mind, he gave me the freedom to perform the same job, but in a different way. Soon enough, this alleviated the workload, and allowed the both of us to feel more at ease.

  • Retail is the one job that tests how strong your manners are, especially when it comes to interruptions. One statement I was taught really quick was, “The customer is always right”. No matter how many times they interrupt you or say something they believe is right, you always have to agree with them. The customers are the one bringing the store business, which means they are top priority.

    When I was a sales associate at Polo Ralph Lauren each day was a challenge. No matter how rude a customer was to me I treated them with the best manners and respect. When I was working at the cashier during one of our discount weeks. I got interrupted by customers left and right telling me that the item they chose was on sale. I would answer as nicely as possible explaining their situation and how the discount did not include that particular item. To make the customer feel important I would ask them to show me where they saw the particular sign stating the discount.

    The concept of interrupting is one that should not be taken lightly. Without interrupting in any conversation makes your character as a person so much greater. You will gain the respect of your boss.

  • When I started working at my job my my gym, I was talking to one of my clients. I was trying to make myself sound important and professional. I think I was doing it very well. I was demonstrating my deep knowledge of fitness and how they could implement it in their lifestyle when, without any signal, my boss jumps in front of my and starts talking to my client. I am baffled, but what am I to do? He is my boss. I turn around and silently shuffle off to my desk, watching his guide my client away from me and make his own profit.

  • I try and leave my bad habits like easily being annoyed at the door. I realize to get further in life I have to listen to others and think before I talk more.

  • As a young person, I find it very useful to look up social norms in specific places (such as the work place) because different places have different to-do’s and taboos. Articles like these help not only young people, but any novices find a more easier way to transition to professional settings.

  • I really appreciated the lesson on Networking. I’ve always felt insufficient in this area. Listening though, this is the simple yet complicated to find answer I had been looking for. Too many time I find my self purposelessly interrupting others while they talk. I’ve always thought it to be “helpful interruptions”such as the agreeing nod of my head, or the smalls sentences to voice my agreement. This whole time I thought I was helping and yet it seems as though I was more pushing the speaker in the other way. So from here out I commit to practice truly listening, not going over what I’m going to say when they proposition me with a question, not wondering if they approve of my attire, but actually listening.
    Thank you Eric Shannon for your advice.

  • I wholeheartedly agree that one accomplishes much more by listening than by interrupting, and that when interrupting is necessary it must be done politely.

    I’ve learned this lesson by working as a student caller at my university, where I make phone calls to alumni and friends of the university and ask them to donate to the school.

    I always begin the phone conversations with rapport, and I’ve found that I have the best conversations when i let the prospect talk about himself or herself without interruption. I also sometimes reiterate what they say to show that I am listening.

    Even when people tell me their complaints about the university, which are not under my control, it is still important that I listen to what they have to say. Sometimes, when the complaints turn into a rant, I have to find a way to tactfully interrupt while still letting them know that I’ve been listening.

    This practice is also important when I ask for pledges, because when I receive objections to the initial amount I ask for, I must pay attention to what their specific objections are so I can let them know that I understand and can find alternative payment options that may be more doable for them.

  • I have to watch myself in this category. It’s not that I am trying to be rude to people, it’s just my brain runs really fast and I tend to finish peoples thoughts because I am trying to speed things up. I know that sound rude too, but since I am aware that I do this I can keep the interrupting to a minimum.

  • I always seem to thinking people are done speaking so I speak up and
    then I get told that I interrupted them. It’s a vicious cycle. I have a need to explain myself. Honestly, for me, it helps me understand where I went wrong and talking it out loud is also my way of communicating my misunderstanding. Unfortunately this action comes across to my supervisors as being defensive and not wanting to accept feedback. Which of course is not the case at all, I never say that I’m not accepting it. I always reiterate what I have been told after explaining where I went wrong. It’s my downfall when I’m at work, only.