People Who Interrupt: The Real Reason They Do It

Nobody likes to be interrupted while they are talking. However, all of us have experiences of being cut off in the middle of conversation.

Let’s look at different physiological incentives that turn someone into an interrupter.

Couldn’t Care Less

It is a known psychological fact that different people have different interests. And this is perfectly fine. So sometimes in a conversation, one person might not be interested in what the other is talking about. Because of that reason, that person might feel inclined to interrupt the speaker and take the conversation else where.

However, in a social setting, one should learn to respect other’s opinions. Specially in a group discussion, the right thing to do would be to take note of other’s interest in the subject matter and patiently wait for the speaker to finish.

I am Superior

Imagine a conversation between an expert and an amateur in an industry. Sometimes, the expert might feel insecure about listening to the amateur for a long period of time. Severe cases of this sort might indicate a personality disorder known as ‘superiority complex’. A person with this disorder has an exaggerated feeling of self-importance.

They will try to bring down others whenever they feel their superior status is threatened. Studies have shown that women are more prone to be interrupted in this way by men, specially during group conversations.

Bullying

Interrupting someone in the middle of a conversation can be used as a bullying tactic. Sometimes the interrupter may not even be a part of the conversation to begin with.

The bully might see a person talking to someone else and see it as an opportunity to bully them. Often times they will interrupt by casually cracking a joke at the other person’s expense.

This type of behavior is more common in a workplace setting.

Autocomplete

This type of interruption usually takes place when someone is telling a story.

A person could be telling a story, savoring the details, and the interrupter would jump into finish it for them. The motivation behind this is usually to get attention.

The One-Upper

A one-upper is someone who gains satisfaction by putting down others in a conversation. They always try to one-up others, usually on topics involving personal achievements or possessions.

This kind of person uses interruptions as a method to boost their ego.

Is It Never Okay to Interrupt?

There are some individuals (especially in a group setting) who like to keep on talking without giving anyone else a chance to talk. This type of attention-hogging behavior can be attributed to narcissistic qualities.

In such cases, one might have no other option but to interrupt the speaker to get their point across.

How to Handle It

Although there are different reasons that makes someone interrupt, we have to understand that it always comes from place of insecurity. So when you deal with them it helps to be understanding and patient.

One method is to ignore the interrupter and just keep talking. But sometimes this can make you look rude and impolite. A smarter way to continue with the conversation would be to acknowledge their interruption and comment on it as if it were a valuable input to what you were saying.

Alternatively, you can wait for them to finish and continue where you left off afterwards. This would be the best strategy to deal with an interrupter who has more authority than you.

References

Chambliss, C. A., & Feeny, N. (1992). Effects of Sex of Subject, Sex of Interrupter, and Topic of Conversation on the Perceptions of Interruptions. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75(3_suppl), 1235–1241. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1992.75.3f.1235

Talbot, M. (1992). ‘I wish you’d stop interrupting me!’: Interruptions and asymmetries in speakers-rights in equal encounters.

Simon C. (2018). The functions of active listening responses. Behavioural processes157, 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2018.08.013

Coates, J.. (2014). Women, men and language: A sociolinguistic account of gender differences in language, Third edition. Women, Men and Language: A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language, Third Edition. 1-245. 10.4324/9781315835778.

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