How to deal with interruptions in business meetings
You’re in a work meeting. The conversation is fast-paced and furious like a professional ping pong game. You have a point you really want to make. Finally, after 5 minutes you speak up. This is your chance! Then, as you’re halfway through your point, Joe Shmo interrupts you! What the $%^&?!
Of all the communication hot topics, how to deal with interruptions in meetings is the one that I get asked about the most. Being interrupted is annoying, it often side tracks the conversation, and unfortunately is all too common today. If getting interrupted is a pattern, there are some things that you can do to address it.
Here are some strategies for dealing with interruptions on an individual level and a team level.
On an individual level
1. Set expectations immediately: If you’re leading a meeting, set expectations for how you want participation to play out. If you do this well, you might reduce the amount of interruptions.
You might say, ” In the interest of time, I will lay out the full proposal first, then I’ll welcome your comments and questions at the end.”
2. Speak up: Volume conveys confidence. If you’re speaking confidently and enunciating, people are more likely to show their respect by listening instead of talking over you.
3. Use phrases to signal interrupting is not okay: For example:
“If you can hold that thought until I finish.”
“If I can finish first.”
They’ll most likely get the idea and back down.
4. Use subtle body language cues: If you’re wrapping up a point and someone is trying to cut in, you can make eye contact with that person and do a subtle hand or index finger raise that signals, “let me finish”.
5. Be concise: If you’re habitually long-winded, people may feel that they have no choice but to interrupt you. Practice being more concise by preparing points you might want to say before, make sure to pause before you start to speak and start with your point so you’re easy to follow. Finally, you might consider organizing your points using frameworks to structure your points.
On a team level
1. Provide feedback to the the habitual interruptor: Perhaps they have no idea. Chances are if they are interrupting you, they are doing it to others and could benefit from a little awareness. You might say something like,
“I noticed that you sometimes interrupt others on the team before they finish their point. Can you make an effort to let others finish their idea before jumping in?
2. Change the culture of interrupting on your team:
• If you notice that someone gets interrupted, advocate that they get to finish. “Let’s let Rachel finish her point.”
• Have a conversation on your team about being more conscious to give everyone equal air time and to avoid interrupting
• Institute a practice of hand raising. This practice can be especially effective for larger meetings. If someone wants to speak, they should raise their hand and the meeting organizer can call on people.
Try out these tips for dealing with interruptions. If you have other tips and tricks for dealing with interruptions, let us know!