The art and practice of interjection

One human phenomenon that drives me absolutely bonkers, and quite frankly moves me quickly toward disengagement is “interruption.”  The more conversations I have with adults, the more floored I am by the struggle we have with having effective communication interactions.  We all have experienced it: we are in a conversation at home or in the workplace and before we can finish articulating our thought, someone abruptly interrupts us with their own story or opinion.  It’s like they have an internal bomb that was activated and set to detonate as you were speaking, and just like that, right in the middle of our sentence…BOOM here come the “I statements.”

Why do we do that?  My guess is because in this highly pressurized, competitive world we are constantly under pressure to assert our relevance and significance. In conversations where we are passionate, we cannot help but try to prove our worth.  Another reason could be much more simple, yet uncomfortable; we as humans can be self-absorbed.  I don’t know about you, but for me, when people interrupt and dive in with their story, I ask myself “how did this become about you?”

When we interrupt people, even when we are not meaning to, we immediately diminish their worth and value, and have decided that our thoughts are more important than that of the other.  This approach to human communication may seem advantageous in the moment, but the truth is, we simply disqualify ourselves from future opportunities of others wanting to share their gifts and ideas with us.  If every conversation is about you, eventually the only authentic conversations you will have, will be with YOU.

As a way to avoid this common communication faux pas, I submit another approach that will help defuse the bomb of self-serving communication that is ticking away inside. AND it allow us to live out our communication in a way that is competent and effective.  This idea came from my friend and colleague, Brian Lam of Improv Effects.  Brian stated there is difference between “interruption” and “interjection.”  Interjection is a way to engage in a dialogue without making the conversation about YOU.  The following table highlights the differences we see between mindful interjectors and seemingly selfish interrupters.

Interrupters Interjectors
Seeks to affirm themselves/their ideas Affirms you
Seeks to assert information Seeks to clarify information
Fascinated with being understood Actively seeks to understand
Easily distracted from conversation Ensures eye contact
Listens until they are ready to talk Actively listens until completion of statement  (The 8 second rule applies here)

Effectiveness and impact move at the speed of trust.  When we interrupt, we lose trust and as a bi-product we lose the people we need to accomplish our life’s greatest objectives.  Let us ‘interject’ our positivity into the lives of those around us so we will be included in the transformation that is sure to take place because we did.

Peace and Blessings,


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