How to Get People to Stop Interrupting You

Have you ever had a conversation where someone interrupts you? 
I have, and I hate it. 
Why do people do that? 
There are three reasons.

It’s Urgent

This may be the only good reason to interrupt. 
If the theater is on fire, everyone should know. If someone will get hit by something, you should tell him. If someone looks sick, you should ask him what’s wrong.
Everything else probably isn’t urgent. 
 

It’s Important

Important is a matter of opinion. 
Often people come to their supervisors asking questions they could answer themselves. They can’t because:
  • The supervisor didn’t share enough information beforehand.
  • The supervisor wants to make the decision herself.
  • People haven’t been taught or given the power to solve their own problems.
Share helpful information ahead of time and people can do their work unhindered.
Teach everyone on your team to solve problems. It’s not hard. All they need to do is answer four questions. 
What is the problem? You can’t solve a problem you haven’t defined. Solve the right problem and you’ll save time, money, and your sanity. 
What caused the problem? Now that you know what’s wrong, you can figure out why it’s happening. 
  • Is that crack in the floor a surface crack or is it down into the foundation? 
  • Is the process flawed or do people not understand it?
  • Are you withholding information because you don’t know or you want to stay in control?
What solutions are there? Brainstorm. Get help if you need it. Once you’ve got a decent list, answer the final question.
What is the best way to solve this problem? Decide. Implement. And move on.
If your people can solve some of their own problems, they won’t need to bother you.
 

Selfishness 

When you’re selfish, you want attention now. You don’t care:
  • If the person is busy.
  • If she thinks you’re intruding.
  • If she is with someone else.
This person has never had to face the consequences of her hostility. So when she comes to interrupt you for the fifth time today, raise your hand and say, “I’ll get to you when I’m finished.”

What Happens After You Interrupt

Nobody likes an intruder. 
  • It’s the reason we hang up on telemarketers.
  • Its why we don’t talk to door-to-door salespeople.
  • It’s why we lock our doors at night.
If you have something you must ask, be patient. The other person will see you soon enough.
If you’re an interrupter, do this when the urge strikes:
  1. Take a deep breath. 
  2. Pause for a moment. 
  3. Then take another breath. 
  4. Then stand and wait your turn.
When you need something, be polite. The other person will sense your courtesy and want to return your kindness. Then you’ll get the help you need without upsetting him. 
When you’re interrupted, how do you handle it? How might you use this information to avoid getting interrupted – or interrupting someone else?