Picture this: You are telling a funny story to some of your friends when – BAM! One of the friends begins to talk over you. Stunned, you try to regain control of the conversation, but the friend continues to ramble on. Eventually, frustration takes over and you give up on finishing your story.
This is my top pet peeve. I can’t think of anything more rude than interrupting someone and then continuing to speak over them as if nothing has happened. What truly troubles me is that this appears to be a growing trend.
I was first introduced to this practice by husband’s family members. Whenever I shared something that sparked a shared interest, you could rest assured that one of them would cut me off. The first time this happened I thought that perhaps this particular member couldn’t hear that I was still speaking. I shrugged it off and simply let my end of the conversation die. On the second occurrence, I decided to continue speaking, figuring that the other person would get the hint that I was not finished talking and clam up. Instead, this person began speaking louder and just kept going on his/her ramble.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am big on respect. I was taught that you should respect everyone at all times, no exceptions. Not to mention the fact that my mother is a teacher and my father works for the Illinois State Police (no, he’s not a cop). Both jobs demand the constant transference of respect from co-workers, administration, children and even parents.
However, working at a college, I can assure you that I have been cut off on more than one phone conversation. Students and even parents will talk right over me as I am trying desperately to assist them with their financial aid questions. I cannot fathom why they simply do not wait until I am finished with my explanation. They may even learn the answers to their questions if they would respect me by allowing me to finish my statement.
I believe that people engage in this practice for the following reasons:
1. Attention: In the case of my husband’s family, I believe that they interrupt in order to gain attention. Case in point, if I am ever speaking about the places that I have traveled to, I know that I will be cut off so that one of my in-laws can rave about all of the places that they have been. While I am merely trying to share an experience, they are trying to upstage. Conversation is not a contest. It should be a mutual exchange between all parties involved. Trying to bring the conversation back to me is next to impossible because one rave leads to a rabbit trail of other discussions and I am soon left in the dust.
2. They do not like what they are hearing: Unfortunately, I have witnessed this among my own family as well as at my place of employment. If someone does not like what they are hearing, they attempt to change the outcome by speaking over the speaker. They believe that this will make the person change their mind or even back down from a staunch stance. What this really reminds me of is a little five year old, standing in the corner with his/her hands over his/her ears going, “I’m not listening. La, la, la, la!” Very mature. How on earth can anyone think that this will get them their desired result? Imagine walking into an executive meeting and having a co-worker begin speaking right over the Vice President! I can tell you exactly what result that will get: the employee’s termination. In regards to my family, I will not change my beliefs, ideas or ways of life just because someone else does not like them. At work, I must abide by the state and federal laws and rules. I have no power in changing the these regulations and wish that students and parents would understand this as well.
3. Pulling Rank: Some people feel that they have the right to dominate the conversation because of their “rank” in life. I am not talking about an actual military rank. I am talking about a “rank” that they feel they are entitled to due to earning a certain degree or having a certain type of job. Because I work at a community college, I have had the unfortunate stigma of being “uneducated.” When my husband introduces me to new people or I need to call the help desk at work, it is perceived that my job is menial and that my brain capacity is akin to a common house fly. However, I earned my Associate in Arts degree at SWIC before transferring to SIUE where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Science: Mass Communications Print Journalism (English minor). Did I mention that I graduated Suma Cum Laud? My GPA was 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. But, I do not brag about my achievements or use them to give me leverage in a conversation. You never truly know who you are speaking to, so don’t judge. In addition, having a prestigious job no more gives you the right to disrespect people than it does to allow you to run red lights. My dad has a very prestigious job as the Regional Supervisor for the Illinois State Police. I am most proud of his latest advancement because everyone he has ever worked with has always complimented him on his respect for others. He treats everyone as equals, as part of a team. Did I mention that he “only” earned his Associate in Science degree? Never believe that you are more or less important than someone else based on a degree or job.
4. Fear: Some people use this tactic as a way to avoid feeling dumb about certain topics or debates. They figure if they can loudly change the conversation, they will gain control and look knowledgeable in the process. Others simply feel uncomfortable speaking about certain situations or emotions. We, as humans, greatly fear rejection. We believe that if we make a social mistake, we will be sent to an imaginary island of isolation. No one will ever want to have contact with us again because we did not know about the mating habits of a mosquito. Or how much an Oscar (the award) weighs. In reality, I couldn’t care less about the things that my friends, family and co-workers don’t know. I simply love to hear about the things that interest them. And I can’t tell you how many times I have had debates with my husband about topics that I am certainly no expert on. Instead of speaking over him, I politely wait for my turn and begin my rant with, “In my opinion…” Unless you are being asked to speak at Harvard, you should not fear having to impress anyone.
Remember, conversations are all about give and take. Be sure that you have an even balance between speaking and listening. Fight the temptation to interrupt those around you. Just like in kindergarten, you need to wait your turn.