“Do not interrupt people while they are speaking” is a rule you will see in just about every etiquette book. However, contrary to many etiquette books, we at Balissande Finishing School, say there are exceptions to this rule. As a matter of fact, we will go so far to say that the right interruptions can propel a conversation forward in exciting and enlightening ways. The key is knowing when to do it.
Before learning when to interrupt, you must first learn how to interrupt. Here are some rules:
- Do not interrupt people so often in a conversation you become rude. We cannot say how many times in a conversation it is suitable to interrupt. It is really dependent on how long the conversation is, what the conversation is about, and who is speaking.
- Interrupt less those who are teachers or leaders in the topic of conversation. Such persons tend to hate to be interrupted on subjects they believe they excel at. And if you must interrupt, know it is for a very good reason, preferably something that will get the speaker to think.
- Try to interrupt speakers when they take a breath. This way it’s less of an interruption and more of adding information to help the conversation flow.
- Always interrupt for a good reason. Good reasons bring more information, insight and sometimes even vibrant energy to a conversation.
- Avoid interrupting speakers in the middle of their sentence. Let them get their idea across before you start to interrupt. Never interrupt just to hear your voice. Interrupt for a reason. If the speaker is in the middle of a sentence, you either have not heard the point the speaker wants to make or you missed your time to appropriately interrupt.
- Remember you can also interrupt silently, by putting a questioning look on your face. If the speaker is watching you for cues, she will hesitate in her speech, giving you space to ask a question, or she may even ask you a question herself.
So, now when can you interrupt:
- When you have an insightful comment to make. Drop it in quickly at the right moment. Don’t take over the conversation. Just drop it in quickly so that is in direct response to what the speaker is currently saying. If the speaker is speaking so fast, it leaves you little space to drop a comment at the appropriate time, don’t.
- When you want to clarify what the speaker is saying. Clarification questions are not only important for you, but also for the speaker. It is a waste of everyone’s time, if you misunderstood the entire conversation based on one misconstrued concept.
- When you want to re-direct. This kind of interruption takes great skill to make it appear natural. You must be careful, otherwise, you risk offending the speaker. There are many reasons why you may want to re-direct a conversation. Some reasons are if the conversation becomes malicious, boring, one-sided, too long, or too personal. Before taking the route of refined interruptions, we ask you study it first. Watch people. Learn through experience when it is right and when it is wrong. And then, begin to work on it.
Interrupting conversations have many uses. As a refined conversationalist and hostess, it is important you understand this. You never know what situation you will find yourself in.
For example, if someone is gossiping maliciously about someone else and their tirade has gone on for more than a couple of minutes, what do you do? Do you walk away? Stand and listen to the entire tirade, hoping no one walks in and thinks you are a part of the slandering? Or do you learn how to graciously re-direct the conversation with a couple of refined interruptions?
Another example: if you are hosting a sit down dinner and someone starts to speak incessantly to the point of annoying and boring other guests. What do you do? Allow to person to continue speaking? Or do you find a gracious way of moving the conversation on?