How to handle an interrupter

I am training someone at work who has a very intense manner. He speaks very quickly, very excitedly, and I find myself being pulled into communicating like him, because if I pause between thoughts, he’ll jump in and interrupt. I find myself talking as quickly as possible, my mind racing so that I can eliminate pauses to ensure I won’t be interrupted.

This bothers me. It’s a very tense way to communicate, and not natural to me. The other day I realized I’d gotten caught up on his wavelength/frequency and intentionally paused. When he leapt in to interject, I held up my index finger and said firmly, “I’m not done.” He didn’t hear me or chose to ignore me and barreled ahead. I shook my head and repeated, “I’m not done with that thought. I have more to say.” I had to do thus maybe four times total before he stopped talking and let me continue. It was awkward, but I didn’t really care.

I think it’s relevant that this excited interrupter is a man in his mid- fifties and I’m a 30-year-old woman. I look very young, and people often assume I’m a teenager until I open my mouth and start talking.

I’d like to know what techniques you guys have for dealing with interrupters, and not getting caught up in the “never pause” mentality.

I don’t recall coming across this very often, but I would recommend just letting them finish speaking, then leave a noticeable pause, then say what you were going to say anyway. You can use the time in which they are speaking to basically ignore them and compose your response. If what they were saying while you were ignoring them was important, they can come back to that later.

If holding up a finger isn’t enough, you have to escalate. Try going, “Hey. Hey! HEY!!” until you’re literally shouting in his face, and when he finally goes “What?”, politely ask “You gonna let me finish?” Whatever you do, don’t let him finish his sentence - otherwise you’ll lose control of the conversation.

To my father we just bluntly say: “Don’t interrupt.” It’s the only thing that makes him realise that he has interrupted. He tries to do it to us, only he does it when he has NOT been interrupted. I think his brain somehow just does not understand interrupting.

Saying “don’t interrupt” is obviously very blunt, but so is interrupting itself, and IME it’s the only thing that works. The problem is that these people usually don’t really understand subtler social cues, which is the problem in the first place or they wouldn’t inappropriately interrupt.

My dad is like you. He’ll pause mid sentence to gather the rest of his thought, but since it sounds like a natural break, other people will start talking. He’ll normally say, over them, very sternly Can I finish?

For example (this is it work (I work with him)):

-What are you planning to do with that thing… … …
[[looks around]]
[[looks over my shoulder]]
[[looks behind me]]
[[there’s been about two seconds of silence]]
-What thing?
-CAN I FINISH? That thing on the shelf over there are you going to sell it or throw it away?
-C’mon dad, you haven’t said anything for two seconds, I didn’t know what you were talking about, maybe you should figure out what you’re going to say before you open your mouth.
Okay, so that’s an extreme example, but it gets the point across. Just make sure you’re using because the interrupter is actually interrupting and not like my dad who just makes these big pregnant pauses and sounds like he’s done talking.

Also recognize that this is a sign of Adult ADHD. Not saying this is usually the case, but if the person also starts projects and doesn’t finish them - or has some of the other signs - you might ask them if anyone has told them they think they might have ADHD.

I am only half joking at this. I met someone relatively recently - and she had that sign - plus many others. She is seeing someone next week to be evaluated.

Is the interrupter saying anything relevant? If not, my technique is usually just to think of other things until they are done. I have never really known anyone with this speaking style to actually be interested in what other people say - not to say that that is the case 100% of the time, but I personally have never seen the traits of true interest in what others are saying combined with constant interrupting coexist within the same person. Actually, I just usually avoid interaction with people who use that communication style as much as possible. You could buy him a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People just for shits and giggles though.

I have a co-worker who interrupts frequently. He actually interjects his comments while others are talking (not waiting for a pause, in other words). For a long time I would stop speaking when he interrupted, but I’ve recently taken a different approach.

I just keep talking as before when he butts in. Then, when he stops, I stop and say, “I didn’t hear you, we were both talking at the same time”.

There have been long, awkward stretches where we both talked at each other simultaneously with neither person making any effort to listen to the other.

I wonder if a strategically placed “Dude! PLEASE STOP INTERRUPTING ME!!” would work.

The “wait until they finish” strategy isn’t viable when dealing with the deadly species of interrupter who never shuts up once they begin talking. To survive in the midst of this predator, the interrupted must become the interrupter.

SlooowDoooown.HeeeeIssssProooobaaaablyyyyOnnnnnDruuuuugssssAnnnnnndThiiiiiisWillllllll FreeeeeakHimmmmmmOooooout.

I would recommend holding up your hand and simply continuing to say what you have to say. Then, when he pauses, do not acknowledge the interruption at all. That is, do not say “May I finish” or “please don’t interrupt” or anything that recognizes that he said anything at all. Don’t talk faster - just act as if he hadn’t interrupted.


My Mom used to interrupt constantly. I eventually got her to stop by ending the conversation any time she interrupted. I’d just stop talking. If she interrupted to ask a question, I ignored it.

This was after a very long time of trying other methods, such as being patient, asking her not to interrupt, etc.

At work, I had to call someone out for interrupting during a meeting. Our culture is very informal, but that leads to lots of wasted time. And we have too much to do, so we can’t really afford to waste time. At the end of a presentation, one of my co-workers started to ask a question. Mid sentence, another one decided to start talking. Once they both finished, I apologized to #1 and asked him to repeat his question, which I couldn’t hear because #2 decided to talk over him.

If I am training someone, I would straight up tell them they are talking when they should be listening and taking notes.

When customers are doing this, I will just stop talking and wait. If they continue, And I don’t have time to play the game, I will just continue talking over them and ignore their interruptions.

I try not to speachify where a short sentence will do. But sometimes I am in the middle of a (short) speech and get interrupted, say in a sales meeting. My response is to patiently wait until the interrupter has paused (they have to inhale sometime) and start over at the beginning. After a few of these sequences, they seem to get the point. If anyone says, “You said that already,” my response is, “I started to, but I wasn’t able to finish.”

I know the problem from both sides. I tend to take painfully long pauses in mid-sentence (or mid-paragraph) to get mind and mouth synchronized, and people will often impatiently interrupt me at those times. I can’t say I blame them, but it does bother me.
AND… I’ve long had a terrible habit of interrupting people while they’re talking, often jumping in when they take the shortest of pauses mid-sentence and obviously haven’t finished their statement. If it’s my wife of 44 years I’ll sometimes just start talking right over her. I hate people who do this, and hate being one of them. The only thing that works on me is to immediately call me on it- “Hey! You just interrupted me!” or whatever. I’m always mortified to realize I’ve done it yet again, but it’s been a character defect for a very long time and I always relapse sooner or later.

I have a bad habit of finishing other people’s sentences. I swear I don’t do it on purpose. Most people just talk slower than I think, and I’m not a patient person. I’m working on it. I don’t mind being called on it, as long as you’re not accusatory about it. A 20+ year habit is realllllly hard to break.

Fortunately, my fiance is really tolerant. Most of the time I call *myself *out for interrupting him, apologize, and shut up. It is happening a lot less often. But I grew up in a house where we talked like this to each other all the time, so it feels very natural.

I don’t know how many times I saw the title of this thread and read “How to handle an interpreter.”

That’s my approach too. I’ve a co-worker now who does this, and it drives me crazy, especially when I’m passing along important information. So I raise a hand in a halfhearted “talk to the hand” gesture, sigh heavily, and when she finishes, look down and say, “What I was saying is…” and start over.

I don’t know if it’s the best thing long-term, but it’s about what I can manage.

Is the person that you a training a subordinate, or is it someone on an equal level who you have been assigned to train? If the former, I’m in that situation right now, and after several instances, I had a meeting with him and HR. He has been making errors due to lack of following procedures. It has become painfully obvious that he pays no attention when he is being told something, because he keeps talking at the same time. As politely as can be, I told him that he needs to keep quiet and listen when I am explaining something to him, and his inability to do so can and will have a direct bearing on whether he makes it through the training period or is shown the door. If the latter, talk to your supervisor and HR.