Active listening is a critical skill that can help you navigate the workplace and improve teamwork. While you may be honing your listening skills, you might communicate with co-workers who don’t listen the way that you do. As an example, you are explaining your thoughts in the middle of a meeting with your group. Suddenly, a co-worker interrupts you and starts on a tangent, drawing the conversation away from the initial point. You might feel confused, stifled, or frustrated. Depending on how the conversation continues, you may not get the chance to speak on or redirect to your original subject again. Collaborating with team members who consistently interrupt you can often lead to lingering resentment, a chaotic environment, and lengthy meetings.

Some executives and professionals might not think it’s a problem if a co-worker constantly interrupts them and doesn’t actively listen during meetings. They may not want to make a scene, “rock the boat,” or appear toxic with other co-workers. However, suppose you are not getting the chance to communicate your ideas, thoughts, and solutions to problems. In that case, it’s difficult for you to be identified as a pivotal contributor to the team. This situation can lead to you being passed over for exciting projects, raises, and promotions. Here is how to work with a non-active listener or interrupter and make sure you’re getting your point across!

Inform Them You Were Not Finished

During meetings and conversations, it is expected that co-workers may become so excited by a proposal that they start adding to your points, expanding on the application, or moving the topic in another but related direction. Sometimes this conversational interlude is harmless, and you can quickly redirect into the conversation. In different situations, the interruption could be unrelated and counterproductive. This can frequently occur when active listening skills are not at play and the individual picks up on the part of the conversation out of context. At that time, it’s beneficial to articulate the problem and say something in the vein of, “I wasn’t finished with this topic or my point.” Doing this allows you to redirect the conversation and interject. Have confidence in your stance, and be sure that your tone is firm but isn’t emotional or rude.

Talk to the Individual in Private

If you have noticed a pattern, and one person seems to be constantly interrupting you, take some time to speak with that person privately. Let them know that you appreciate their enthusiasm on a subject, but your insight and ideas are being cut off from conversation when they interject before you’re done talking. Identifying a few examples before having this conversation is also helpful if the interrupter claims they do not know what you are talking about. You want to stay calm and avoid a disagreement. The reason for you speaking to them is to aid them in being aware of how their tangents and interruptions affect the team and yourself. You may also want to mention that you always wait patiently to speak only after they are done with their thought, as a sign of respect.

If the Interruption Continues, Speak with Your Boss.

Unfortunately, the interruptions by your co-worker may continue in spite of your conversation with them. If this does continue to occur, contemplate speaking with your manager or boss about the situation. Inform them that there have been times when your thoughts and ideas cannot be heard due to consistent interruptions. Make sure to mention that you’ve spoken to your co-workers one-on-one about their tendency to interrupt, which has not made any difference. Then you want to stop talking and practice active listening, even if there is an awkward silence. Give your boss or manager a moment to collect their thoughts because they probably were not anticipating hearing about this problem. Be open to any advice and suggestions they have and avoid sounding negative.

Identifying how to work with an interrupter or someone who doesn’t practice active listening can be challenging. If you have difficulty getting your ideas and thoughts out in a meeting or professional group setting, it can influence your career development within a company. You must have the confidence to discuss the situation directly. If you have been interrupted and see the conversation going on a tangent, let your co-workers know that you were not finished making your point or expressing your thoughts. If the same co-worker seems to be the source of consistent interruption, take them aside for a private one-on-one conversation to discuss the situation. Finally, if the interruption pattern remains constant, talk to your manager or boss about the problem. Remaining collected and calm during your conversations is vital to be taken seriously. How have you handled an interrupter or an individual who doesn’t practice active listening in the past?


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Porschia Parker-Griffin

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Professional Coach, Business Consultant, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. When she is not coaching, Porschia enjoys traveling, cooking, and working with animals.
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