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Ask HN: How to deal with constantly getting cut off in work discussions?
329 points by president 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments
I work in an office environment (large Bay Area corporate enterprise software co) where people are constantly cutting each other off in conversations and technical discussions. For people that are a more soft-spoken, it is almost impossible to get a word in - nevermind getting a full thought-process in. This has negative implications on work discussions as the loudest people who are usually dominating the conversations, from my observation, are usually not the brightest.

I am not someone who tolerates getting cut-off easily but it is frustrating and it takes a lot of energy for me to drive the conversation back on track and say what I want to say. This is something that I never had to deal in previous work environments prior to moving to the Bay Area so I'm inclined to think it's something specific to this area. Recently, I have moved to a team in my company where it is almost damn near impossible to have my thoughts heard and in some cases, I just shut myself off from discussions to save my energy. It's starting to affect my work life and my daily mood because in a lot of cases I just don't have the energy to reject and explain why we shouldn't be doing X, Y, or Z.

Is this a common thing in workplaces? I would be interested in hearing if people have been in this situation and how they've dealt with it if so.




I have a problem cutting people off- I get way to excited about what I want to say and jump in. I really appreciate when people call me out and don't take it personally. I also try to work on it and try to help steer the conversation to other people who have been cut off when I see it happen. So IMO don't be afraid to politely just let someone know! If you don't feel comfortable during the meeting, maybe speak with them afterwards, doesn't need to be a big deal, just let em know. If you don't feel comfortable being a little confrontational, speaking with manager types or even just before a meeting indirectly bringing up that everyone should focus on it can help too.

I know sometimes people cut off others very purposefully or in malicious ways, but it sounds like maybe where you're working that's just how it is- so everyone kind of has to play the game to be heard. In that case, try and change the game! A little bit of discomfort now can lead to yourself and probably others being happier down the road.


Most interrupters are exactly like andrewcarter here, they just get excited. When someone does it they're most likely not trying to be rude, and it's well within your consideration to air your complaint, "I am happy to hear your thoughts, but please let me finish my own before you share yours." It isn't a rude or confrontational sentiment. Nobody likes being interrupted, and nobody likes being called-out as an interrupter. Do that once or twice in a meeting and the over-talkers may all but stop moving forward. Nobody is going to resent you for laying down some fundamental courtesies, especially since it means everyone will have better opportunity to speak without interruption.


I have this issue too, I think it also has to do a bit with cultural background sometimes.

I grew up in a hispanic family in a majority hispanic community, where my everyday conversation with people was people talking over each other. It was common to start making your point while the other person was still finishing theirs.

The difference is, because everyone did it, we would just keep talking, even if we were cut off, and finish our thought. The other person would hear it, while still talking, and the conversation continues naturally. If you were in a group, you had to go louder than the currently speaking person in order to "grab the baton" and get your word in (something I was often too quiet for).

This was my normal throughout childhood.

It was a culture shock when I went to college and eventually someone called me out for cutting people off all the time. It was then that I realized that now, when I cut someone off, they actually stopped talking.

I still struggle with this, because I reflexively expect people to not let me stop them.


"One of the most striking aspects of high involvement style that I found and analyzed in detail was the use of what I called 'cooperative overlap': a listener talking along with a speaker not in order to interrupt but to show enthusiastic listenership and participation. The concept of overlap versus interruption became one of the cornerstones of my argument that the stereotype of New York Jews as pushy and aggressive is an unfortunate reflection of the effect of high involvement style in conversation with speakers who use a different style. (In my study I called the other style 'high considerateness')."

Deborah Tannen, Gender and Discourse. Oxford University Press, 1994

https://www.thoughtco.com/cooperative-overlap-conversation-1...


I like this terminology of "high involvement"! My experience with this style is also that if someone doesn't interrupt me I just keep talking, awkwardly, _hoping_ that someone will start talking "with" me (allowing me to pass the conversational baton, and indicating they understand my point), and if no one does I feel like no one must be understanding what I am saying (or worse, that no one is even listening) and eventually feel more and more antsy until I almost have to give up on the whole conversation.


Scottish guy in the US here, I've had to train myself out of this habit here (still working on it). Not always well received in the South!


This is an absolute gem. Thanks for sharing that. Sometimes you just need to see it written down to know it's right.


This totally cultural. I am French, and when I was living in Spain, it was very difficult to get a full sentence out, but in Germany, I am often called out for interrupting people all the time (and I master Spanish and German at a similar level, so this is not related to language proficiency).

What I also noticed now that I try to pay attention to it is that I am practically unable to say a word in a German conversation if I try not to interrupt. I seem to be missing the cues that seem to say "you may now speak", and have the feeling I get interrupted all the time. I guess those cues are culture-specific and internalized over time.

That might be relevant to the OP 's question: in a multi-cultural team, one might need to develop a set of cues that are specific to that context. That can only come by discussing the topic one way or another, be it during the meetings, in breaks, at lunch... In my case, telling exactly what I described above, in a "aren't cultural differences interesting" way helped.


Italian here, the exact same experience growing up. It was expected that you had a conversation this way. Why waste time waiting for each other to finish?


Because you want to hear what people have to say? Why listen or speak if it doesn't matter if people hear or pay attention?


You hear them as you speak. Understanding that you are always heard was one of the hardest parts of my own cultural transition from southern US to Italy. (I'm an American-Italian immigrant.)

Unfortunately I developed a kind of intense mix of the two cultures and I have to work hard not to dominate others in (non Italian) conversations. I try to de-interrupt by reminding someone who stopped taking of what they were talking about and asking them to continue. This also isn't ideal because it's forceful but it helps.


You hear them as you speak? You can't effectively do this. It sounds like the people on Jerry Springer to me. Without a mediator, the problem never gets solved because they think they're effectively able to listen and talk at the same time, but they're doing one thing (talking) more dominantly.


Because often it doesn't take someone to complete their sentence for their point to be made. If you pay close attention next time you are in a conversation with people you know well, you will often know what someone is going to say before they have finished saying it. Personally I hate being interrupted and also always wait my turn to speak but at the same time I can get impatient waiting for someone to say what I already know they are going to say.


That's true in some cases, but untrue often enough that I disagree.

In my experience, interrupters frequently assume something entirely different from what was actually being said, or even cut off the speaker before a "but" and wind up responding to the exact opposite of the intended point. This is needlessly annoying and confusing to almost everyone involved.


agreed fully - Cubans seem to do this a lot; at first i would get really frustrated bc i thought i was being interrupted but i think it's buena onda

they also frequently ask if everything's ok, if you understand, etc. at the slightest pause in talking, which is kind of hilarious sometimes


yep, I'm actually cuban american, this is accurate =P


"I have this issue too, I think it also has to do a bit with cultural background sometimes."

Completely agree. I'm not Hispanic, but I grew up in the south in a household where talking over each other was the norm. A different culture, but culture indeed. College is also where I learned this was considered bad practice / rude


> College is also where I learned this was considered bad practice / rude

I think it's important to note that it is considered bad/rude in most american culture. Manners are relative to the culture you are living in. This style is certainly not rude in Cuban circles, for example.

It's like how belching at a restaurant is rude in the US, but a sign of respect to the chef in Japan.


I agree with you. It's just trading one set of cultural norms for another.

As a side note, when I notice these differences, I like to reason from first principles and decide if I should change my behavior (without completely alienating myself from my peers). A Japanese chef might consider my belch a sign of respect, but how respectful is it to the people around you eating? A gross smelling burp could make me loose my appetite completely.


OK, so everybody did it and nobody was an asshole.

But it's hard to imagine you ever reached any sane conclusion to these discussions?

It just seems like a bunch of primates expressing their feelings, opinions and tribal affiliations, but not a way to make good decisions.

Or am I missing the point?


No, I assure you sane conclusions can be reached with these discussions...

It's just another conversation style, I don't need to hear the end of your sentence to know the point you are making, at a certain point the end of the sentence is likely fluff. If the end is important, I'll still hear it, and if it changes what my response is, I'll probably stop and react mid-stream.


OK, I'll retreat back to that you have to be used to this type of interaction to take part in it, and outsiders will likely not do well in it.


A lot of the time I’m like you, or I see that the person is starting a long train of thoughts based on a faulty premise... why would you let someone catastrophize or take everyone in a magic carpet ride that is based on bad information?

But that is unfortunately not always why. Some people take a very, very long time to get to a point they’ve already telegraphed long before. In a conversation that’s about problem solving, this is wasting everybody’s time, and I will absolutely shove you out of the spotlight and without compunction. Daylight’s burning.

To these people I say, think about your writing style. Do you bury the lead? Do you save your best information for last? Sort yourself out. Give the person permission to stop reading when they get the gist. Then try to do the same with your speaking. Maybe work on noticing comprehension cues from your peers.

The longer we go on a tangent the higher the probability that everyone’s working memory has been reset. If that keeps happening, a good solution is unlikely to arise. And if you don’t have time to do it right you have time to do it over. If you’re accepting defeat at the beginning, just pull the bandaid off, pick any reversible solution and get on to other problems.


The way to address those people is in private, outside a meeting. Behaving the way you do is just rude, and is not acceptable in any workplace I'm part of.

> and I will absolutely shove you out of the spotlight and without compunction

Just to be really clear: this makes you toxic.


There are times when the stream of thought is the most important thing in the room. Especially in triage situations.

Brevity allows the process to continue. It avoids upsetting the checklists in people's brains. Grandstanding, soap boxing, and shaggy dog stories are actively harmful to this process. These are primarily the situations where my patience for ineffective communication is at its nadir, and we can't stop this process to have an intervention or let you keep interfering.

Also, by unspoken consensus you will quickly find yourself disinvited from these meetings.


My experience is that this sort of approach (pre-empting people who are explaining their point) often results in a "solution" being reached quickly that fails to take into account the nuance that the speaker was trying to explain.


> But that is unfortunately not always why. Some people take a very, very long time to get to a point they’ve already telegraphed long before. In a conversation that’s about problem solving, this is wasting everybody’s time, and I will absolutely shove you out of the spotlight and without compunction. Daylight’s burning.

This is definitely part of my problem. I get excited; I can understand where a point is going; I get impatient, especially when I'm hearing it described in an overly verbose way.

However, I think I probably need to remember that it's worth hearing someone out. Ultimately the team might benefit, even though the problem might be solved at a slightly slower pace.


> A lot of the time I’m like you, or I see that the person is starting a long train of thoughts based on a faulty premise...

When talking about new angles of view it is quite unusual that the whole argument/"paragraph" is 100% logically sound. In fact that is quite an exception when talking. Maybe there is more than one argument for the other position that would still follow.

I think a lot about problems and details at work that have a lot of impact. These things cannot be summarized in single sentences and I don't have the time to follow higher standards in organizing my speech than others. So in the end I often ended up repeating my standpoint through various meetings until managers realized that this is indeed a thing.

> Some people take a very, very long time to get to a point they’ve already telegraphed long before.

Many people often take a very, very long time to troubleshoot problems, perhaps even work overtime because of that. I prefer to solve things by talking when this is possible and spent engineering time on the really interesting things.

(Also it might be an organizational problem if there are no meetings to discuss things in-depth with large rounds. Dailies are surely not the place for that.)


I have this same problem.

The best thing I can do is attempt to use my natural inclination to help people like OP.

To that end, I'll usually say things like. "I think this is what "president" was saying, am I right?" This both validates to a more quiet team member that I heard them, but also gives them back the floor from someone who interrupted them.

I also attempt to listen to signals from quiet people who have opinions and then ask them their opinion after sharing. If they grunt or make a noise then I can direct it away from people who are more like myself and willing to speak out.

My goal is to not take the spotlight but instead to re-direct. I do this because I used to be SUPER quiet and I worked hard to get away from that. Now I'm considered fairly outspoken but I remember what it's like to be quiet and try to help out by giving them the time they need.


I wonder is some of you here recognizing own interrupting problem have got ADHD symptoms and diagnosis? Isn't it strongly correlated with Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive trait?


I’m not sure why you’re getting downvoted, because it absolutely is. It’s what lead me to go get tested. I just got so frustrated with myself because I just couldn’t stop interrupting, even when I was consciously working on it. At some point my wife pointed out it was an ADHD symptom, and my immediate reaction was to shrug it off. I’m a CS major, I’ve always held a steady job, and, I’ve never had problems concentrating on complicated problems.

Turns out keeping your attention on something interesting isn’t actually a problem for people with ADHD. It’s the boring stuff that’s hard, and boy do I hate the boring stuff. We pay people to clean our house. I’ve had take away (healthy and organic of course) at least two days a week since I left home. I’ve paid people to do my laundry for as long as I’ve had a decent job. Heh. Long story short, I’m now in the process of being tested for ADHD. I’m not sure the results will change anything, I’ve done fine so far after all, but knowing is better, and it was interrupting people that started it.


> I’ve had take away (healthy and organic of course) at least two days a week since I left home.

Yep, same here. Though if I do cook, it has to be a massive production. If there's not something to be actively preparing the whole time, it's too boring to make. Which means there's gonna be a ton of dishes... that I really don't want to do.


I always tell people that ADHD is not an inability to pay attention, it's an inability to direct and focus one's attention at-will.

Whatever is most stimulating gets my attention.


Yes. I have this tendency, and I have ADHD. I know I can tend towards it. I often find myself circling back to someone after a first meeting with them (when I realize I interrupted them a lot) and apologizing, letting them know I am aware that it's a weakness, and to please let me know if it ever gets out of hand (I intentionally ask them to decide for themselves what "out of hand" means, as some people are entirely ok with an interruption packed conversation).


I have ADHD and I do this. I don't want to. I just do it without thinking about it. It's because if I have a thought worth sharing, I want to do it NOW... there's always the possibility I might forget it before I've had the chance to share it.

Also when I talk to someone who has ADHD it might sound strange to neurotypical people. The discussions are much faster and also less - well, I don't want to call it less boring. They are more exciting, but it does not mean that discussions with neurotypical people are boring.


I do it too....and I hate it........

I'm trying to tackle it by writing it down and waiting for others to finish with some decent success.


I (rarely) do it too. What I realized is in most cases (if not all) it's all about spitting it out whatever is in my mind without any intention to listen to what others are trying to say and without thinking that I can learn so much from others.

Writing it down won't get you too far, imho. Because you probably still will be in rush just to read what you noted down and eventually miss the chance to learn from others. It's all about listening first.

There was a thread here on HN recently, titled "People with Greater Intellectual Humility Have Superior General Knowledge".[0] I think it's pretty relevant here in this topic. Intellectual humility goes a long way I'd say :-)

[0]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20124447


> What I realized is in most cases (if not all) it's all about spitting it out whatever is in my mind without any intention to listen to what others are trying to say and without thinking that I can learn so much from others.

Sometimes technical thoughts can be literally founded on faulty assumptions and will teach you nothing unless providing another anecdote of a conceptual mistake is instructive.

Listening in bikeshedding conversations is a wise maneuver, though. Save your forceful thoughts for actual problems.


I wear a rubber band on my wrist and lightly snap it when someone is telling me something and I feel compelled to interrupt. It brings me out of the moment just enough to wait. But, you have to remember that the rubber band exists :-)


I hope you don't snap it too loudly, because I would probably find that noise as offputting as an interruption :)


If I know parent is doing to keep from talking over the top of the quiet team member, I will be more than happy to put up with the snapping.


The is a cool strategy! I will definitely try and employ this.


Try keeping a stopwatch in your head (think speed chess).

Start it when you start talking, and periodically make it a habit to check ("How long has it been since someone else talked?").

If it's been too long, wrap up your thoughts and pause a while before launching into the next bit.

It's usually obliviousness ("I didn't notice anyone else", in my personal experience), but it can feel very rude to others ("I didn't want to listen to anyone else").

All part of soft skills. We all get better together.


I do it too & I hate it. My worry is that if I don't say it immediately I'll forget my comment/argument. I've tried scribbling it down and raise them later. But not very consistent in this process.


I tell myself it's always better my idea goes unheard than someone else not get to share theirs.

If it's really important, I'll remember it.


That is very nice way of articulating it


Instead of writing down your thoughts write down the names of people you cut off, then track them down and apologize.

Apology speaks directly to your impulsive mind, a kind of self-inflicted peer pressure mechanism.


Same here. I often decide that the other person have stopped talking prematurely because they've made a long pause and I was eager to jump in.

However, if I notice that I have interrupted someone too late, I finish my point, and then say "but I've interrupted you, you were talking about X", and then make an effort to listen actively instead of coming up with thoughts of my own.

Sometimes, when we get carried away, I remind the other person of something he had been talking about so long ago that even he has forgotten about it. In my experience, being able not just go with the flow of the conversation, but keeping long conversation "stack traces" in mind so you can go back and actually "return" from a "subroutine" in your conversation is one of the most useful communication skills I have.


I had the same issue where I was always compelled to speak up if I felt like there was something important to be said... It really made me look like an a-hole.

I asked a good friend of mine who was a successful CEO that people really listened to what his secret was...

He said he stays quiet until people ask him for his opinion, then he makes sure what he says is succinct and on point as much as possible. That blew me away. Since I have been practicing that method I have noticed amazing results. It's really something that I continually need to work on, and it doesn't work with family and friends (of course) but try it out...

Also, fight the urge to put emojis in company emails, people will lose respect for you ... :\

... Crap, still working on that one.


This assumes that someone values your unknown (to them) opinion enough to ask for it.


In the scenario I mentioned, it doesn't always involve waiting for someone to always ask you to speak before you say anything, It's primarily the art of holding back on saying anything until everyone else wears out their voices, or until they turn towards you for your opinion.

These days a lot of people feel the need to be first and last to talk. This way, you're in the middle, but not overly invested in being heard, but choosing times when you speak, and choosing your words carefully for relevance, for best overall impact.

Eventually after a while of practicing this, people grow into the habit of looking forward to your input, and they always ask you for it, provided you don't screw up things too often.


I worked at a place like that. I wasn't even aware of the problem. It was just how things were.

One day our director called a meeting and announced that our whole department had a serious issue with interrupting. He noted the results of interrupting each other (not hearing each other out, drifting off topic, just being seen by the rest of the company as jerks). He laid out a bunch of rules for meetings, discussions, etc and he policed them for a few months.

It mostly worked as everyone (even the interrupters) saw the benefits pretty fast and the urge to interrupt seemed to fade as everyone knew they'd get to get all their words out of their mouth when it was their turn. Meetings even went faster.

Might be worth probing if your manager or any leadership feel like it is a problem / what the impact of this communication style is.


That director sounds awesome. Wish managers at the place I used to work at actually followed through with initiatives / cared.


What do you do when the director / manager is actually the one doing the interrupting?


You can still bring it up to them as a problem that you have noticed where "some people" get overeager and interrupt others. mention the downsides and ask if he can help change the culture. You don't have to point the finger at him and it helps to enlist his help rather than complain.


You can try, but unless they (perhaps privately) realize they're part of the problem, I expect they'll end up verbally condemning interruptions while sabotaging any real attempts to curtail it, largely but not entirely by continuing to set a bad example. Is there a way to make this strategy actually work? By which I mean, have people actually seen it work in the long term? I'd love to be proven wrong.


Why not just confront them directly? Why beat around the bush? Politeness only goes so far.


It depends on their relationship, and the workplace and overall culture they grew up in. For various reasons, not everyone will be comfortable directly pointing out a flaw in their own boss.

I'd say that without knowing more, it's better to advise the safer and more diplomatic approach.


It is totally possible that beeing direct leads to the polar opposite of the intended result. This is something that can happen and it entirely depends on the people involved.

So some of use have learned how to recognize that type of situation and how to deliver bitter pills of truth without risking a job you might otherwise really like for it.

Be direct if you can, but don’t stay silent if you can’t.


Oh he was very good at it himself ;)


Having an alpha who prevents domination, by dominating everyone, can actually work well, if he's not around very much.

Like an absent god.


And did he himself also changed afterwards?


Yup.

He was a mixed bag as a director as he could get sort of autocratic, impulsive and ... was a bit out of his element a lot of times.

But, you could hold him to his word, he listened, and he was loyal. One of those flawed guys who... you'd still choose to work for if you could.


What kind of rules?


Mostly about anyone adding something had to tie it to what the other person was talking directly, wrap it up with a summary and sort segway it back to the origional speaker.

Generally the meeting holder called on people and such.

Lots of "let's address that at another time" kind of stuff from the person holding the meetings.

Meetings had agendas.

After that it sort of bleed into how most conversations went.


Yup - thats experienced management on your director’s part. Kudos to him.


People, usually peer engineers, but occasionally executives, would try to rebut whatever I was trying to state as I'd state it.

I learned to be an utter asshole to these people.

When interrupted, I stop speaking. Entirely. Nine out of ten times the person interrupting realizes I'm no longer speaking and…also stops speaking. I guess they think this is a conversation? I don't know.

So I restart. From wherever I started, not where I was interrupted. Because I'm usually trying to get a coherent point across, an argument, a statement, whatever.

And if interrupted again…I stop and repeat the process.

I don't raise my voice.

I may throw a glare or two.

I have found that after two or three of these cycles the person in question waits until I'm done or I ask for questions or whatever the context demands.

In turn, I consciously try to refrain from interrupting someone else, especially women. I am in no way perfect at this.

I've had people tell me (or my manager more likely) that my silence in these moments is more intimidating than if I just barrelled over the interruptor.

I have heard that in organizations where there's recognition that this is a problem, a talking stick or some other object, helps: the only person who can speak has to have the object, they "have the floor" until they relinquish it.

And for the people who are prone to interrupting others: cut that shit out. You're not impressing anyone. You're not getting your point across. You may well have a valid point or issue or comment, but if the only way you know to make an argument is to disrupt anyone else…then that's the takeaway, not whatever your issue actually is.


I’ve been witnessing a masterclass in this at work lately. One of the faculty I work with has a habit of jumping in on people when they’re talking. One of our new faculty simple refuses to spot when the other person jumps in—-just simply keeps taking over the interrupter. Doesn’t speak up, doesn’t alter their cadence, simply continues to talk. It’s amazing.


this is a VERY hard thing to learn, but I am trying it. Sometimes it just requires more concentration and determination than I can muster. Also the person doing the interrupting will occasionally accuse YOU of interrupting them. I hate feeling bullied by interrupters so I am constantly working to master any and all tactics for shutting down what I see as this rude/disrespectful/disruptive behavior.


Why? This is passive aggressive.

Am I taking crazy pills? What's the problem with just politely saying, "Can you please not interrupt?" or "Let me finish my point please."


What's the problem with just politely saying, "Can you please not interrupt?"

I'm assuming this option has already been exhausted and didn't have any effect.

I've worked with people who prefer to apologise all the time instead of changing their behaviour. When you bring that up they... apologise and move on.


Do a God of War on them: "Don't be sorry, be better". Apologising comes quite naturally for a lot of people, because apologising is easier than changing unwanted behaviour.

I've become aware of that recently because of reasons, and I think it's all right to not just drop it after someone apologises. It's all right to not accept an apology if the underlying behaviour isn't changed.


If a problem continues to be a problem after having some polite conversations about it, then it's time to take the conversation to managers. It's then the managers' role to find a solution.

If it keeps being a problem after that (only in an extreme minority of cases would this be true), then yes, I'd transfer or look for a different job.

But engaging in a war of talking over each other is just stupid and immature. I have kids, so I guess I prefer the workplace to consist of adults acting like adults.


This. Imo, this passive aggressively skirting around the issue is just giving one some petty satisfaction. Chances are likely the the interrupter isn’t aware. Tell the person not to interrupt bluntly if that’s your gripe.


Repeat interrupters have the mental capacity to figure this out. This is coddling people who don't deserve it.


Are you sure this tactic isn't just aggressive aggressive? Not letting someone steam roll you doesn't exactly seem passive to me.


It’s neither passive nor aggressive.

It is actively defensive.


Flashbacks of my ex-wife. She would go ballistic if she thought I was interrupting her, but she would cut me off all the time and just half-heartedly apologise afterwards. She had turned into a massive bully.

glouwbug 63 days ago [flagged]

Never marry, am I right fellas


Please don't do this here.


In defense of women, my wife's an angel and I believe most/many women are much better conversationalists than OP's ex


Wrong. Be the right person. Marry the right person.


Reminds me of a great episode of "The Truth" podcast,

"If you're being interrupted, it's because you're interruptible"

https://soundcloud.com/jonathan-mitchell-1/interruptible


"If you're being interrupted, it's because you're interruptible"

What a load of victim-blaming shit. There are people, and I've worked with many, that would have interrupted Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount.


Well tell it the fictional character in the story, I wasn't making any assertions on what's right or wrong.


Oh wow, you must know my mother in law ....


Sounds like a rude person just excusing their rudeness.


Second this approach. If someone interrupts, just keep talking. Do not back down before the interrupter stops. Think of it as a conversational filibuster :-)

If both parties keep talking it will get awkward for everyone in the conversation. This is what you want, as it will lead to immediate understanding that an interruption happened and that it's not OK. You can calmly discuss afterwards that you were interrupted, and after a few occurrences even those with only a modicum of social awareness will get the message and change behaviour. And peer pressure can then help those stragglers.


I actually think this is more aggressive - simply raising a finger or saying “if you don’t mind I’d like to finish my thought” seems to be perfectly adequate in most situations


This is my preferred approach


Yes, this is a very effective technique.


I work with a team from Bangladore daily and they frequently interrupt. I don't know if it's a cultural difference but it seems that way. I know when someone begins to speak Ill hear "ACTUALLY..." or "SORRY BUT..." soon enough.

Two things work. First is if I start a sentence I finish it. If you start talking then stop, you implicitly give permission to someone else to interrupt you when they interject. Get over the awkwardness of two people talking at once. They now (mostly) let me finish my thoughts -- after I started doing this.

This one is sneaky, but I do it when someone is especially obnoxious. They'll interrupt (on a call) and Ill say "Hey (name), are you there? We can't hear you." They freak out and beseechingly yell into their mic like Sandra Bullock in Gravity and then Ill calmly say "oh there you are, as I was saying..." and complete my thoughts. It's a pattern interrupt. Not the most honorable method, but it works.

I find I interrupting people while they speak to be terribly rude. I judge people pretty harshly who do so, which is probably my own hang up. These two methods have worked for me.


I spent some time in India. One social aspect that I noticed right away is that lines aren't really a thing. If someone is ordering food at a cart, and you stand behind them, other people will assume you don't want to order and they'll just go around you.

I imagine that living in a place with such high population density causes behavior that seems rude and pushy to us in America.


>I imagine that living in a place with such high population density causes behavior that seems rude and pushy to us in America.

Not at all. The population density in Japan is extremely high too, and they don't behave this way at all. This is entirely cultural: some cultures don't respect rules very well, other cultures do. Jumping line in Japan is considered extremely rude.


If I see other people do it I make a point to circle back to the person who was cut off immediately after the person who cut them off finishes and make a comment like "Sorry you were cut off, you were saying." That being said, know your audience before taking that approach. I wouldn't do it to an executive for example but I have no problem doing it to a director or manager (people in my experience who are notorious for doing this).


I too preserve my energy.

I’ve internalized patience. I’m not in a rush to be heard or make a point. I use the time others are speaking to listen and formulate my response. Then when it is my turn to speak I try to limit myself only to what needs to be said.

It can be very hard on me to do this. Especially when the conversation steers into something I am passionate about or I am completely uninterested in. It takes a lot of practice and energy to be polite, show interest, and listen to what is being said.

I find that the most effective technique in my arsenal is to wait. Then when there is a moment of silence I turn the tables and repeat back what it is I heard from the other person in my own words. I may ask a question or two to ensure I completely understand what they are saying. I find that there are many cultures where it is unusual and disarming for others to intentionally try to understand you. Once someone is aware they are being interviewed and their thoughts are being thoroughly and fairly considered I find the conversation turns into my favour and I can get my point across without having to interject.

Shouting over people to get attention is.. odd. I mean I have to do that with my children because they are not old enough to be considerate and hold a conversation. But I resist the temptation with them. If I am quiet and patient they listen better.

And sometimes none of this works. If I get into a conversation with more than one person and everyone is moving too quickly I simply cannot handle it. I politely remove myself from the conversation and follow up through back channels with individuals as necessary.


+1 I agree with waiting. In fact I'm personally coming around to the point of view that 90% of verbal technical discussions miss a key point which becomes very evident on reflection and/or are an inefficient use of time(N developers * x minutes and so on). You can be much more effective by writing a doc about the subject, reviewing it over email/Slack with an in-person discussion if required.


I cannot stress how important writing is. Writing is thinking. And often writing what you intend to argue in a meeting is an effective way to solidify your point.

If you think you can convince someone by reasoning about it from the seat of your pants don’t be surprised when your colleagues are not convinced.

This is good advice!

Although sometimes you have to bite the bullet and accommodate your hands-on improvisational types and have a good old-fashioned spit-balling session!

Just write it down afterwards.


Speakers tend to prefer either a high considerateness or high involvement style of conversation. Considerate speakers prefer conversations where parties wait for each other to finish and take turns speaking, while involved speakers prefer those where parties jump in when they have something to add. [0]

High considerateness style is getting too much credit in this thread. The two styles are similar in the relevant respect: more dominant speakers get more airtime. Conversations in high considerateness style don't dictate a turn order, so when someone finishes speaking, there's a competition for who gets the floor, and dominant speakers will win more often, and then get to keep talking for as long as they want. Effectively, high considerateness style just increases the packet size, without changing the bandwidth distribution.

High considerateness probably does have the advantage over high involvement in problem solving conversations, since it makes it easier to communicate more complex thoughts, but it's not the best. These two styles describe organic conversations, but it's possible to impose a rule-based structure that makes problem solving conversations more productive by dictating a turn-order (not necessarily in a static way). A structured conversation style that biases the competition for the floor in favor of those who have insights rather than dominance will outperform high considerateness style.

Neither of the organic styles are optimized for problem solving. High considerateness is optimized for preventing speakers from abusing the ability to jump in while someone else is speaking to silence people for political reasons. High involvement is optimized for making conversations enjoyable so that people actually want to have them.

In an ideal world, we would use high involvement style as a default, high considerateness in politically tense company, and various kinds of structured conversations when work needs to get done.

[0] https://linguistextraordinaire.com/2018/01/07/conversational...


It's possible, as someone used to high-involvement style, to converse in a way that's less hostile to the higher-considerateness speakers in the group. For example, if you start talking and notice that somebody has abruptly stopped talking, wrap your point up as quickly as possible and explicitly give them back the floor: "<name>, you were saying...?". On the other hand, if they keep talking with you until they wrap up, they're using a higher involvment style and you can keep going.


Wow, thanks for this comment. This is a really insgihtful, intellectually involved, rational explanation of this topic (which more people approach extremely emotionally - almost like politics). I'll have to check the linked article (and any other resources) to make sure what you're saying is actually true (supported by data), but it sounds reasonable and logical, so I'm biased towards believing it. Favorited!


Yes, it's common especially in places where it goes un-checked. One idea that can work to start to change this behavior is to verbalize when someone else is cut off. "Bob, it sounded like you were had something to add." If you start helping others get a word in some folks will start to get the message. Another, more direct approach, is feedback to those that keep cutting folks off. Finally, you can push for "retro" type meetings where you bring up this kind of thing. If you are feeling this way fore sure others are and you will start to see retention issues and a company filled with a mono culture of folks. The keyword to look into is "psychological safety" and how to foster that.


I don't think it's best to think of this in terms of "safety." Interruption is a dark pattern. It enables the user of the pattern to gain more attention and get more "turns" at speaking, but does it at the expense of group members being able to express complicated or difficult concepts. It's a pattern which suppresses thought and information.


Totally agree it can be a dark pattern but also sometimes folks just don’t realize their behaviors consequences on those around them. To clarify, pushing the org in the direction of fostering “physiological safety” allows folks to bring things like this up without fear of reprisal. (Google for studies on the term) When issues are surfaced they are more likely to be addressed and the company or team can become more effective since more folks have an opportunity to contribute fully rather than shutting down to protect themselves as the original post describes. Turns out effective human interaction is good for business.


Do you see the value in interrupt-based software? Why should there be any real distinction between software message-passing and human message-passing?

The complete rejection of interruption-during-conversation is equivalent to the denial of existence of far-too-long monologues, isn't it?


"Excuse me this is taking too long, please wrap up" is not the same as taking over the conversation.


Always finish what you have to say even if others start trying to talk over you. If you stop it makes it look like what you have to say is not important.

Check out this YouTube video titled: How to stop people from talking over you.

https://youtu.be/ikAfrKf5A8I

The YouTube channel Charisma on Command have a bunch of great videos on EQ.


"Always finish what you have to say even if others start trying to talk over you. If you stop it makes it look like what you have to say is not important."

And after the two of you have talked over each other for a few seconds, they'll stop and say something like, "I'm sorry, what were you saying?" You may think it's an invitation to explain what you were trying to say. It isn't.

And if you're like me, at this point of what I laughingly call my career, your best move is to shrug and walk off.


I used to try this with my manager when he would interrupt me. Sometimes we would go on talking over each other for a full 10 ish seconds. That's a really really long time for two people to talk over each other and not stop. So uncomfortable, but I found it so rude for him to talk over me and he did it so frequently that in the end I just refused to stop talking. I'm naturally shy and soft spoken, so it's not that I was going on too long! He never seemed to get the message, so I left. But I burned out at that company and have never been able to care about my job since. Now I hate everything about my job and can barely be bothered to touch the keyboard, that's what it has been like for the last 4 years.


Bad managers break people.


IDK if this will help, but I hope it will:

It sounds like you were forced into a fight with a manager over whether your opinions, ideas and thoughts were worth hearing - to him.

Although he had an official position, he was not acting with decent authority: so his judgement of your ideas has no force or truth, but is just his.

Your ideas, opinions and thoughts themselves were never at stake. They existed before that manager, and they existed after. They exist now.


I'm not really a huge fan of that channel in terms of the political content and overall presentation of each topic. But more to the point, this advice can really backfire -- maybe it will become a contest of who can speak the loudest, and you'll wind up confusing and pissing everyone off.

I think I still lean towards talking to a manager as a more effective strategy, and a culture where management lets this kind of thing happen isn't really one I want to be a part of anyway.


I feel like it’s all about finishing what you are saying calmly and confidently without necessarily getting louder. It might mean everyone doesn’t hear you but that’s not the point. The point is to maintain a strong social position.

I’m not sure going to a manager will work. That’s like saying: Rather than adapting my behaviour, I’d rather go to someone in the group who has power and ask them to defend me...I would rather improve my social skills and navigate the company myself. This would build my EQ and make promotions more likely.


Hmm, I watched a few of his videos and just saw some really great advice on how to be a better, more empowered, stronger person - not sure what "political content" you are referring to.


As a shy person this is what I had found has been effective. By shutting up you give that person dominance and they usually continue to do it more. If you continue talking they end up looking like the rude person. But this technique requires persistence and doesn't always work. Sometimes people are just jerks (or don't realize what they're doing)


This technique also requires some actual authority. It may well be that the other person is interrupting intentionally and asserting (with authority) that your intended message will not be given any more time and attention and the meeting/discussion will proceed without it - which sometimes needs to be done; I've seen more than one such case happening in certain (non-internal) debates because it really needed to be done.

You can escalate and re-assert that your point is valid, but that's just escalation that can go both ways, it can result in your message being heard and it can also result in you being physically removed from the discussion; so if you choose to escalate, then you need to be certain about who'll "win" the escalation. If it's an internal team meeting and the 'interrupter' is your peer, then it's one context; if it's a customer-vendor meeting and the 'interrupter' is your boss, then that's a quite different context, and you'd better stop making that point as soon as you get a hint that it's not where he wants to direct the conversation (with the other party); your point may be valid but if making it here and now would harm the company negotiating position, then he gets to decide that your message shouldn't be told here and now.

A big aspect that's important is who's setting the topic of the discussion, and the limits of what's off-topic, disctracting or irrelevant? In an informal small discussion between peers usually that's everyone and includes you, but there are many cases where it's someone else. And in many cases that someone else should be interrupting people and ensuring that some things don't get listened to - moderating discussions is a valid need that's hard to do and often gets done less than it should, resulting in excessive ineffective long offtopic meetings.


I find simply stating, "Excuse me but I wasn't finished." Is typically enough to get the point across. You can be polite and not allow people to railroad you.


I find it extremely rude and aggressive. It's like shoving people off the way with your elbows because there's a crowd in front off you.

I'd argue that much better way is to back off for a moment and try more diplomatic solution.


I've tried that and had the other folks just keep talking too. It's horrible and doesn't work in my experience.


There's an interesting distinction to be made between Guess, Ask, and Tell cultures.

– Guess culture: Doesn't name needs. There's an expectation that people guess each other's needs from clues/context/intuition.

– Ask culture: Names needs as an ask.

– Tell culture: Names needs. No specific kind of response is required or expected.

These aren't normative categories, but I think in any workplace, being collectively aware that these different styles exist and that communication will be improved by each person knowing their own styles and the styles of others can improve things.

– Guessers can work to name their needs.

– Askers can learn to interpret Guessers and gently help them articulate their needs, and likewise can gently ask questions of Tellers to determine their asks.

– Tellers can likewise learn to interpret Guessers and gently help them articulate their needs, and for Tellers, invite questions about their asks.

A LessWrong post, with another take on the subject: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/rEBXN3x6kXgD4pLxs/tell-cultu...


That is not a common thing in workplaces. Interrupting someone who's speaking is rude, plain and simple, in any context. People that talk over each other, to be blunt, have no manners. Are the discussions important to your work, or just social though? If work-related, they need to be managed in a setting where everyone has the chance to speak and be heard. I would discuss this with your manager if it's work-related, and hopefully he/she can provide an environment that's managed and not chaotic babble going back and forth. Also, there are books and resources that might help you be more assertive and confident in situations where you have to jockey for attention. There aren't many times that happens, but in competitive business, it does happen. Everyone is looking out for #1. I'd add that people that interject all the time are poor listeners, which is a problem in business(and life). If all they're doing is thinking about the next thing they're going to say to the point they can't even hold it in, then they certainly aren't paying due attention to whoever is speaking and the topic and giving it diligent consideration.


It really helps if someone is actively managing the meeting. As a PM, I've often done this in meetings with my engineering team. It works well because I don't know enough to contribute much to the technical discussions, but I know enough to know when they're veering off track or someone's dominating the discussion. I also know which engineers aren't as prone to interrupting, and I can make sure they're included in the discussion.

I often go with a little self-deprecation just to keep it light when things are spiraling out of control. Something like, "Okay, time to take a pause and dumb it down for the PM. It sounds like we've settled on the fact that the issue is x, and the possible solutions are a, b and c. <Quiet engineer>, you've dealt with x before - what are your thoughts?"

Smart people are prone to chime in with their thoughts, even if it involves interrupting. In PM/design meetings, I'm guilty as hell of that, but I recognize when whoever is running the meeting is shutting me up so others can speak and appreciate it.


Anecdotally, this seems fairly common but perhaps not to the same intensity that you've alluded.

The way I helped curb this at my workplace, which may or may not be applicable to you, was by always back-tracking to the person who was cut off.

X starts saying something, Y cuts them off. As soon as Y is done speaking, I ask X: "Sorry X, what were you saying?" while ignoring Y. This non-confrontational approach seemed to work, at least in my workplace. Y quickly began to realize that they were cutting off X and that the table was interested in what X had to say.

Unfortunately this requires two people. If you are the one being cut off, without someone else to step in, this is a hard problem to deal with.


I'm not a fan of the passive-aggressivity of this. I'd rather somebody explicitely say "sorry Y, can you please let X finish?" and talk to Y one-to-one if it's a recurrent issue


Really? It strikes me as a great way of not validating the interruption to me.


The meeting organizer/manager needs to control the meeting.

For in-person meetings, I am constantly watching for people who raise their hands or try to get a word in. If necessary, I cut the people monopolizing the conversation and make sure those people get a chance to speak. For the wallflowers at the meeting I make sure to reserve some time at the end when people who haven't spoken get a chance to speak up.

For online meetings (Skype), the manager has to watch time and interrupt people where necessary. It is very easy someone to go on a monologue during Skype meetings. Again, listening for people trying to get a word in is the managers responsibility.

Every now and then, a team gets an employee who is disruptive, constantly interrupting the flow and going off on tangents. For those employees, the manager has to bring the non-productive behavior to their attentive offline and suggest changes. In extreme cases, where the behavior persists and is ruining the team environment, that person has to leave the company.

In short, your manager is responsible. Talk to him/her.


The problem is definitely more noticeable on skype and other types of conference calls, because you miss all the nonverbal cues and loudmouthed narcissists can easily take over and derail all conversations with their voice alone.


It's a bit "kid-ish", but I've seen it work effectively at combating what you're talking about.

Have some kind of object that a person holds while they're talking. While the person is holding the object no one else is allowed to speak. Once they're finished speaking the object is passed to the next person and they get their turn (if they want).

The object can be anything, but when I've seen this strategy used it was a rubber ball a bit smaller than a soccer ball. Something big enough that everyone can see who is holding it, not something small enough to be hidden in a hand.

As long as the person running the meeting introduces the strategy well, and maintains its rules, it should work. You might get a little bit of backlash from people that think it's demeaning, but you'll probably find that they're the ones doing the interrupting.


This sounds ridiculous, but it's a really simple solution that really does work.


It's like a Token Ring

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Token_ring) in Networks.


The conch shell from Lord of the Flies. During weekly town halls we have a plush wireless microphone cube that we toss from the current speaker to the next.


Consider that the people who behave like that might think they're the polite ones. They listen actively and feel deeply engaged. They see conversation as something everyone participates in; contributes to. From the coworkers' perspective it might seem rude for someone to apparently not listen and just wait their turn to speak, acting as if they think what they have to say is more important than whatever conversation is happening around them. I'm not saying it is that way. I'm just trying to suggest one more charitable way of looking at it.


Sometimes it's unfortunately just a personality thing. There are people that are notorious for just needing to be the smartest person in the room, and if they aren't checked, it's just going to be a sucky place to work.

I've had limited good luck dealing with them by asking a lot of questions, Socrates-style. Really pinning them down. Particularly if I have an opposing solution that answers my own questions better. This helps highlight the difference between the people that have legitimately put in a lot of thought, and the bloviators.

There's one person I've worked with that has me stumped though. They start talking, and then they trail off... not quite mid-sentence, enough so that you think they're done. And then I respond, but they immediately continue their thought, rapid-fire like they're pouncing.

Person: "and the JWT token doesn't have that field, so..."

(2-3 seconds elapse)

Me: "Well, I think we can handl--"

Person: "SO-I-DON'T-THINK-THAT-WE-CAN (etc etc)"

It's so weird, they don't continue their thought until I start responding. Every time it plays out like I feel like I'm the one that was interrupting, even though I know I'm not.


Speaking as someone who tends to go on and on and on sometimes, I will sometimes misjudge the difference between a “I’m done talking” pause and a “I’m thinking of how to phrase the next thought” pause and either just kind of stop abruptly when I run out of articulate thoughts or give the false impression that I was done talking when I wasn’t. Someone else cutting in before I was done with a thought is usually my hint that I’ve misjudged so I sometimes panic and try and continue my thought.

I don’t think this is a reasonable style to deal with and for my part I’m trying to make my thoughts more concise before sharing them. Just don’t take it personally?


"OK, thanks." then go back to whatever else you were doing. Your example at least makes it sound like this person is actually seeking a confrontation of some sort, so just remove that as an option.

Alternately, "let me know when you decide how to handle it."

Or maybe that person is using you for rubber duck debugging[0] and you're not fulfilling your part, in which case buy him a rubber duck.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging


Your scenario made me laugh as I work with someone exactly like that and it really gets on my nerves. She’ll actually finish a statement, pause for 5 or more seconds (by then someone else has started talking), then just continue on with another statement.

And it’s not like she starts talking right when the other person starts, no, the other person is almost done their first sentence and she talks over them.

I have to laugh at it or it will drive me bonkers.


It's possible they are marshalling their thoughts. They haven't yet got them ready when you start speaking, but they go with whatever they've got before they lose it.

You could try an experiment one time, of waiting them out - like for 1 minute (an incredibly long silence, but a cheap experiment) - and discover what they do.


You need a better meeting leader. Their job should be to facilitate, which means keeping the meeting on track with the agenda, calling out interrupters, and making sure to circle back with the person who was interrupted to get their input, and then blocking the others from interrupting again. And a really good meeting leader will figure out who the soft-spoken people are and make sure to ask them for their opinions explicitly if they seem to have one that wasn't heard.


Others have suggested a talking stick, and I'll improve on that - a talking stick + timer. Because you need to enforce both 1 person talking at time, and time box them.

Even better, you make the timer be the talking stick. Every time you hand off the timer, you reset it for the next person. They say their piece and reset/handoff to the next person.

I've done this for daily standups/sprint meetings where things were getting out of control, it works well.


You propose a valid technical solution. Sadly it involves infrastructure and ceremony. I would think it preferable to grow the social skills of the team so that these aren't required.


Sometimes it involves infrastructure and ceremony to grow the social skills of a group (church, school, team sports, board games, etc :)

Usually the team learns from the tools and the tools naturally stop being used when they are no longer needed.


Reminds me of when I worked in a big finance company in London. We had a talking rubber fish. It worked well until a particularly aggressive manager just grabbed the fish and threw it across the room and continued to shout at all his staff.. It was a great slapstick moment!


I used to work in a place where two of my colleagues (one of them my supervisor) used to interrupt each other a lot, often degenerating to heated, unproductive arguments.

I started using a whiteboard for all our meetings. For whatever issue we were discussing, I would first write it down. I then proceeded to function as a moderator. Whenever one of my colleagues wanted to interrupt, I made sure to keep him/her at bay by pointing out that I wanted to let other colleague finish first. Whenever one of them would drift away from the main issue, I would point out to the topic on the whiteboard and emphasize that we needed to keep the conversation focused on that issue.

It worked wonders.

In general, I've noticed that having a "meeting leader" that keeps the meeting on track with the agenda and functions as a moderator really improves the quality of the meetings and even makes them shorter.


People who ask questions tend not to be cut off as often as speakers who don't.

If you get the floor and are still sounding out an idea in front of a group, consider whether contributing is a valuable use of everyone's time. There are of course people who talk forever and interrupt everyone else to make it about them, and it's because they need personal development. It's on the senior-most person there to interrupt them and redirect the flow of the discussion.

However, if that person going on and on is the most senior person, then sitting there and listening and humouring them is your job.


I completely disagree. If you're running a meeting, you're accountable for keeping that meeting on the rails. If that means cutting off someone senior and getting the meeting back on track, or asking them to stay focused, or redirecting the conversation to let others speak, then that's what you need to do.

Seniority is a matter of job description. My job as a senior engineer involves driving alignment on the design and implementation of features. When I run meetings, they have an agenda and concrete outputs. If someone derails the meeting, I will politely but forcefully run them over. When that bubbles up into an interpersonal conflict, as it sometimes does, I'm again, polite but forceful.

I know what my job is, and I hold myself accountable for getting it done.

The only time I've been openly rude to someone was a Senior Principal at AWS who thought derailing 12+ engineer meetings to rant about unrelated topics was an acceptable use of time. The rudeness was probably uncalled for, but it got the job done and was (surprisingly) well received.


Correct that this is your #1 job.

But it would be even better if you could do that job, AND not make people feel shitty / mad / disrespected in the process.

As someone who struggles with this, getting the "emotional layer" right, on top of the base objective of doing your job, is sort of the next level of competence you might think how to achieve.

It is very difficult to get right.


This is a good approach. What I try do is think of a question that highlights (what I perceive to be) the flaw in the "loud mouths" position, ask it, then let them defend themselves. This also requires me to be precise and well thought in my own position, which is not always easy.


Email discussion is great for that.. rather than being a "talk-loud" + "fast-thinker" win, it usually comes down to more thoughtful discussions/decisions.

But to your point, I personally just confront the person who keeps interrupting me: - Hey, can you stop talking over me and let me finish my thought? - Dude, you're wrong, and talking over people won't make your argument better.

That being said, I'm sometimes the one interrupting when people keep babbling on and on, and the manager (or meeting lead) doesn't do their job. I try to do it politely by redirecting discussion to the point or summarizing the decision, but sometimes I need to force it and be a bit rude. I don't like doing that, but when you see people starting to roll their eyes or look at their phone, someone needs to step in.

Having a clear agenda with a meeting lead also help to keep the discussion on point while giving a chance to everyone to express their thoughts. If there are bullies, the meeting lead can shut them down.

When the manager or meeting lead is the one being a jerk, then it's obviously tricky. Depending on the culture, you can either politely redirect discussion to the point, summarize the decisions... or just don't attend the meeting. If asked why, can be honest and say you keep being interrupted and might as well work on something else if they don't want to hear your thoughts.


I had the same problem, and fixing it was one of the hardest things I've even done.

The problem was me, and that I was boring to listen to.

I worked on making my statements shorter, funnier, getting better at analogies so people could follow along with a picture in their heads (especially when speaking to non technical people about technical issues), and by promising something interesting in the first sentence and then not giving that info until the end of my statement.

I don't use all those techniques all the time, but every time I take over a big group conversation I will be conscientiously thinking about doing one of them. It's been 5-6 years of effort and I went from extremely boring to now being consistently asked to give presentations because people think my speaking is entertaining.

I also always played devils advocate, and presented the best case from both sides of an argument whenever a big decision was being discussed. I stopped doing that completely and don't share my inner debates. Everyone has their own and they don't need to be informed by yours.

People just want new interesting information + plans for action with strong reasoning briefly summarized.

If all your statements are like the following, you will find people cutting you off less and less...

"I found X that you will never believe! And after spending all day analyzing this new information I recommend we quickly adopt Y before disaster happens. Any questions?"


I'll offer the thing you need to learn is to not give a shit. It helps to remind yourself your getting paid the same no matter what.

Beyond that, if you've got something important to point out that others are missing then you can jump in with a dominant attitude and make the point quickly and then sit back and fade away and let the conversation go where it will.

Timing is important but starting with something like "I think we need to consider..." or "you're missing something important here" loud enough to be heard can draw the focus to you quickly.

Once you've made your point stop talking. It will either be ignored, dismissed, or discussed. If they ask you to expand give them all you got but don't get frustrated if it gets ignored or dismissed. Bring it up again in a private conversation later with whomever really needs to know and give them time to let it sink in.

If someone cuts you off you can always pop back in by starting with something like "We still need to consider..."

Back to not giving a shit. You do your best work no matter what. That's what you get paid for, but you do the work the way they want it done and don't take it personal if they ignore you when you know have a better way. That really doesn't have to matter to you at all.


This reminds me of a "rule" I've heard from TV series writers. They operate with a dozen people locked up in a large writing room for the whole day. Their job is literally to "say one thing in the morning, and one thing in the afternoon". That's it. They don't have to say any more than that, but they better damn make sure that when they open their mouth, what they're going to say is worth the other folks' time to hear. They can always say more, but people aren't paid by the number of words they say in meetings, and in fact speaking too much can really burn someone with the other writers if they keep hogging the floor to say things that aren't the most insightful in the world.

I feel that's a useful test to use as well before talking in a meeting: is what I'm about to say something that really needs to be said here and now?


Someone who is interrupted will almost never listen to the interrupt. Instead, they maintain whatever they were going to say "in cache" and replay it once the interrupt is over. I've found this to be universal.

So I've learned to stop interrupting people. They're only going to listen to what I say once they're done saying what they need to. Without at least one side listening to the other, the conversation will go no where.

From there, the problem is when one person won't give others a chance to speak. On my team, we raise a hand to let the person speaking know that someone wants to get a word in. This works very well in my experience.


I used to have a big problem with this. My family culture values slow, serial communication, so "cooperative overlapping" of the sort practiced at my workplace came across to me as rudeness. That meant my frustration at not being heard was amplified by negative connotations about why I was getting steamrollered during meetings.

One thing that helped me was to understand the motivations of those involved. It's easy to think somebody is rude, or showing off, but fortunately I started from a place of deep respect for the capabilities of everyone in my group, and eventually a great affection for them. I saw that we had a few individuals who, if they weren't interrupting, it meant they weren't interested. After I realized this, I started to prize the guy practically jumping out of his chair to take over what I was saying, because it meant he was engaged and excited by it.

Nevertheless, I did often think about the effect on people who might be less self-confident than me, or quieter (we had a lot of students passing through in those days). In the end, if I needed to be heard, I could raise my own voice just as effectively as anybody else in the group -- but not everybody can do that.

It came to a head one group meeting, when a foreign researcher came to present some results. His presentation effectively ended after a few slides, because it got derailed by the back-and-forth of the "audience". I was really steaming and embarrassed.

He agreed to come back the following week, so I sent round an e-mail saying we had all better be on good behavior. I told the group I would bring three notebooks -- one green, one yellow, and one red. The meeting would start with the green one on top of the stack, and if I got annoyed, I would move the yellow one to the top. If the red one came to the top, I would -- well, I don't remember what I threatened, but it couldn't have been very scary, since I had no power.

In the event, the green notebook stayed on top. Not only was the group on strictly respectful behavior for the presenter, but I think it got better generally for a long time afterwards. I think seeing how that behavior affected an outsider gave everybody a little pause, and made us see ourselves better. But again, I think the details of this anecdote show what a great group of people these were. As a junior team member, I felt able to express and act on my disappointment, and everybody listened and tried to accommodate me.


There are two potentials here.

One potential is if it's just one or two people being cut off constantly - if so, they might need to practice being engaging speakers and speaking more concisely. Everybody has the one coworker who takes 10 minutes to get to a 30 second point. (Cutting people off is still rude, the above isn't an excuse, it's an explanation.)

The alternative is that everyone is fighting to get out their idea instead of cooperating to lay out all ideas. If you need to, go buy a damn ruler, label it the talking stick, and whoever holds it gets to talk. Preferably before getting to that point, have a conversation with your peers that the deliberative process is a cooperative one - it's not about winning and losing, it's about everyone putting out their possible solutions and working together to build the right one.


The first point here is what came to mind. I try not to cut people off, but some may be droning on, or repeating or slowly pacing around a point even though my brain is 5 steps ahead already. I get bored and impatient and want to move on.

Maybe ask a fast thinker about your style, or try recording yourself and listen back to see if you can be more concise or lively.


I tend to interrupt people only when they ramble on about something forever or when they make their point in a really, really roundabout fashion.

You know the type, that talks for 10 minutes and you still have no clue what the point is or where it will lead to.

The thing is: there are many reasons why people interrupt other people and they might be completely different.

In my case you probably would in the best case react with something like: “Wait, let me summarize my point” and then proceed to do precisely that.

Some people might shut you down, some might get excited by the thoughts your contribution envokes in then. Some might just hate it that they are not in the spotlight.

If you know the reason, you know how to react to it.


I find it is much more frequent when you are mixing technical and non technical people in meetings. One such example is when you have a non-technical person taking the scenic route through a conversation about a process, by the time they have uttered their third word most of the technical people already know the rest of the sentence, the next lot of objections, the following (wrong) solutions that will be presented and the final solution that was decided on when the problem was analysed when it first came to light.


Tell people that you're experiencing it. If you trust someone who doesn't seem to have as much trouble, confide in that person first, but continue to tell people privately when you experience it. In my experience, most people will take it seriously, and some will start to notice and do things like point out that you were cut off, or bring the conversation back around to you.

If you get pushback when doing this, I'm sorry you're experiencing that. My recommendation would be to find a new job, unfortunately.


In my experience it is common. Here are some suggestions:

1. Ask a person who has cut you off in a recent conversation for a 1 on 1 conversation. Tell them about the recent conversation and what happened from your perspective. Ask them for advice on what you can do to have your voice heard more.

2. Ask a third party who is typically in those conversations that you get cut off in (but isn’t the one who cuts you off) for a 1 on 1 conversation. Explain to them what is happening and ask them for their advice. — not only will you get some advice but they might change their behavior to discourage others from cutting you off

3. Next time you get cut off remember what you just said, the details of how you said it, and the topic at hand and write it down. After you do that a few times take a look at the data you gathered and see if you can find any noticeable patterns — may you were getting off topic or maybe you had a snarky tone, etc.

4. Determine what your need is and explore other ways to have it met. If your need is to feel as if your opinions are heard, consider that in person technical conversations are just one way to meet that need. Another way might be a written proposal or Slack conversation. Or maybe you could run a more structured meeting that is run in a way that protects against people getting cut off (e.g. time assigned specifically for generating several different options)


It might help to understand why people are cutting you off. Some situations where I have cut people off (maybe in the wrong; it's a judgement call): * It's clear everyone understands what's being said and explaining further is wasting time * It's clear what's being said is based on a misunderstanding or is not relevant * I can tell where it's going and have already dealt with what will eventually be concluded so the whole conversation can be cut off completely * I have input into the topic that it appears no one realizes yet and might drastically change the direction of the conversation * It's clear that we've gone on a tangent and it's time to get back on track * Someone is telling a personal story for effect and it's not adding business value or social value to the discussion * Someone is grandstanding for no apparent reason other then self indulgence

As for solutions: * Establish a protocol for raising attention that someone has input before the speaker is done; like raising your hand * Use a talking stick

Non-solutions: * Calling someone out for interrupting you might foster hostility. Instead, during a retrospective or something similar, raise a concern that generically people are having a hard time completing their thoughts because they keep getting cut off.


Something I've noticed is there's a strong correlation between people bulldozing in meetings/conversations at the office and being recently/overly caffeinated.

I haven't tried this myself, but it might help to question the person doing it as being potentially overcaffeinated in the moment. Maybe it can be done playfully, without being combative. Something like "Man, how much coffee did you drink today? You're out of control."

Also, it's kind of an arms race if this is what's going on. What you can do is caffeinate yourself and fight fire with fire, if you don't mind a caffeine dependence.

Caffeine is like a mild form of cocaine. It similarly tends to make people arrogant, overconfident, loud, impatient, obnoxious, talkative, and over eager.

At my last office position, which was in SF, I absolutely hated most of the social interactions because people were abusing caffeine like a pile of junkies. The lunchroom had a dedicated corner full of coffee making apparatuses and scales, it was completely ridiculous. There was enough equipment for half a dozen people to freshly gravity drip coffee simultaneously into their cups.

I basically don't use caffeine at all, and it was simply impossible to tolerate communicating with most of the employees in any serious topic. They would just go a million miles an hour and bulldoze right over my entirely sober state. Rather than try match their energy level and agressiveness I'd just walk away and engage virtually on IRC/slack/github instead.

SF in general strikes me as a city full of addicts. In the office people were largely high on caffeine, and outside the office they would get drinks nearly every day after work. It's definitely not for everybody, and I had a better experience in this regard working in Silicon Valley (Mountain View).


I've always disliked getting interrupted, and I used to spend a lot of energy trying to get my opinion into the conversion during meetings.

Lately, I've been doing the opposite. If I have a thought, I wait until the end up what's being said. If they barrel into another topic without waiting, I'll simply start talking and tell them my thoughts on the last topic that they so hastily abandoned.

Occasionally I'll forget what I was going to say because there was so much going on. In those instances, I simply don't worry about it. No matter how important it was, it'll either come up later or we'll deal with it eventually somehow.

That all said, there's one thing I will interrupt. When a person says the same thing repeatedly, even in different ways, I feel compelled to stop them and keep the conversation moving. Anyone that doesn't understand can ask for clarification. There's no need to repeat things.


First, try reframing everything you have to say as a question. People like ones you describe tend to be more responsive to questions, it plays to their ego.

So if someone makes a loud assertion you know is wrong, ask a series of leading questions like a trial lawyer would that takes them down the path of realizing it's wrong (or at least takes everyone else listening down that path).

Second, check out the book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense [1]. It may help.

Third, are you a woman perchance? This is an especially common problem for women. If so, find a company with a better culture. They're out there, and not worth your energy to try and change this one.

[1]:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/133203.The_Gentle_Art_of...


Yes, but I can think of a few people who fit this bill who are incapable of hearing a question as a critique. They will happily answer the question and not change course in the slightest.


Yes, but 1) it usually takes more than one question, rather a series of questions calling attention to the flaw/s, and 2) even if talker doesn't change course it's likely others in the group will see what's going on and realize OP is actually the one that knows stuff, changing the group dynamic.


Another approach you might try is to ask a coworker to step in and ask the interrupter to let you, or someone else, finish speaking. I find I do this myself primarily because I don’t believe people who aren’t comfortable being confrontational don’t deserve an equal chance to speak and be heard.


The cut off being part of the culture can come from a lot of factors, but the ones I've seen are:

1. Abject rudeness or lack of a culture that values social graces (usually the "hacker"/"power player" mentality). Usually can't be solved except from the top, but not as common.

2. Time pressure. The rudest meetings in my current workplace happen when the meeting is ill-formatted (like a design review meeting that has nothing posted beforehand that only lasts 1 hour and is expected to get a stamp at the end). The time pressure for some people to get their points or feedback across results in a total loss of empathy.

3. Lack of any moderation or management. If nobody is in control of any meeting, it leaves it to the loudest voices, who sometimes won't give space for others to talk.


You say to the other person, loudly and firmly "hang on X, I haven't finished" then you carry on until you're done.

There's no magic to it, no reliance on a corporate directive, or gimmick like a talking stick or hacky sack. You just directly address the other persons behaviour.


I was in one particular meeting where I had some technical details I was trying to give (that were actually relevant and important). But each time I started trying to give them, I got interrupted by the marketing people. (One in particular. She was pretty loud, too.) I backed off, because I figured that there would be another point in the meeting where I could lay out the tech stuff.

But after the third time, when she interrupted, I just continued (louder than her), "As I was saying, the way the tech works is..."

She didn't interrupt me again. (Of course, I didn't say much more in the meeting once I said what I needed to...) I don't remember whether she interrupted anyone else after that.


While I upvoted your comment for it's directness, and agree that it can work for infrequent instances, I've seen whole cultures where everyone is interrupting each other. It's harder to apply when things get truly bad.

Incidentally, that was in the bay, and I've had better experiences elsewhere - purely anecdotal.


It's always worked well for me - in the work place at least.


This is the right way. People know interrupting is rude and if you call them out immediately you can just continue. Adding some gesture helps too, like raising the pointing finger :)


As a show of respect and professionalism, I do my best to listen intently and to not interrupt my coworkers. If I am interrupted, I will stop and listen-- provided that the interruption served a purpose.

If someone repeatedly interrupts me without need in a conversation, then I will get annoyed with them, consciously ignore their interruptions and finish my thoughts, even if they keep talking. This usually sounds unintelligible to everyone involved. Once they are done trying to talk over me, I'll ask them a question relating to something I just said, which makes two points: 1. Now it's their turn to talk, and 2. They don't know what I just said because they were talking when it was not their turn to do so.


I've been working in the Bay Area for 8 years now, it's not the area, it's your specific workplace. It would happen anywhere in the world. I would assume your leads (EM/PM) are not doing their job correctly. There has to be someone helping moderate the discussion and making sure you're getting somewhere relevant.

If it's a problem, raise it and propose a change in the meeting process. Ask for someone (or volunteer) that keeps track of the meeting agenda and makes people accountable.

IMO adding process that helps structure conversation in places where it's not happening naturally helps tremendously. There's some friction initially, but if implemented correctly, benefits appear really early on.


I am prone to cutting off slow thinkers. The type that you know exactly what they are going to say for the next minute - yep I got that so can we move on to your next point. It is a bad habit and I try to control it, but sometimes I slip up.


What do you do with all the time you save interrupting the slow thinkers?


I spend it on HN.


ftw


There’s a line between sharing your feelings and lecturing people. I have a couple people in my life who just keep rubbing it in unless you stop them.


One way that has worked well for me is saying politely, 'please let me finish'. And then continuing with my contribution to the conversation.

This takes some amount of guts, but I am yet to experience anyone not allowing me to finish my point.


Also body language can help. Put your hand up with your palm facing the interrupter to physically block the interruption..


Change the format of the meeting I'd say. If a "meeting" is a free-for-all discussion it's going to simply be the loudest or most enthusiastic person that's gettting heard. So don't have free-for-all discussions. Have moderated meetings go around the table asking everyone for input.

In "brainstorming" or problem solving meetings, instead of everyone going silent and then the loudest guy getting an idea, try briefly breaking up the meeting from say 6 people into 3 groups of 2. Discuss for 2 minutes and then present the conclusions to the whole group.


A very easy, low friction way to correct this behavior is to steer the conversation to someone who has been interrupted.

Let the interrupter do his thing, then go "Alright John Doe, you were saying X Y Z?" He'll start his train of thought again, and if someone tries to interrupt, cut them off and say "Hold on let John Doe finish answering my question". You come out looking professional to interrupters, the interrupted likes you more, _and_ you start to change the behavior that annoys you, without you being the bad guy. win-win-win


Stop trying to talk. Just listen. At some point they'll encounter a problem that they don't have a solution for. Then speak your mind (of course if you have a good idea or something that might spark a good idea in others). After just a few lucky instances of that you'll be considered a sage.

And what if they are chosing wrong solution? If you are sure and have a moment of silence, usually after every noisy person understood the solution and is content with it, present one specific bulletproof counterexample. Might earn you deep thinker badge and love-hate relationship with the rest of the team.

And if they pick wrong solution anyways or you don't have an opportunity to pitch in. Relax. Not your circus, not your monkeys. It might come out ok in the end. Or you might still get to be a hero during recovery from this effup. And your team might get more billable hours which is good for you and your team. Not so good for your employer but that's the failure of development process he set up. You are not responsible to plug holes in the process.

This attitude will make you more relaxed and happier and have better relationship with the rest of the team. Your output will improve and you'll have more chances to infect noisy people with your ideas via 1 on 1 watercooler conversations and in the meetings just watch how they do the hard part of promoting your idea for you. Your employer might even get benefit from you not trying your hardest to represent him in the meetings.


This may not be useful but have you tried to ask why you want to be heard. It's worth exploring your motives. Is it to make yourself feel more valued in the team or is it to provide value to the team. Figuring this out may allow you to find a way to change how your team members view you ( if it's needing validation from the team) or if it's the second, which I suspect it is, you may find a way to influence decisions _without_ having to talk over other people.

Team discussions are a competition of views and attention for space to express them and can be chaotic. Exploring

1. Verbal strategies - some have pointed out couple in the thread

2. Preparation of what you want to say - and framing the negatives strongly and the positives of your argument confidently

3. Seeding - Doing the groundwork and preparation before the discussion itself. Talking to your team members about your ideas and gauging they're reactions - in a way reading the room, and planting your idea so it's not out of the blue at the discussion

There's more but it's down to you. It's probably what you don't want to hear. You'll have to improve the way you communicate within discussions or learn how to influence the leaders and decision makes of the group outside the chaotic conversations.

I'm like you in a way but you've got to choose your battles.


Try a "hacky sack." Only the person who has it may speak. If interruptions continue, introduce an airhorn, and hit it when they happen. ;)

There should also probably be a time limit as well.


An airhorn should only be used outdoors. These can output 120 decibels, enough to cause pain and temporary hearing impairment.


Was thinking of the small can type, not one for a train. But yeah, not too loud.


Yes, portable airhorns produce damaging levels of sound output. Do not use indoors!


time boxing is really important with this approach. Talk time hugger are the devil to get everyone involved bored.


https://www.askamanager.org/2014/03/my-coworker-wont-stop-in...

I have coworkers who constantly talk over each other in meetings. Bringing this up as a problem in weekly team meetings, one-on-ones with manager (she's one of them) and any other review meetings has been somewhat successful.


In a professional setting, nothing works better than setting expectations upfront.

For instance, over a meeting invite, letting everyone know the agenda and the rules of engagement would go a long way in setting the expectations beforehand. You might even set rules of engagement generally enough for all meetings instead of just yours... of course, then, expect to work on the feedback from all quarters, but that's manageable. It might also stand to surprise you the number of people that might be supportive of such a thing because it makes future meetings productive and approachable for them.

That said, some teams do have dynamics where a few powerful personalities by the virtue of their position in the team or their closeness to the management drain out all other voices in the room, as it were. This is a different ball-game since it involves power struggle which you'd eventually lose. A couple of ways I know to out manuver is to:

1. Show up in the meeting prepared with facts beforehand.

2. Do a post-meeting commentary on the meeting notes or talking points with a view to encourage further discussion, over email or wikis or docs.

Regardless, your comments may be ignored. Don't take it too hard, but know that you were heard loud and clear, fwiw. Rest of your team most certainly isn't turning a blind-eye.


104 comments and nobody has mentioned that this is an extremely common problem for women.


I say in a calm even voice... "Please Moira, I just need to finish this point"

Sometimes I say in the same voice... Hold on a tick Moira, I think Francis is trying to make a point.

Moira in our organisation is a meetings pest, she speaks without listening and speaks often.

Just be polite, don't let the conversation move on, and advocate for others who are spoken over. "I didn't hear Josh, Josh can you please repeat that"


If this happens a few times in a row, I tune out, start browsing something on your phone. When everyone starts doing this they get the message.


Direct and polite. I'm in awe that there is so much toxic advice in this thread. All these suggestions about just continuing talking over the other person, like some kind of competition, have no place in the workplace. It's not that hard...

Please let me finish.

Excuse me, I wasn't done with my point.

Jen, were you trying to say something?

I'll address that as soon as I'm done with what I was saying.

Hold on, let me just finish what I was saying.


This is not answering your question, but, I once did an Outward Bound course (basically personal development in the outdoors). Anyway, there was this interesting scene they did where they made us line up depending on how much we agreed/disagreed on a particular topic. They then made us debate with our opposites. That is, the most agreeing and most disagreeing people had to debate.

I was one of the people who "most disagreed" and my "opponent" got to go first. I had to listen to her for 3 minutes or so. At the end of her speaking time, I assumed that I would get to go BUT _I had to repeat what she'd been saying_.

It was an incredibly enlightening moment, it pointed out very clearly that really, most of the time I wasn't listening to what she was saying, I was trying to work out how to rebut what she'd said.

I also hate it when people talk over me, I do wonder how well they're listening or if they're just trying to get their point across.

I'll follow this thread, thanks for asking the question.


People in this biz make all kinds of (bogus) excuses along the lines of "I continue to fail at basic life skills X, Y, and Z, BUT! I'm still super-smart!"

I wouldn't buy that. Someone fumbling the ball on basic politeness is probably fumbling many many others that you don't even know about.

And you have an office full of them! If only I knew where you worked...


Don't make a big deal out of it or act upset, but every single time you get cut off say "Hang on. Let me finish."


Dude I relate to you 100%, and the only solution I’ve found is to become comfortable interrupting people right back when they interrupt you, and sometimes before.

Interruption is a weird thing that is both cultural and personal. I spent a lot of time overseas conversing with people in languages other than English, and with people who spoke English as a second language. During those years I became completely comfortable never being interrupted and never interrupting.

Then I came back to America and at first found the “interrupting culture” to be UNBELIEVABLY rude. It really really rankled me for multiple months. I didn’t interrupt people so why the hell were they interrupting me??

...and then I became comfortable interrupting people again. Now things are fine. I’m not saying this is the perfect solution to your problem, but it’s definitely ONE solution.


Sounds like...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressions_of_dominance

Solution: moderation. When a person is interrupted, the moderator interjects and asks the interrupted person to finish the idea.

If the interruptions persist, adjourn the meeting.


The rules of effective, efficient discussion are universal; if they're ignored in various settings I'll consider offering a cash wager that those are rarely settings (engineering, surgery, etc) in which careful thought and attention to detail are high priorities.

Participants who respect each other observe The Cocktail Party Protocol, which is so obvious it's enshrined in silicon: when you sense that the shared medium is available, you may begin transmission. If you discover that somebody else has also done so, back off for a short randomly variable interval and then try again. Multiple simultaneous transmissions are well understood to be a degenerate case to be avoided, with participants who fail to follow protocol regarded as defective and, in at least one case I've seen, tagged with error code BABBLING_TRANSMITTER.

SEE ALSO: CSMA/CD


Pro tip from the gang at IBM: He who talks loudest is in charge.


I've found that if you talk less, people will listen more when you do talk - provided you don't ramble.

Focus on being concise and formulating your thoughts while everyone else is hashing things out - then jump in with your clearly articulated thoughts at the end.

A lot of the time it seems people get cut off because they ramble.


Don't be naive into thinking that it's going to get any better, or that talking about it to someone will help in anything - it usually makes things worse that's the reality of it.

One simple way to reduce the frustration and make it more bearable for you is to send your point across by email to everyone involved later on that day, it works for me.

How bad is it? Maybe at your workplace is especially bad, if that is the case and it's bothering you, it's probably a good time to leave.

Some people think they know it all, can't shut up and are literally incapable of listening to others. Some people just think while they talk, feel the need to fill the blanks of conversations constantly, etc.

As long as you give your input or send your point across in whatever form, in person or by email at least you feel better for sure.


When the next discussion starts, offer to document the arguments, or designate someone to. Create a Google doc that everyone can edit and write a quick blurb stating the goal of the discussion.

Now that there's an official record of the discussion in written, you can take your time writing well-thought-out responses. The format discourages heated circular rebuttals, since it then becomes obvious when an argument is a thinly disguised paraphrasing of a previous one, and people can get a chance to sleep on an idea and change their minds. The format also lets the team flesh out several topics in parallel rather than disrupting each topic half way through with tangents.

Once people are more accustomed to the idea of writing down their arguments, you can formalize the process into a Request-for-Comment (RFC) process.


Yes, this is how work is. And it is very important for you to continue being part of the conversation. Not only for your own sake, but for everyone's sake.

Unfortunately, we can't all speak at the same time. When I'm interrupted, if I'm focused enough to continue and the interruption doesn't bring up an obvious error, I apologize, take back the mic and continue my monologue.

If I'm not focused enough that I lose my train of thought as I was interrupted, I take notes and go back to it at a later point in the conversation. It is very important that you are persistent.

One thing that helps me focus is to have my notes in front of me before the conversation begins, so I can continue making my points or interrupt someone else with one of my points.


"Can I finish before you cut in?" directed at the interrupter seems to work for me - it's a reasonable request, it explicitly calls out what the other person is doing in a way they won't / can't reasonably get defensive about, and if they keep talking over you it telegraphs to other people that they're being a jerk.

It's annoying and probably unfair to have to do this of course, and honestly takes more practice than I thought it would to recognize this situation is happening and remember to deploy it.

More generally, this is now something I try to pay attention to while interviewing at companies. I don't need to be in a struggle every time I have a conversation or make a point.


The person running the meeting should be moderating it as well, which would solve these issues.


Sometimes I'll raise my hand every time I get cut off. You have to read the room though.


If you are an interrupter, learn to raise your hand. If you get interrupted, immediately raise your hand. If you notice someone try to say something and get clobbered, raise your hand, then cede to them. If you see a hand go up, think about how to tie off your point, then call on someone with a hand up.


Hah, back in the late 70's at the MIT AI/LCS/EE departments, we just called that normal conversation. To the loudmouths the spoils. ;-)

Took me years to painfully wean myself from the habit when talking with my wife, who objected strongly (as she should).


There are two types of interruptors: the intelligent and the stupid.

The intelligent ones have a lot to say, and worry they forget, so they want to edge in a few of that "block" chain before it's lost.

The stupid ones are simply rude and don't care about your feelings.

Step1: identify from other clues, what type you are dealing with.

Step2: if intelligent, let them finish their speech. Then ask: "are you finished?" Then ask for uninterrupted talk time. You can be humorous about it. For instance: "if the urge to cut me off hits you, take notes while I am speaking." If they took notes, ask them to rephrase what you just told them.

If the stupid type, you can cut them off, too. It is okay to be fair.


It's not worth wasting energy. Why care if they all agree to do "X, Y and Z" bad ideas unless you have a bunch of equity in the company?

If you're a programmer actually building the thing - I say adapt whatever they tell you to do so it makes more sense. I often change things to make it more palatable, then when they ask me why it doesn't work exactly as originally designed I explain how I figured out the original version was a bad idea while working on it.

They hired me because I know my field and what works best. If they can't trust me to implement things how I see fit, then why should I trust them to make good leadership decisions?


Hello !

Try Dissensium (https://dissensium.herokuapp.com/), a smooth project that I create for fun.

Why ? Because I'm drive about by the same problem in my recent work.

So, Dissensium allows you to create anonymous online meeting about conversations or problems with your team mates. Each person can propose a solution and each person can vote on each. The facts show us that anonymity break the rules of human domination and especially that everyboby can have a nice idea. Then, allow to each participant to vote on each solution is better constructive.

So, you can try something like this. . .


Honestly I hoped this would be a better discussion. Judging from some of the comments I would say that it is a systemic problem of people just want to stream their thoughts and ideas. You'll basically need to develop your own kit of tactics to get your points across, practice them and refine them.

What are some tactics you're currently using? Do you wait for silence and jump back to a prior point in the conversation? Do you use phrases like "I'm not on board because of X", thus forcing the conversation to revolve around your dissent? Which ones seem to work better than others?


Have you considered participating in writing? Collect your thoughts and put them into a few paragraphs and bullet points for others to read and consider whenever they have time for it.

I like this approach in general - while being cut off isn't that much of a concern to me, not forgetting half of the points I was trying to make and presenting them in the most understandable way is. Writing helps a lot with these goals.

Whenever I have more substantial and extensive thoughts and ideas to bring up I'd post a message on a relevant Basecamp project/team and invite everyone to discuss it.


I think Madeleine Albright's comments on this are interesting in general, but particularly relevant to how culture conditions women. https://www.thecut.com/2015/06/madeleine-albright-best-advic... "But you have to interrupt. At a certain stage you realize that it doesn’t matter what they call you. You have to overcome your personal qualms."


One strategy I've seen and used effectively is speaking slowly and quietly, people will be forced to listen carefully to what you are saying and it will bring the energy of the conversation down a notch.


This is common to dysfunctional teams and poor management. While those who cut you off might be over excited, others might be plain rude or some might lack empathy, the job of a good manager is to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Some really smart developers may lack the skill of making their voice heard in such environments, as it happens with introverts or geeks often, and that’s where an experienced manager comes to play and makes sure people are allowed to finish their thoughts without bullyish or immature cutoffs from others.


I believe some people just do this to compensate. They’re not the best at what they do but they’re the loudest so they use that.

How I combat it is email and networking with the team. After a meeting where I couldn’t get a word in, ill follow up with an email laying out the pros and cons of what was talked about as well as the pros and cons of my own ideas. I’ll then have one on ones with other team members to see if there’s any buy in. If not I drop it. If so, I find that my team members will start giving the loud guy pushback on his ideas.


Just keep chuntering on as if you can't hear the other person talking and what you are saying is crucial for all participants. NOTE: this gets fun when > 1 person has this approach.


I'm sorry you're experiencing that. I just wanted to push back and say that I don't think it is necessarily a regional thing, unique or more prevalent to the bay area necessarily.


Just say "woah, woah, woah... let me finish this my point"


This is definitely the easiest for me to use, and to take without offence.


regarding your remark about this perhaps having something to do with the bay area, the bay area brings some of the most experienced and skillful if not smartest people in the industry (from all over the world), i dont doubt that this plays a factor. that's not to say that experienced/smart/skillful people are purposely rude, i think it has a little to do with ego, showing yourself up during meetings, but sometimes it's just passionate people going off on rants.

i can totally understand your frustrations and this seems to be affecting you personally, but i think you should do some root cause analysis before you jump to conclusions, jumping to conclusions also burns a lot of mental energy. instead, just go have a conversation in private about what you think, not about being interrupted, but about your technical ideas, if he/she's really an asshole and just wants to drown you out, you should be able to tell from a private conversation, my guess is that the person gains more respect for you. if you have trouble articulating your thoughts in real time, write it down, send an email. dont guess what's at play here, find out the truth. if the people suck, switch environments, there are plenty of great companies out there.


A. When other people get cut off, tell the interrupter "don't cut them off. You, go ahead and finish what you were saying."

Be the person who does this. That way when...

B. Tell them "I am speaking, do not cut me off."

You then don't look like an asshole. You have an ethical principle you stand by for yourself and for others. You'll find very few people will attempt to you off.

It's what I started doing. Has worked pretty well in the past 6 or so years. It's better than being a victim.


You can flip the thing around by championing the 6 Thinking Hats method to drive decision meetings: https://www.amazon.com/Six-Thinking-Hats-Edward-Bono/dp/0241...

There are numerous examples cited in the book and around the web on how this streamlines discussions (and also gives everyone a chance to chip in from different angles).


As uncomfortable as it may seem at first be FIRM. A louder-than-you were-just-speaking next few words or a simple “hang on John, I wasn’t finished.” Can quite quickly change how people perceive you and what you re willing to tolerate.

I can relate because I was taught to respect people and wait for them to finish what they were saying but in some environments they’ll just talk continuously as a tactic to prevent you from saying your opinion and dominating the discussion.


I have this tendency to vocalize my prediction of the speaker's next words; this is sometimes interpreted as an interruption.

When I do this, I'm not intending to stop the speaker, or even to speak over them; the goal is to demonstrate that my understanding is synchronized with what they're saying. It's a tool to improve communication, not to disrupt it.

I sometimes get the impression that 50% of people do this naturally, and 50% hate it and interpret it as interruption.


This sounds like a good question for your manager. There's a reasonable chance you're not the only one who feels this way, and speaking up may help move the needle on Captain Cutoff interjecting their thoughts mid-someone-else's sentence.

What ever you do, don't lose your cool. You will not help yourself by saying "hey jackass, I was speaking, so shut your pie hole (mouth)." [1]

[1] Source: Used to lose my cool. It did not help. But therapy did :)


Do you have team retrospectives? If so, I would raise this issue neutrally in terms of cultural norms. "At my previous jobs, X. Here, I observe Y. Do others notice this? How do you feel about it? How should I adapt?"

For what it's worth, I don't think this is generally a Bay Area norm. Most of the teams I've worked on have been pretty patient, respectful communicators. But it is definitely a norm in some places.


This is so easy. Point your finger at the person, look them in the eye, and say assertively, “Don’t interrupt me”, and keep talking without skipping a beat.


I use to talk over people, and sometimes I still do. But I try to stop myself and become a better listener. I find the conversation becomes better.

I was listening to this episode on the Knowledge project https://fs.blog/celeste-headlee/ not too long ago, and it got me to really stop and think about how I converse.


I haven't ever been in a team/company personally who follow this, but seems like a very effective way https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/jeff-bezos-knows-how-to-ru...

I wonder why a big SV company is not following this already ?


We had to discipline ourselves in our team, and it had great results. (We made it slighly funnier by having an actual "speech stuffed octopus" to hand to the only person allowed to speak.)

Meetings are surprisingly more pleasant now.

In case your teamates are self-help fans, you might casually drop in as many conversations as possible that "Seek to understand, before being understood" is Covey's habit n°5 ;)

Good luck !


It’s unlikely to ever happen, but sometimes i dream about a working world where everyone had read and practiced using Robert’s Rules of Order


It can -- careers in areas such as governance, oversight, or committee work would likely provide that kind of atmosphere.


It's on person organizing the meeting to moderate it. You can either talk with every person and try to change their ways, good luck with that. Or have more structure in meetings and that's what being manager is supposed to be about. I always roll my eyes, when there even is some structure in a meeting, but the organizing party does not really moderate the discussion.


It works for me to just raise my voice a little and say "wait" or "hang on, let me finish" if someone interrupts me. I also find it rude and irritating and it should be treated as such, but it's also often not intentional and just a result of conversational dynamics getting out of control. The goal should be to rein it in and keep the conversation going.


Elders in my family say - Nature has given us two ears and one mouth so that we learn by speaking less and listening more. When everyone follows this simple principle, everyone gets to speak, and everyone gets the opportunity to be heard.


Raise it with your manager, if it's peer's discussion then someone should moderate. When my team has meetings, I moderate. I make sure those remote get to speak first, and then I make sure no one is speaking for too long and call other's by name to add their ideas. If someone interrupts, I cut them off and tell the person that was speaking to continue.


Is there no sense of personal accountability at your company? Why can't your workers be trusted to take care of simple, everyday social problems like this?

I don't like interrupters any more than the next person, but i consider myself an adult and want to work with adults -- I can't imagine needing a babysitter like this.


I would say it is all too common in most social situations. It's normal that people get overexcited. People should behave, but often do not. What one is supposed to do when it happens? Find a new job?

Do you also have opinion, that generally working with adults one does not need a manager or a superior? Managers manage people, they should manage meetings.


This usually doesn't happen, but when it does happen it's my responsibility to fix it since I'm a manager. This can happen when talking to someone from a different department, and outside vendor, etc. Like folks mentioned, this happens when people sometimes get very excited and don't really mean to be rude.


I would suggest talking to your manager, leader, iteration manager, etc., and raising the impact that this kind of conversation style is having on your work. If this is a regular occurrence the meeting should at least have a temperature check for how everyone feels about something. At the end of the day, this is a management problem and they need to fix it.


I have such experiences as well, not in Bay Area, but in tech startup. I am quite sure that is not always the case (maybe even mostly not the case) but I've found that one of the autistic trait is to have difficulty with maintaining conversation, including difficulty with recognizing when is your turn to speak. There are even questions like that in ASD questionnaires freely available online.

The reason usually is that people gets really excited about what they want to say. So excited that it is difficult for them to hold on. Especially when they can guess where interlocutors are coming from and what are their points so the rest of the sentence seem obvious.

I couldn't find any compelling research or article but there is this notion that mild autism is more frequent in Bay Area. Not only there, in general, it goes in par with high concentration of engineering staff.

If that's the case, I think people may not even realize they are jumping in and it is not something that they can easily harness. Probably the best option would be to wait when they finish and then continue with what you wanted to say. You might signal politely that you're not finished yet. You may also arrange a short chat dedicated especially for this issue, as long as everyone keep calm and respectful I see no harm in it. The other option is to speak with your manager about it as (s)he's in the best position to speak to single member or an entire team.

I know it's a massive effort to harness jumping in, but it can be done in many cases.

(edit: just fixing pronouns)


Do you have feedback systems/one-to-ones in your job?

I received feedback that I needed to give more room to others in technical discussions, and it was some of the most valuable feedback I have received, because it was a shortcoming of mine that I was unaware of.

Maybe the people cutting you off are well-meaning, but they just need to be made aware of their behaviour?


Practice being more assertive and embrace the change to be more strong willed.

Being soft spoken is not embedded in your personality permanently.


I suffer from this problem on videoconferences. I work in a home office with residential-quality bandwidth, and I think there's a slight lag in the video and audio. I try to let everyone complete their thoughts, so by the time I try to speak someone else is usually already filling the silence.

I haven't found a good way around it yet.


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