Friday, July 25, 2008



Interrupting the the other person is one of the key skills of conversation, particularly where you want to change the other person's mind.

Interruption techniques

There are a number of interruption techniques you can use to 'grab the baton', taking control of the conversation. Here are some of the common methods available:

Agreement Interrupt: Enthusiastically agree.


Verbally and wholeheartedly agree with the person.
Be so enthusiastic that you cannot stop yourself from butting in and agreeing.
Then continue with whatever else you want to day.
You can also use a short interrupt, the shortest of which is 'yes'.


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.


Agreement with the other person flatters them, boosting their sense of identity. When they see that you are on their side (and hence are not a threat) and are agreeing with them, they will more easily stop to accept their praise.

Note the difference between 'yes, but' and 'yes, and'. 'But' means 'everything that went before is wrong' and may result in them fighting the interrupt. 'Yes, and' appears to add to what they are saying and hence is more likely to be accepted.

Body Language Interrupt: Non-verbal signal intent to butt in.


Signal using your body language that you want to speak. Use face, head, hands, feet and your whole body.

This is best done naturally. Think about wanting to interrupt and let your body signal for you.


Leaning forwards or inclining the head
Being agitated, minor twitches
Opening mouth slightly
Holding hands forward, perhaps as if they are about to grasp something
Raising eyebrows
Holding up your hand, palm outwards in a 'stop' signal
Showing a fist or other aggressive signal


If the other person is using deep listening, then they will easily see your subtle signals. Few people do this, so you may need to be more obvious.
When done most effectively, the other person only notices subconsciously and may pause, leaving you the space to pick up the baton.

Clarification Interrupt: Ask for clarification. Check you understand.


Interrupt by clarifying what they have said, testing your understanding.
Tell them that you do not quite understand what they are saying and repeat what they have said -- then move to what you want to say.

It is usually better to paraphrase what they have said, rather than exactly mirror them, although using their words is often effective.

After you have clarified, you can pause to let them agree, but beware of them taking control again.


Ah! So you want to open a new store? Is that right? Well I have been thinking about that too, and I was wondering...
Can I just check something? -- it seems like you are saying that we should leave tomorrow. Well, I've been thinking about this and...
Sorry, I don't understand, do you mean that Simon is responsible? Well, to some extent he may be, but...


Expressing confusion effectively says 'I haven't a clue what you are saying, so you might as well stop.'
Clarifying what they say shows respect for the person and interest in what they are saying. This sets up an exchange dynamic whereby they feel obliged to show respect in return by listening to you.

Continuation Interrupt: Pick up where they might leave off.


Continue what the other person is saying, picking up from where they are, as seamlessly as you can.

You can use discourse markers to start what you are saying. You can also start mid-sentence, literally continuing from what the other person says.


...that we can build next week, eh?
So, what we need to do is get Jen to order the system.
Yes, and we could invite Jeffrey too!


Continuation may well be a form of agreement interrupt.
Continuation can be helpful for the other person when they are flagging and running out of words or are struggling with how to put what they are saying into words.
Done well, the continuation interrupt shows that you are highly aligned with the other person can thus help to build trust and agreement.

Disagreement Interrupt: Disagree with what is said.


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 happened was...


When you disagree with emotion you are more likely to be allowed to interrupt. We all know that people in an emotional state are less likely to think rationally and that opposition will lead to argument rather than concession.
The strength of disagreement also indicates the extent of how wrong the statement of the other person is.
Note that it is often easier for the other person to accept what you say if you disagree with what is said rather than the person who said it. If I say 'you are wrong' then I effectively say 'everything about you is wrong' and is more likely to result in them fighting back.

Disinterest Interrupt: Appear disinterested in what they say.


Indicate that you are are not interested in what the other person has to say.
You can do this explicitly, saying that you are not interested now in what they are talking about, or you can indicate it, perhaps with a Body Language Interrupt or Distraction Interrupt.
The level of disinterest may range from mild boredom to strongly not wanting to hear what is being said.


Look, I'm not interested in going over all that again. What I really came here to say was...
(Yawn). Sorry, what was that again? You know I'm not with it today -- I spend yesterday working late on...
NO. I'm NOT ready to talk about this now...
You know I haven't the faintest I idea what you are talking about...


We talk to other people because we believe that they have some interest in what we want to say. When they cut us off or otherwise flag disinterest, the wind is somewhat taken out of our sails and we may thus may pause or stop.
In effect, most interrupts are disinterest interrupts, as they say 'I am more interested in you listening to me than me listening to you.'

Distraction Interrupt: Become distracted by something else.


Appear distracted from paying attention to what they say. Look away or find some other way of saying 'I'm not listening'.
Then, when they pause or slow down, you can jump in with what you want to say.


Look at somebody else, perhaps someone new coming into the room.
Look deeply into their eyes, as if you are attracted to them. Smile.
Look at your watch. Yawn.


When we are talking with another person, we generally hope that they are listening to what we are saying. When it is evident that they are not, then we may well pause.
When they seem to have noticed something more interesting, we may also wonder what this is and look there too.
If they look at us in more than a social way, it may well put us off what we were about to say.

Encouragement Interrupt: Keep them talking.


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.
Although it is not an interrupt, you can use body language to encourage, such as nodding, gazing intently and raising eyebrows.


Really! That's amazing.
Mmm. When?


Not all interrupts have to be to take control. of the conversation. Listening is a critical conversational skill and the encouragement interrupt shows your interest in the other person and their opinions and also give you more information.

External Interrupt: Use a third party to interrupt.


If you know that you are going to need an interrupt but are unable to do it in any other way, plan it beforehand such that it looks like you are not doing the interrupting.
You can also do it on the fly by using something that happens around you as distraction and lever for interrupt.


Set your phone to beep you at a certain time.
Send a covert signal to a friend to provide the interrupt on demand.
Somebody new comes into the room so you use this as lever for interruption.


This is particularly useful in situations where it is difficult to interrupt, for example when talking with somebody in authority or who you otherwise do not want to upset (and who might well be upset by the interrupt).
The external interrupt

Identity Interrupt: Prod the identity of the person.


Say their name at the start of the interrupt.
Say 'you'.
You can sometimes also say 'we' with the same effect.


John. Listen. This could be important for you.
You are right. And let me show you why...
We could do that, but you might consider...


We all have a deep need for a sense of identity, and associate our name closely with who we are. Saying a person's name acts almost like a jolt of electricity, grabbing their attention.
'You' works in a similar way and is equivalent to pointing directly at the other person. 'You' means 'not me' and so singles out and separates the other person.
'We' joins their identity to yours. This may be a desirable thing for them if they admire you in some way.
The identity interrupt is a form of Power Interrupt.

Loudmouth Interrupt: Talk more loudly than the other person.


Interrupt by talking more loudly than the other person.
Keep on talking loudly until they stop, then slowly lower your volume to a normal level. Sometimes this will be a very short period, but other times will need more persistence.
If they raise their voice, face the competition by talking quicker and louder still. Be prepared to win a shouting competition if necessary.


RIGHT! I'm ready to go. Are you?


Loud interruptions are generally impolite, yet are quite common in many conversational situations and is the interruption of choice for surprising number of people.
This is a dominative act that may signal one's power and hence may be used by people who are superiors or who are seeking to gain superiority. Once a person has been shouted down, then the power relationship may well be established and the interrupting person may not need to interrupt so loudly again.

Shouting competitions can sometimes be won by a sudden change in directions, for example by suddenly asking quietly and with a smile, 'Why are we shouting?'
When a person raises their voice for a single word or short period only, they are sending a signal that they are prepared for a battle. This gives the other person space to back down with more dignity than if they were hit with a full-volume assault.

Motormouth Interrupt: Jumpinandtalkquickly.


Interrupt by talking quickly.
Find a small pause, for example when they are taking a breath, and then jump in and do not stop.
Do not give them time to interrupt back. Just keep on talking without pause.
Also be careful not to send any signals that will allow them to pick up on a way back in. Sometimes it is even a good idea not to look directly at them.




The 'motormouth' interrupt is one of the ruder ways of interrupting, and is common in situations where the participants are particularly excited or aroused in some way. Where the interrupter is enthused, then they may be excused their rudeness in their enthusiasm for the conversation.
Motormouth interruption is thus more socially acceptable in groups where everyone is excited and talking quickly and counter-motormouth interruptions are acceptable.
The other person may seek a way back in, for example using a Body Language Interrupt. If the interrupter is not looking at them, then this will not work.

Question Interrupt: Just ask them a question.


Ask them a question, preferably a closed question.
If they do not answer it or their answer is long, then interrupt, ask them another one or tell them that they have not answered the first question (which you may re-phrase).
When they reply, you can either ask another question or give your views on what they said or just sail off with your own comments on something else.


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?


When someone else asks us a question, we almost always feel bound to give them an answer -- to ignore the question would be rude.
Closed questions lead to short answers, which forces them to answer quickly, after which you can take over.
By using the Socratic questioning method, you can steer the to what you want them to think just by asking questions.

Power Interrupt: Use your power to grab control.


Use the power that you have to butt into the conversation. This may include:
Use dominant or power body language.
If you have a position of formal authority just start speaking whenever you want.
Use power words and persuasive language.
Use their name.
Use expert power, asserting superior knowledge.
Use charisma and social position.
If others try to compete, use power to retain control, for example staring them down or just keeping talking as if you have the right.

Remember that you often have more power than you may realize. Just being assertive may be all you need.


That won't work. I've been doing this stuff for years and the way we should be doing it is...
Richard, you clearly have good ideas here. I wonder if I can add some thoughts...


Conversational power often belongs to the person who takes it and the use of power signals to others that you have the right to interrupt at any time you please.
If a person succeeds at using a power interrupt, they increase their power in the social situation. Interruption may thus be used as a power ploy, purely to gain and demonstrate power.

Permission Interrupt: Ask if you can interrupt.


Ask the other person if you can interrupt.
You can also add some flattery into the interrupt if you wish.


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 comment?


Of course asking if you can interrupt is itself an interrupt, but done as a permission question it becomes more acceptable.
The exchange principle works here. When you ask permission you are showing consideration and politeness, which obliges the other to concede to your request.

Touch Interrupt: Touch them gently as you interrupt.


Physically touch the person as you interrupt them.
Keep the touch light and generally aim for the arm or the back, depending on where you are relative to them.

In more intimate situations, you can touch more firmly, for example with a hug.
Be careful about social rules when doing this -- it is possible to unintentionally offend people in any touch situation.


A manager places a hand on the arm of subordinate and says their name to stop them rambling on in a meeting.
A child grabs their mother's clothes to get attention.
A sales person rests a hand on the shoulder of a customer and greets them.


A physical touch is an intimate action and will often cause the other person to pause as you invade their body space uninvited. However, if the touch is light and related to non-threatening action then it may well be permissible.
There are zones of the body that are permissible to touch in different situations. In most cases this includes the arm and the back.
The touch interrupt can be a form of Power Interrupt when it is used to assert authority or superior position.

'Yes, and' Interrupt: Say 'Yes, and,...'


Say 'Yes, and...', then adding what you want to say.
This may be an addition to what the other person says, building on what they have established.
It may also disagree or take the conversation off in a completely different direction (or resume what you were saying before you were interrupted by them).


Yes, and I want to go out tomorrow.
Yes, and as I was, saying,...
Yes, that would seem right, and when I have
This is a form of agreement interrupt, where you appear to be saying to the other person 'I agree with you'. In practice, you may not actually be agreeing, but the initial words send the signal which may well sustain and even propagate agreement.
'Yes, and' is often a very useful alternative to 'Yes, but', and can be used in a completely replaceable way. The only difference in effect is that it is harder for the other person to object to what you say or try to take back control of the conversation.

'Yes, but' Interrupt: Say 'Yes, but...'


Say 'Yes, but', then say what you want to say.
You can use this to completely ignore what was just said and say something completely different.
You can also use it to object to what is said, showing them how they are wrong.


Yes, but have you considered the Russian influence?
Yes, but I want to go out tomorrow.
Yes, I can see how that is a valid viewpoint, but we can also look at it from another angle.


This is a form of agreement interrupt, with a very brief agreement ('yes'). It is actually not an agreement at all, as in effect the 'but' cancels out everything that was said before.
This may well cause the other person to fight back and can be taken as an insult or attempted power-play (which is often is). This effect is exaggerated as the disagreement is separated from the other person's words only by the word 'yes'. If you added some other mollifying words after the 'yes'.

Articles about Interrupting

Interrupting can be a tricky subject. Here are some more tips and observations.

When to interrupt: So they let you in and listen.

An important question that you need to know the answer to when you are seeing to interrupt someone else is when to interrupt -- and when to keep quiet and wait.

When they have completed what they have to say

The best point to interrupt happens when the other person has completed what they are saying. In practice, the person who is talking may well make their point and, as they are still holding the talking stick, will continue to elaborate.
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 the baton.

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.

Pregnant pauses in conversations can be uncomfortable so many people, if others do not interrupt during a pause, will keep talking, just to avoid the embarrassment of silence.

When they send non-verbal signals

When a person is ready to be interrupted or coming to the end of what they are saying, they may well send non-verbal signals, consciously or unconsciously that they are or will soon be ready to let someone else speak.

For example they may raise an eyebrow, look at you or change from closed to open body language. Important here is to look for clusters and transitions. A cluster is where a whole set of non-verbal signals is sent at one, whilst a transition is where the person moves from one position to another.

When they have had a fair crack of the whip

Sometimes the other person just wants to retain control and will use talking to do so. Sometimes they just like the sound of their own voice. For whatever reason, some people just do not know when to stop speaking and let someone else have a turn.

When you have concluded that they have had a reasonable time in which to talk, it is generally fair for you to butt in more forcefully, using one of the many other interruption techniques.

When not to interrupt: Sometimes it best to listen for a while.

Sometimes you can try to interrupt a person who is talking and end up in a battle (which may only take a second) over who is allowed to talk. Sometimes it is just not a good idea.
Do note, however, that these are all guidelines and not absolutes. Sometime you just have to interrupt!

When you think of something to say

When the other person is saying something, you may suddenly think of something to say, perhaps as a rebuttal to their words or maybe some associated thought you have had.
Typically at this point you stop listening and start looking for a point at which to interrupt. A big problem with this is that if you are not listening to them, you may well miss points where you can interrupt. Also, by the time you do interrupt, the subject may have moved on, leading to confusion.

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 you.

When they haven't finished

The need for completion implies that if we are in the middle of saying something and another person tries to interrupt us, we will have such a strong need to complete what we are saying, we will fight off any interruptions. Even if the interrupter wins, we may still fight back by not listening to them and completing what we were saying as soon as we can.

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 are sending busy signals

It is often not difficult to read the signals that people send that they are not really ready to be interrupted. If you interrupt at this time, again it will likely be an uphill struggle and perhaps you should wait a while.

Busy signals include not looking at you, motormouth rapid talking, dominant body language and power body language.

When you are seeking information

Sometimes you are on a particular mission to discover information that they may have, for example in an interview or research situation. In these cases, you want them to talk as much as possible.

Your interrupts here should be short and use careful questioning. The rest of the time should be spend in close listening. If you are covertly seeking information, too much listening can be suspicious, in which case you might sprinkle in some more normal interrupts to allay any fears.

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 interrupt.

When you have concluded that they have had a reasonable time in which to talk, it is generally fair for you to butt in more forcefully, using one of the many other interruption techniques.

When they have less power

Sometimes people who are significantly less powerful than you get to talk. Before you interrupt them, stop to consider that they may not have had much chance and this may be a courageous act for them.

Rather than 'being the boss' (or maybe being the bull) and charging in, pause to give them space. Listen with interest -- the little people can have big ideas too, just like you.

When to let others interrupt: Going the other way.

When you are conversing with other people, a question to keep in mind is when you should let others interrupt you. Here are some key points to keep in mind.

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 in which the goal is to hang onto the talking stick for as long as possible. This is where people start talking at one another, not with one another.

Say what you have to say, then pause to let the other person speak, or perhaps ask them a question.

When you have sent a single message

Sometimes what you have to say contains multiple messages. If you say them all at once, the other person may want to respond to a number of the points you have made. They may well also forget most of what you have said by the time they get to talk. This leads to a poor conversation, where topics are not really discussed.

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.

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 you see the other person's body language change, particularly after you have made some significant point, the chances are that they want to speak. At this time, they will very likely not be listening too hard to what you are really saying -- they will more likely be rehearsing what they want to say whilst looking for a point to interrupt.

If you want them to truly listen to what you are saying, it is a very good point to stop at this point and hear their point.

If you really need to finish the point (not just want to), then it can be a good idea to acknowledge that you know they want to speak and ask them whether you can finish -- this will often bring them back listening to you, though you should ensure you complete what you say in a reasonably short period.

When they do not send signals

If you have made your point or been talking for a while and you have not seen any sign of the other person trying to interrupt then it may mean that that they have stopped listening and are not interested (are they showing real signs of listening?).

It might also mean they are seeking information from you and you may wonder if you have given more details than you really intended.

Often, people are being polite or are a little timid and just do not know properly how to interrupt, and so just wait their turn.

If in doubt, pause or ask them a question to give them a chance to speak.

When not to let them interrupt: Sometimes you need to keep talking.

Sometimes when other people want to interrupt, it is reasonable to let them interrupt. At other times, it is a good idea to hang onto the talking stick. Here are some of those times.

When you have not made your point

When you have not finished what you want to say, then keep going and block them out until you have finished.
If you suspect that they are not listening and just waiting to interrupt, you might want to summarize the point and perhaps ask them a question to test whether they have heard and understood.

When they have had their say

When the other person has had a chunk of the conversation time to speak, then it is your turn. You have listened to them, so now it is time for them to listen to you. If necessary, you might want to assertively remind them of this, particularly if they keep on trying to butt in.
Jan, you've made a good point and I want to respond. Can you let me finish, please?

When they have interrupted poorly before

Some people are rather impolite in the way they not only keep interrupting but do so without having anything useful to say. Perhaps they like the sound of their own voices or perhaps it is some kind of game.
If they are persistent with this, a way of handling this, other than to just keep going, is to tell them what they are doing.
Sam, you keep interrupting, but are not adding anything new.

When you need to demonstrate power

Sometimes you might find yourself in a power struggle, for example where the other person is interrupting just to show their power. You may also be in a position where you need to show authority. In such cases, other than normal prevention of interruption, you can use interruptions as an opportunity to demonstrate your power.
Richard, can you please listen? You can ask questions when I have finished.

How to stop people interrupting: Useful when you want to finish.

Sometimes you do not want to be interrupted, perhaps because you have something important to say or perhaps because the other person has kept interrupting you for little good reason beforehand.
Remember also that interruptions may be to seek or give useful information and that they are a normal part of conversation, and not a slight to your character. Be cautious, then, in how often and when you power through the interruptions of others.

Don't pause

When you pause, even to take breath, you are giving other people the opportunity to interrupt. They may be just jumping in or may read it as an invitation to comment -- the result, however, is the same.
Regulate your breathing. When you are talking for a long stretch before taking a big breath, the breath takes longer.

Don't send signals

When you are talking, you may be sending non-verbal signals that invite the other person to interrupt. Beyond pauses, these include:

Raising eyebrows
Open body language
Relaxed body language
Submissive body language
Your speech getting slower
Your speech getting quieter

If you can control your body language and speech, then you may offer less invitations. You probably cannot remove all signals, but if you are thinking 'no signals' then this will help too.

Ignore signals

When they send signals that they want to interrupt, simply ignore them. Carry on regardless, perhaps even doing such as increasing your speed or volume to signal back that you are not ready to be interrupted.

Don't look

If you are looking at them, then when they send interruption signals then you cannot claim not to have seen them. You can:

Look up, as if you are envisioning the things you are talking about.
Look at your hands as you carve your ideas out of the air.
Close your eyes as you imagine internal pictures of what you say.

Speed up

A simple method of preventing interrupt is to talk quickly. When there are no gaps in what you say, then there is no chance of them interrupting.
In particular, when they try to interrupt, speed up your rate of speaking. This signals that you are not ready to finish yet.
Beware with this of becoming incoherent. Someone who talks too quickly may not be heard.

Get louder

Another way of powering through an interruption is to increase the volume of your speech, getting louder as the other person tries to interrupt. Talking loudly all the time also acts as dissuasion.
As with several other methods, this may be combined to make a more powerful interrupt.

Signal power

Do send signals of power, indicating to other first that you have the right to talk for longer and also that you will fight back powerfully if they do interrupt.

Use powerful body language

Use power body language in general, for example expanding our body space with large gestures and hands-on-hips, touching others and . You can also use the power interrupt beforehand as a signal.

Use the power stare

The power stare may be used to prevent interrupt. This involves looking intently at people for longer than the normal glance. Rather than look up or away as you speak, look directly into the eyes of people, scanning around each person whilst pausing at each one.
The potential reaction to this may be deflected by cloaking it in enthusiasm for the subject. Its intensiveness, however, clearly signals that you are not willing to give up control of the conversation as yet.

Use the interrupt dare

Talk slowly and deliberately. Pause. Speak at length. Yet only let others speak when you ask them a question or otherwise permit them to talk.

The interrupt dare, which may be combined with the power stare, effectively sending signals that an interrupt may be made, yet simultaneously indicating that an interrupt will be met with a powerful response.

Win the power struggle

If you get into a power struggle, for example where the other person is using a power interrupt or resists your power interrupts, then you will need to exercise your power, for example by using one of the other techniques on this page.

Can I finish?

A simple and very powerful method of hanging onto the talking stick is to is ask the other person if you can finish what you are saying.

This can be done in varying levels of politeness, from assertively saying 'can I finish' without pause in the continuous stream of words, to asking the other person nicely and waiting for permission.

...and when we reach -- can I finish -- the end of the year...
-- Sorry, Mike, I won't be long --
-- Jen, you've made your point, now it's my turn --
-- I'm sorry. I do want to hear your viewpoint. Is it ok if I finish the explanation first? -- thanks --

Overlapping speech: We often start before others stop.

Speech overlap

When you talk and I interrupt, I seldom wait until you have finished speaking. Conversation thus tends to be set of overlapping sets of speaking as one person starts before the other ends.
There are two primary ways in which the interrupt of the second person happens. One way is the first person finishes their main point, which is spotted by the second person who interrupts as the first person starts elaborating or slowing. The alternative interrupt happens when the second person butts in earlier than might be expected, for example through enthusiasm, ignorance or in a power move.

Gender overlap

Women seem to overlap their conversations more, and are better able to hold simultaneous discussions with multiple other people than men. A potential reason for this is in the way that women can often multi-task better than men, who are better at single-focus activities.

National overlap

In some nations overlapping conversations are quite natural. In other countries, one person stops before the next person starts. In Japan, perhaps the most extreme example of this, the second person must pause to show respect and that they are considering their response carefully. This leads to the dilemma where many Japanese people find themselves unable to interrupt in many Western conversations.

At the other end of the scale, perhaps, Italians seem all to talk at once in their Latin enthusiasm that appears to be impolite and chaotic to people such as Germans and English (and especially the Japanese).

Perhaps there is a gender element here. The Japanese culture is traditionally male-dominated, which would tend to result in one thing at a time, including speaking. On the other hand, Italians are family driven in which the matriarch often holds court and women speak as much or more as men.

Technology and interruption: It grabs you, doesn't it?

The power of the phone

There is a strange phenomenon that happens with technology -- when it calls, we drop everything to answer its demands. It all started with the phone, but now has crept up with email, instant messaging and more.

Particularly pervasive is the mobile technology that many of us now carry around. It all started with pagers, first used by emergency workers, but now many have at least mobile phones, which also carry text messaging services.

Blackberries, PDAs and other combinations devices are also allowing us to access email everywhere. Wireless technology is also creeping in and we can get to email on the move. Even in the heart of developing countries you can find internet caf├ęs where you can check up on your electronic world.

How it works

The power of the phone starts with the insistent ringing that only stops when we answer it. Phones are not polite. They do not cough and say 'excuse me'. They just ring and ring. We know this, and so grab the thing just to stop it giving us a headache.

Phones also offer mystery and intrigue. When it rings, we may well not know who is calling. What if it is good news or a friend? What if it is someone who desperately needs our help? We had better pick up, just in case.

Even if we know who it is from, we do not know what they have to say until we listen or read the message. The need for certainty and control paradoxically then controls us as we seek to find out what it is all about.

Using it in persuasion

Sometimes you want to get to speak with another person but they are always busy -- in meetings, working or otherwise unavailable. The simplest solution can be, even if you are in the same office, to go back to your desk and phone or email the person. If you cannot see that they are busy, then you can be excused for interrupting them.

Avoiding the urge

When technology comes knocking, think first before answering the call. If you are talking with someone and the phone rings, ignore it or turn off your mobile cell phone. This not only keeps you in control, it also a very flattering for the person with you, who can see that you are putting them ahead of a phone call that perhaps they would answer.

continuation: conversation techniques- sustaining

from: Conversation TEchniques- interrupting

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