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How to interrupt someone – the right way to do it

How do you interrupt someone during a conversation or a discussion? How do you correct someone who is sharing wrong information or statistics? Is there a right way of doing so? Learn what the etiquette pundits have to say about the best ways to interrupt a conversation.

It is considered rude to interrupt people when they are speaking or if they are in the middle of something. This is one lesson that is ingrained in us from when we were young. Cutting someone off, when they are in the middle of a conversation, is rude behaviour. And we just do not do it.

But, let's face it, sometimes it becomes necessary to interrupt someone, and stop them mid-sentence. There can be any number of reasons why one person would be pushed into interrupting another person. For instance, the person speaking maybe be using incorrect references or they might be citing wrong examples or data or presenting the wrong facts, which need to be corrected immediately.

The need to interject could also arise if a question has to be asked, in connection to something that the speaker said.

Needless to say, the attempt to navigate this situation can sometimes be a bit awkward. The person who interrupts can be misconstrued as being rude and uncivil. How do you interrupt without coming across as an obnoxious person? The key lies in getting the timing right - find the right moment to chime in, without sounding rude and inconsiderate.

Etiquette experts suggest useful verbal manoeuvres to help you. Verbal manoeuvres can be extremely helpful when you want to interject someone who is speaking, without coming across as a 'conversational bulldozer'.

Ask for permission before you interrupt

Do not just jump into the fray, thoughtlessly, instead, seek permission so you can have your say. A simple question such as, "May I interrupt you for a second please?" works just fine.

You do not just cut someone who is talking. The polite and decent way to do this is to explicitly ask for permission to speak when another person is speaking. And remember to speak once they have stopped speaking. It would be rude to abruptly cut them mid-sentence. That would also disrupt their train of thought, and everyone else will look at you as a rude person.

Apologise for the disruption

It is nice to apologise before you present your views on the subject. You can say something like, "Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt, but…" and go on to say whatever you want to say.

This little gesture will show that you are considerate, and will reduce a large bit of the discomfort that such situations tend to cause. It makes sense, to begin with, an apology because then you can interrupt without seeming as though you are patronizing. Again, prefixing the intrusion with an apology shows you in good light – you are seen as someone who knows that they are perpetrating a conversation faux pas.

Make relevant points

When you interrupt someone in a conversation or discussion, do so with appropriate, related points. Do not go on a tangent about some irrelevant subject. Begin the interruption with, "Now that you have brought up the subject, I would like to point out the following…". You can now add the missing details that you think are pertinent to the discussion.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with interruptions. In point of fact, interruptions can sometimes be welcomed; they can help make debates healthy and accurate.

Intrusions must never be off topic, they take the discussion off track, and that can be highly irritating to the speaker and to those participating in the conversation or discussion.

Be prudent before you butt in, be absolutely certain that your interjection is related to the subject under discussion. If it is not, then it is best that you allow the person to finish what they are saying and speak after they are done.

In doing so, you will still have the opportunity to have your say and you end up doing it in a decent manner, without drawing the conversation away from the main topic.

Set basic ground rules

It is a good idea to maintain a protocol and decide on a code of conduct before a discussion begins. Would it not be nice to have everyone know how disagreements are to be handled?

Get every participating member's attention, before the discussion begins, and ask them how they would like the discussion to proceed. "Would you prefer that the questions and suggestions are asked/given as the discussion progresses or should we wait until the end?"

There will be times when none of the ingenious tactics mentioned above will be seen favourably. Your interruptions, despite all the polite beginnings, will be perceived as impolite, loutish behaviour. Someone addressing an audience or someone making a presentation would not like to be interrupted. You will be deemed as a rude person if you choose to make yourself heard.

So, it is prudent to have the dos & don'ts decided, before the event, so the expectations are clearly understood by one and all. If there is just one speaker, ask them about their preference for the type of interaction. It will easy on everyone present to have this decided, beforehand.

A lot of people prefer interjections during the course of the discussion. Such discussions are more inclusive, with each member being allowed to speak their thoughts, at random moments. However, such scenarios are prevalent in informal settings. The discussions tend to be more open, where the idea is to learn from each other and correct mistakes, and take corrective and positive decisions and move forward.

Anyway, go by whatever the speaker desires, and accordingly adjust your own approach.

If you consider social etiquettes, you will do well to not interrupt anyone, while they are speaking. But, then certain situations demand that we speak, out of turn. There are times when it becomes absolutely essential to interrupt. It is for such occasions that the above-mentioned tactics come in handy. Use any one of them or use them in combination to interrupt someone, during a discussion, in an absolutely courteous manner, while maintaining the professional decorum.

What tactics do you employ during discussions when it becomes imperative to cut the speaker? How do you handle such situations?

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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Author: Reena Upadhya02 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

All the four tips mentioned in the article by the author are unique. They are the most effective techniques to politely interrupt the conversation.

Interruptions are not always bad. If there is a genuine reason for the interruption, there is no harm. Sharing is not the right thing to do after the interruption. If you are trying to stop somebody so that you can share your views and points, it is definitely a bad thing. The speaker is definitely going to mind your interruption. However, if you are interrupting the speaker with questions, in most of the cases it will be welcomed and it will not seem rude. If you have to interrupt, ask questions. They will welcome your interruption as you are not stealing their limelight. You are offering them scope to continue with the conversation. In this way, a person can politely interrupt and still be an active part of the entire discussion.

Use little gestures-
Gestures such as lifting a hand, making eye contact, seeking the speaker's attention in some way or the other will help them know that you are in need to share something. Thus, they will pause for a moment and help you clarify your doubts. Once permission is granted make sure to speak up quickly and let the other person continue with the conversation. Clearing throat is another gesture that will help to seek the speakers' attention towards you.

Not every interruption will be considered as a rude one. Sometimes in meeting halls or in classrooms, it is considered to be okay to interrupt and get the clarification. There is no harm in clarifying the doubts. It is obvious that others too may be dealing with the same doubts. They will thank you later for your courageous act. One conversation that can be interrupted at any time is the gossip. Sometimes a simple conversation can turn into gossip. Speak up and stand courageously. Interrupt the gossip as soon as possible.

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