When interrupting another person, consider how you would like to be treated.

How to Interrupt Politely

by M.H. Dyer

Although the art of conversation is a two-way street, interrupting a person who is speaking is often seen as rude and inconsiderate. However, there are times when you need to interrupt to ask a question, offer an opinion, make a correction or ask for clarification. Often, interruptions are necessary if there is something you want to contribute or the conversation is wandering off-topic. Learning to interrupt politely is an important skill in the business world or when conversing with friends. Although it requires tact and a bit of finesse, you can find ways to interrupt a speaker politely and respectfully.

Implement body language to signal to the speaker that you have something to add to the conversation. Look the speaker directly in the eye and he may recognize that you want to speak. If making eye contact isn't enough to get the speaker's attention, raise your hand slightly, sit forward on your seat, cough quietly or clear your throat.

Wait patiently and avoid interrupting abruptly. If possible, wait until the speaker completes a thought or pauses between sentences. If there is a lull in the conservation, use the opportunity to interject your comment, question or opinion.

Speak clearly, using polite, nonthreatening phrases. Be assertive, but polite. For example, enter the conversation by saying, "Pardon me," "Just a moment," "Excuse me," "I'm sorry to interrupt" or "Actually ... " Alternatively, ask the speaker if you can interrupt by saying, "May I ask a question?" or "Can I jump in here for a moment?"

Give the speaker your full attention and wait for him to stop and acknowledge your request to speak. Stay on topic and make your point clearly and succinctly. Thank the speaker, and then allow him to continue.

Avoid unnecessary interruptions. Don't finish the speaker's sentences and don't interrupt to unnecessarily correct the speaker. Don't monopolize the conversation. If necessary, set a time to discuss the matter in more detail.

Consider the other person's feelings. Save sensitive comments for a private conversation. If your comments aren't important enough to justify the interruption, keep the comments to yourself. Never speak harshly or make critical or disparaging comments that may embarrass the speaker or yourself. Take a deep breath and calm yourself before interrupting if you feel angry or annoyed.

About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

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