Here's a workplace communication challenge that I received recently and I thought you'd find my response useful too. WARNING: You'll see yourself on one side or the other. Take a peek below
Dear Marion, I came across your article on communication and interruption. Sometimes when I am with two-three people I overtalk people without realizing they are not liking it and also sometimes I speak too much even what is not required. I am losing my good friends and contacts. I feel so bad and have no idea how to change my bad habit and be more matured person.
Signed, Charlie (from Australia)
Charlie, good for you for recognizing your communication challenge and your role in it. You have a situation that many people experience. In fact, people searching for ways to handle "interrupting" is one of the #1 reasons people find me on internet. It's a common problem!
STEP 1: Acknowledge YOUR role in perpetuating the situation
already taken the first step in changing a bad habit -- you acknowledge
the behavior that isn't serving you well. You show great
responsibility and maturity in this awareness and your willingness to
seek out solutions. Here's some steps that will help you on your way to
STEP 2: Feel the pain.
Before you change your behavior, I want you to feel the pain. That's right -- I said "feel the pain". Wrap your head around all the BAD things your interrupting is bringing you. Here's some that you've mentioned:
- *other people don't like it (it does nothing to build relationships)
- *you are losing good friends (your support group is shrinking)
- *you are losing contacts (business and otherwise)
- *you feel bad about your losses and yourself
- *you feel responsible and don't know what to do
the pain of what you're losing. Imagine your world without all these
benefits. Let the loss wash over you, envelope you, usurp you. Feel it
in every fiber of your body. What would this world you've described look
like, feel like, be like? Get in that moment. Remember the times when
you've tasted the unfavorable response of others from your behavior.
Think about the expressions on their faces when you interrupt, that hint
of impatience, frustration, or even anger. Imagine your world without
those friends, business colleagues, relationships, and support network.
Carry the scenario to the extreme. In the worse case scenario, what
would this reality look like? Feel like? Be like?
STEP 3: Think of the gain.
Now, focus on the gain, what you'll get when you change your behavior. What's your ideal? What types of relationships do you really want? How do you see yourself interacting with others? What do they think about you? How do they treat you and you treat them? What does it feel like, sound like, look like? Put yourself into the moment. Feel the warmth of productive and respectful exchanges with colleagues, friends and family. Think about how they admire you and your ability to communicate so well. Ponder, for a moment, the amazing feeling of being in control and getting the outcomes you really want and deserve. Feels good? If you want it bad enough, you can stack the deck in your favor to make it a reality.
STEP 4: Change the behavior.
Focus on their message, not yours. Instead of thinking about what YOU want to say next, put your full attention on the person speaking. Spend all your energy absorbing the information they're sharing. Allow them to finish their thought, to complete their sentences. Remember -- to be interesting, be interested.
Let your body communicate interest. Change your body language to communicate that you are actively engaged and in listen or "receive" mode. That means, maintain eye contact, lean slightly forward to the person talking, tilt your head gently to the side, nod acknowledgement (which doesn't necessarily mean agreement, just that you heard them), and point your feet and shoulders in their direction. People can't read your mind and know that you're really interested -- they can only read your body. So make sure your body shouts, "I'm listening".
Be a detective. Instead of interrupting, ask questions. Wait until they've completed their thought and talk a pause for breath. Then, jump in with a question about what they just said. Ask for clarification. Ask when, how, what, why and who. Doing so demonstrates great listening and that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Breathe deeply. If you find the temptation to interrupt incredible, be mindful of that. When you feel that "I want to interrupt" sensation bubbling up inside you, take a slow, deep breath instead. Literally and lightly (please), bite down on the tip of your tongue as a gentle reminder to hold tight. You'll have a chance to talk ... after they're done.
Apologize. If you slip and interrupt mid-sentence, stop yourself and say to them, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. I really do want to hear what you have to say. Please continue". You're human. It's OK not to be perfect. It's not a matter of "if" you'll slip up, it's "when". When you do, commend yourself for realizing it -- then apologize and resume listening.
A WORD OF CAUTION:
It's true that you control your actions, and that when you change your responses, you change the "dance" and responses of others. When you behave differently, you get different results. This being said, it's not without a word of caution that you don't have control of how other people behave. Most people will appreciate your effort and, with time, will forge a new relationship with you. However, there are always some people who are not willing to change. They are stuck in a negative pattern that they refuse to give up. This is your invitation to "let it go". You can change yourself, you can do the right and productive thing, and if people choose to accept that gift, it's up to them. Some will not. Remember that their refusal speaks more about them than it does about you. Applaud yourself for stepping up, and then move away. Let it go.
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Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX "Award for Leadership in Service Innovation"
© 2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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Communication catalyst, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to connect with clients, colleagues, employees and bosses, and how to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence and productivity. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks and sign up for her FREE weekly "Marion's Communication Tips" at www.MarionSpeaks.com