• To break into, or between; to stop, or
hinder by breaking in upon the course or
progress of; to interfere with the current or
motion of; to cause a temporary cessation
of; as, to interrupt the remarks speaking.
• Agreement with the other person flatters
them, boosting their sense of identity.
When they see that you are on their side
and are agreeing with them, they will more
easily stop to accept their praise.
• Absolutely right! I couldn't agree more. And did
you also know that...
• Thank goodness! I was afraid you were going to
say something else there.
• Great idea. And what we could also include is...
• I agree with your suggestion to start afresh and
would suggest we begin tomorrow, at 9am.
• Interrupt with a disagreement of what they
have said. Show that you disagree with
them. Point out what is wrong about what
they have said.
• It often helps to do so with reasonable
emotion and force, showing that you are
not just disagreeing for the sake of it.
• No, no, no! That is completely wrong. You
have the wrong end of the stick -- what
really happened was...
• That could be wrong, you know. If you
look at it this way...
• Hang on, I don't know who told you that
but it is simply not true. What actually
• Say something short that will keep them talking.
Encouragement interrupts include:
• Exclamations that show your interest in what the
other person is saying.
• Repeating a single word a short phrase that they
have said. This may be voiced as a query.
• Asking a question.
• Using non-words, such as 'uh-huh', 'mmm', etc.
• Ask them a question, preferably a
• Closed questions lead to short answers,
which forces them to answer quickly, after
which you can take over
• Did Jennifer tell you to say that?
• When did you last see her?
• Sorry, you haven't yet told me when you
saw Jennifer last -- was it yesterday?
• Ask the other person if you can interrupt.
• When you ask permission you are
showing consideration and politeness,
which obliges the other to concede to your
• Could I just say something here?
• That's a good point -- can I add another
thought for you?
• You've made me think here -- can I
Principles of Interrupting
• When to interrupt: So they let you in and
• When not to interrupt: Sometimes it best
to listen for a while.
• When to let others interrupt: Going the
When to interrupt
When they have completed what
they have to say
• In practice, the person who is talking may
well make their point and, as they are still
holding the talking stick, will continue to
• When you detect that they have made
their key point, then start looking for a
point to interrupt.
When they are slowing down
• A common signal that they are running out
of things to say so that the person starts to
slow down. It is as if they are encouraging
you to run alongside so they can pass you
When they pause
• Another signal you can use to interrupt on
is when they pause for a moment. This
may be when they are stopping to think
what to say next or may be a deliberate
offer to you to pick up on the conversation.
When to let others interrupt
When you have had a fair say
• Conversation is a system of taking turns,
in which there are social rule that there
should be some balance between
speaking and listening.
• Do not over-stay your welcome or you will
find that other people will switch off or
treat the conversation as a competition
When you have sent a single message
• A good way of talking is to make a single point at
a time, then let other people in to respond to
your thoughts and add their own thinking to the
mix because They may well also forget most of
what you have said by the time they get to talk.
When they send signals
• When other people want to speak they will
send you loud non-verbal signals to this
effect, for example staring at you, leaning
forward, mouth slightly open, starting to
speak and so on.
When not to interrupt
When you think of something to say
• first pause to consider whether it is worth
interrupting the other person. Secondly
consider the notes below. If you can show
respect listening until they are finished,
perhaps they will also show respect to
When they are aroused
• When the other person is in an emotional
or aroused state, they will be particularly
keen to have their say. When you detect
passion, it can be best to wait for them to
blow themselves out.
When they have more power
• When the other person has significantly
more power than you, for example if they
are a senior manager, then it is generally
best to let them finish, both because they
will assume that they will be allowed to
complete and also because they may use
their power against you if you try to