I’ve had this post percolating in my head for weeks. That’s in no small part due to the fact that it requires me to examine something about myself that is less than ideal. Yes, that’s more or less the purpose of this blog, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun!
The thing is, well… I’m an interruptor.
I know! I’m sorry. Am I going to interrupt you next time we hang out? Probably. But… I’m sorry! And I’m trying to become more aware.
I’m sure I’ve been doing this my whole life, but the first person to really call me out on it was actually a psychologist I had in 2012/13. He was nice about it, and just sort of casually asked me, “Do you realize that you…. do this a lot?”
I had not realized. And he is no longer my psychologist.
OK — that’s not because of what he said, hahaha. It’s because I switched work offices (proximity for lunch-hour appointments is key) and insurance and all that. But still.
You know I love to blame some of my shit on my crazy family, and this is no exception. I don’t know how people hang out with us as a group because, frankly, we’re pretty terrible. My mom takes interrupting to another level because she not only interrupts you — she brings up something that is completely unrelated to what’s even being discussed, making it abundantly clear she was not listening to you AT ALL. It’s super fun.
I’m sure I do THAT too, from time to time, being someone who’s always in my own damn head, but more often than not, I know I just get really, really excited about what’s being discussed, and I want to get my thoughts out. I’m afraid I’m going to forget some witty comment or related story, and so I just need to say it!
Except… I don’t. I really don’t. I’m trying to learn that. I’ve been doing a bit of research into it, actually, looking for helpful tips, since my bad habits are so ingrained by this point.
Surprisingly (?), there are actually a lot of articles out there that address this. Some are aptly named things like “10 Tips to Help You Stop Interrupting,” but I tend to gravitate toward the ones with titles like “How to Stop Being An Interrupting Asshole” and “How to Stop Babbling and Shut the Hell Up.” I mean I think we’re there; let’s not sugarcoat things.
These are actually all real articles, and the latter has some tips I’m going to share here:
- Practice saying nothing. This will be harder than it sounds. Join in on group conversations and do nothing but listen with your mouth shut. Take mental notes on what others are saying and not what you want to say. Respond to questions directed at you with one sentence answers, then go back to listening. Let the silence come and see what happens.
I guess we’re not fucking around, huh? Chinese water torture, here we go! Everyone will probably think I’m in a “mood” if I try this, but then again, maybe they’ll just be relieved I’ve shut up for 5 seconds.
2. Eventually, you can graduate to the “stoplight rule.” You’re in the green speaking for about 20 seconds, in the yellow speaking for 40 seconds, and should be stopping no matter what at the red, which is 60 seconds of nonstop chatter.
OK, first of all, how do I know when I’ve graduated? Is one of you going to hand me my diploma and say, “Good job! We’d actually like to hear from you now”? And all this math…. I don’t like math.
3. You can be in the green and yellow as much as you need as long as you don’t break the “50/50 rule,” which basically just says you should be listening as just as much as you speak—if not more.
OK, now THIS, I can get behind. This makes sense. No one should really be dominating the conversation at any given time unless they’re telling a story, right?
4. Turn conversations into a game. If you can’t walk away from a talk with at least three mental notes about what they said, you lose. No [insert treat here] for you!
OK, this is a good one, because I am notorious for forgetting details about things I discuss with my friends. That’s largely attributable to the fact that we’re often drinking when we hang out, but still. It might not hurt to make it a point to come away with some key takeaways, and that likely will lead to more listening and less talking.
5. Ask for help. If you let someone you trust know that you’re trying to be better, they can help stop you before you even start.
I’ve actually asked Luke to do this. But nicely. Not yelling “CUT!” like a deranged movie director (which he didn’t literally do but kind of.. one time. It did not go over well). Because as my partner, Luke has to put up with this the most. It’s a double whammy for him too because he’s super polite and not one to interrupt or assert himself into a convo, so sometimes when I’m around, it’s like he doesn’t get to talk at all. And everyone likes him better.
The article author concludes with this:
It’ll take some time to break your bad habits, so stay vigilant.
I will, but also, please be patient with me. This is really hard to break. But I care. I’m acknowledging it. I want to get better.
But if I actually do improve and then you ask me why I’m being so quiet or what’s wrong, I will go OFF.