By Kat Boogaard
But, let’s face it—there are times when you need to stop someone mid-sentence. Maybe he keeps citing an incorrect fact or statistic that you think needs to be remedied immediately. Or, perhaps you have a question about something that was just said.
Situations like these can be tricky to navigate. You want to chime in while the moment is right. But, at the same time, you don’t want to seem inconsiderate.
Fortunately, there are a few helpful tactics you can use to interrupt someone—without seeming like a conversational steamroller.
1. Ask for Permission to Jump In
What it Looks Like: “Can I interrupt for a moment?”
One of the best ways to speak up when someone else is already talking is to explicitly ask for permission to do so.
Not only is it a good way to gauge whether or not you’re making a contribution at a decent time (there’s nothing worse than making someone lose their train of thought!), but it also acknowledges the fact that you’re interrupting—so you don’t seem like you just weren’t listening.
2. Apologize for the Interruption
What it Looks Like: “I’m really sorry for interrupting, but…”
Even if it’s necessary, you’re likely still going to feel uncomfortable cutting someone off—regardless of the circumstances. So, why not apologize right off the bat?
Again, prefacing your interruption with something like this recognizes the fact that you know you’re committing a communication faux pas. Used sparingly (as with any of these tactics, no phrase will give you an excuse to interrupt constantly!), it’ll allow you to speak up without seeming condescending.
3. Chime in With a Relevant Point
What it Looks Like: “While we’re on that topic…”
Interruptions aren’t inherently bad—in fact, sometimes they can make the discussion even stronger.
But, when they lead a conversation totally off track? They’re bound to annoy the person who was talking, as well as anyone else participating in that chat.
So, before chiming in, make sure that your interruption is relevant to the point that’s being discussed. If not? You’re better off waiting until that person is finished.
That way, you can be sure to contribute to the conversation at hand, rather than detract from it.
4. Lay Ground Rules From the Beginning
What it Looks Like: “Would you prefer that we hold our questions and suggestions until the end?”
Sometimes, no matter how many clever tactics or phrases you utilize, an interruption will never be perceived as polite. When someone is in the middle of a presentation, for example, speaking up will only serve to make you look rude.
This is why it’s so helpful to set common expectations from the beginning. Before that person gets started, ask what he or she would prefer.
Some people enjoy when others chime in at random moments, as it takes some of the pressure off. But, others prefer that you hold your contributions until the end. Make sure you’re in the loop on that specific person’s wishes, and you’ll be able to adjust your own approach accordingly.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to avoid ever having to interrupt. But, sometimes it’s necessary. Use one (or a combination of!) these four tactics, and you’ll be able to speak up in a way that’s polite and professional.