Last week we noted 12 things we say to our family when we repeatedly interrupt them. I promised we’d look at ways to overcome interrupting behavior this week. I have developed seven keys to help you overcome interruption.
Key #1: Check your pride
Interruption is an indicator of pride. As we learned last week it says that what I’m saying is more important than what you are saying. I don’t care how you cut it, if interruption is a habit for you, it is only a symptom of a deeper character defect–pride.
You’ve got to get rid of that. First, you have to know you’ve got it. that will go a long way in helping you overcome it. Then you have to actively root out the sources of your arrogance and pride, bringing yourself down a notch or two.
No doubt, you’ve done some great things, but you aren’t Jesus. You need to approach your family with humility.
Key #2: Respect whoever is speaking to you
I don’t care if it’s your spouse, your parents or your children, respect them. This is the other side of Key #1. You need to humble yourself, but exalt the speaker in your own mind. You need to view whoever is speaking as more important than you.
I don’t have any trouble listening to those I think know more than me and from whom I think I can learn a lot. However, when I start to lose respect for people, you can bet I’m going to interrupt a lot. Again, that is my pride thinking they should listen to me more than I should listen to them.
As I increase my respect and recognize that I can learn from anyone and everyone, then I start listening better and letting people finish. I don’t want to miss anything from them because what they’re saying may help me.
I need to even have this mindset with my children. I never know what I might learn from them. I need to show them respect and let them finish what they are saying before I respond.
Key #3: Quit trying to win
We can easily slip into compete mode, acting as if every conversation is a battle we must win. The battle may be about whose right. It may be about whose smarter. It may be that we want to prove they didn’t have to tell us anything, we were two steps ahead of them. Or maybe it is just our pride trying to prove we already know everything.
The purpose of conversation is not to win. It is to draw closer to others. Through communication and conversation we build relationships. Even if we disagree with the other person and are certain they are wrong, we should listen to draw closer. They are far more likely to listen to us, if we listened to them. We can take even a disagreement and make it an opportunity to connect and relate if we’ll simply listen before responding. At the same time, we can agree with some but drive a wedge so deeply in a relationship it never recovers all because we didn’t listen first.
Let your conversations be about building relationships not winning battles.
Key #4: Press the pause button
Before you open your mouth, hit your mental pause button. Even if the other person is not speaking at the moment, allow some silence before responding. You may find out they were only getting their breath. If they really were done, the pause will give even further indication you were listening and considering. Additionally, the pause provides us time to actually think before we speak.
Our problem with this is we don’t like silence. We become uncomfortable if there is too much silence. Sadly, because of that, we want to jump in as soon as there is soon as there is a gap, even if we can easily tell the speaker is only drawing breath.
“But the person may wonder what I’m doing when I’m silent.” Sure they might. Especially if it’s a phone conversation. When they ask, “What’s wrong?” (which they’ll ask because they are also trained to believe silence means there is a problem), just reply, “Nothing, I’m considering what you said and thinking about it for a moment.” Watch their shocked looks when you say this.
Key #5: Rephrase and reflect
In his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey teaches we should seek first to understand and then be understood. In that process, he teaches us to demonstrate our understanding by rephrasing the content and reflect the meaning. Put what the other has said in our own words and speak it back to them to see if we’re understanding correctly.
Of course, I can’t rephrase the content and reflect the meaning unless I’ve listened fully. If I start speaking in the middle of their sentence, I can’t possibly know enough about what they’ve said to take it back to them to see if I understand. Therefore, this habit is a great way to make sure we’re listening and not interrupting.
By the way, take careful note of “rephrase the content.” If your spouse says, “You always interrupt me.” And you say, “Your saying I always interrupt you.” You are not seeking understanding, you’re just being annoying. Instead you can say, “You’re upset with me because I don’t let you finish what you’re saying. Am I right?”
Key #6: Give your family permission to call you on it
We interrupt without even thinking about it. Half the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It just seemed natural to start speaking, so we did. Give your family (even your children) permission to call you on your interruptions. This needs to be a boundary in your family. When you interrupt even your children, you have crossed the boundary and they need to be allowed to tell you. Certainly, teach them how to tell you respectfully, but let them do it.
I know, I know, you can’t believe I would tell you to let your children call you on interrupting them. After all, they’re kids, we’re the parents. They should be listening to us more anyway. The issue is listening is a point of politeness and respect. It is a demonstration of healthy relationships. You can assert your authority all day long about how you should get to interrupt your children or you can develop a healthy relationship with them and let them express it when you’ve crossed the boundary.
I promise you, if you do this repeatedly, and you give others permission to call you on it, you’ll be amazed at how often you cross the boundary. Plus, the constant reminder will help you be self-aware and work on the problem.
key #7: Apologize
When you’re called out for your interruption, apologize (even if it is too your children). Let them know that you know what that interruption said nonverbally and you didn’t intend that. Reaffirm your love for them. Then encourage them to finish. Sit there and listen.
Don’t sit there waiting for your opportunity to speak. Sit there and listen.
Don’t play passive aggressive games with them. When they’re finally done don’t sit there silently until they ask why you aren’t responding and then say something like, “Oh, are you done finally? Can I talk now?”
Listen. You may press the pause button. If they ask why you aren’t responding, politely point out that you realized you weren’t listening earlier and now your considering what they’ve said before you responded.
No doubt, there are times to interrupt and be interrupted. If the building has caught on fire or Junior is outside bleeding, then interruptions are warranted. If someone is getting completely out of line and needs to be stopped, interruption is warranted. If the telemarketer is going on and on and on, don’t just interrupt, hang up (I had to include that one because I received a telemarketing phone call while writing this post and the guy just didn’t know when to shut up).
Remember, nothing says, “I love you,” like actually listening to your family, thinking about what they’ve said and then responding. Nothing says, “I’m a jerk,” like interrupting. I know which I want to say. Now, if I can only live by these principles.