https://www.bonnielowkramen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/man-wearing-white-shirt-holding-black-pen-1000x667-1.jpg 667 1000 Bonnie Low-Kramen /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png Bonnie Low-Kramen2020-07-27 18:00:102022-01-25 13:05:58Excuse Me, May I Finish?
By: Bonnie Low-Kramen | July 27, 2020
How to manage interruptions
Imagine this: Your new CEO executive asks you to present some tips about best practices for virtual conferencing to the Executive Leadership Team at the weekly meeting held on MS Teams. You prep hard for this 10-minute presentation and you kill it! When you are done speaking, the ELT starts asking you questions which you happily begin to answer. Suddenly, the CEO says, “I just want to stop.” In that moment, your heart stops and you go cold. He continues, “Before we go any further, I just want to say that you did a terrific job on that presentation. So useful. Thank you. Please continue.”
Phew. The assistant started breathing again.
That is an example of a “good” interruption. The CEO’s interruption not only felt amazing, but it really cemented the assistant’s credibility with the ELT. There are times when interruptions are inappropriate, but in this case, the expression of appreciation was truly constructive.
Interruption issues are real problems in the workplace, especially now that we are regularly using video conferencing. Plus, the data shows that women are interrupted an average of three times more than men. Therefore, strong communication skills are necessary to build relationships and succeed.
Strong communication is not limited only to giving a great presentation or making thoughtful comments in a meeting. Sometimes practicing effective communication in the workplace means you are talking less and listening more. Doing so can make you a better contributor; some studies have found that effective leaders are also strong listeners. This is made even more complicated by people needing to wear masks which covers their mouths and can make it difficult to hear.
There are times when interrupting is downright rude and unacceptable. And sometimes the interrupters do not even realize they are doing it. Being an effective communicator and listener means that you can listen without continually interrupting others. If you are assessing whether you are an effective communicator or need to make some adjustments, it may be helpful to ask yourself if you often interrupt others during a conversation or how you handle interruptions. If so, here are five tips for listening and reducing interruptions to support more effective workplace communication.
5 Tips for Managing Interruptions
1) Let Others Finish
When you are genuinely engaged in a conversation and are passionate about getting your ideas on the table, it can be very difficult to let a person finish his or her point without interrupting. However, if you do interrupt, you risk missing out on the entirety of that person’s thinking. Not only could you miss the essence of the conversation, but you’re also showing a lack of respect by not letting the other person finish what he or she is saying. Let the speaker finish, regardless of how long it takes before you begin to respond.
2) Listen Actively
Once someone has finished and it is your turn to speak, begin by making sure you understand what was said. A great way to do this is to through active listening that restates the previous point or uses an analogy to rephrase it. For example, “So, what I understand about what you just said is, x is like y, right?” Active listening acknowledges to the other person that you not only listened to what he or she said but also understand. When you show you heard and understood, you’re acknowledging that person’s point of view and the effort he or she made in sharing it with you.
3) Interrupt, Politely
Sometimes, due to either time constraints or a conversation that’s gone off-topic, interrupting is necessary, and there’s no way around it. One way to interrupt is by asking for permission to interrupt, as in “Holly, can I interrupt for a moment?”, or apologizing in advance of the interruption, “I’m really sorry for interrupting, but …,” may both be workable options for interrupting when there is no viable alternative
4) Periodically Allow Others to Interrupt
We all know how frustrating it can be to be interrupted while trying to get the point across, but think of it in this context; When someone interrupts you, it may be because he or she is truly engaged in what you are saying. Sometimes allowing a little bit of interruption can encourage idea generation and bring you closer to solving a problem or inspiring innovation. No one likes to be interrupted, but sometimes periodically, allowing interruption can be helpful to you and the other person in the conversation.
5) Chronic Interrupters, aka Hijackers
Have you ever had someone hijack a conversation? I did. I once worked with “Ann” whose default behavior was to interrupt. Finally, I decided to address it directly and calmly. I said: “Ann, I have something on my mind to discuss. Would now be ok or should we find another time? I feel that it’s hard to have a conversation with you because you often interrupt me. It makes me feel disrespected and that what I have to say has less importance. I find myself avoiding talking with you because of this.” Ann said, “I can’t help it. I’m worried I will forget what I want to say.” We talked about it some more and she thanked me for the honest feedback. She also realized that she interrupted other people like this too. The lesson here is that sometimes people don’t know how they are being perceived unless we tell them. Choose your moment. When interrupted, you can politely say, “Excuse me. May I finish?” and then continue speaking.
Interruptions can either help or hinder effective communication in the workplace. The key is knowing when to sit still and listen, and when to interject to keep the conversation on track politely. No matter the scenario, strong communication is a leadership skill that can be enhanced with skills development programs that weave communication talents into targeted training sessions that help to build assistant and executive effectiveness, and process improvement. When your goal is to engage in productive conversations that generate useful ideas and solutions, communication skills training can sharpen listening skills and produce more meaningful interactions in the workplace.
Be the Ultimate Assistant Training On Demand will provide you with the communication tactics and skills required to handle interruptions. wwww.bonnielowkramen.com
I am Bonnie Low-Kramen, TEDx speaker, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant” and trainer of Executive Assistants all over the world. In May, 2019, I was featured in a Forbes online cover story. As part of the research for my second book about the workplace to be published in 2022, I have had over 1,000 conversations with assistants, leaders, HR professionals, recruiters, and business school professors. I have worked in 14 countries and 38 states and would love to work with you towards building your ultimate workplace. Click here to set up a time to speak with me about your training needs which can be delivered virtually or in person.