The “Fine Art” of Interrupting

Don´t Interrupt!

Interrupting is rude—so people try not to. Often without success.

Such as when someone talks too long, makes a mistake, says something offensive, pauses for a second, or makes no sense.

Interruptions can be disorienting. If a conversation seems to be dragging, interruptions can make the conversation drag on longer. If someone seems to be wandering off topic, interruptions can make it hard to remember what the topic even was. If someone seems to be making little sense, remember that there is no accomplishment in perceiving music as noise. Use your talents to hear noise as music.

If a conversation is unproductive, you are unproductive. No offense. You are engaging in an activity that is producing negligible results. Before interrupting an unproductive conversation, try interrupting yourself.

Save an idea before it is lost

Unproductive conversations tend to get worse rather than better. So don't think of them this way. Think of them as productive. Be patient. Productive conversations have a way of getting better. Because that´s what productive means.

Productive conversations can be productively interrupted. For good reasons. Such as to save an idea before it is lost.

People are sometimes so excited by their ideas that they release them in a steady stream. This can be interesting, but when an idea hasn’t had sufficient time before the next idea steps on its heels, you can productively interrupt the stream to make room for the idea you are still on. In other words, you interrupt an interruption.

For example, “Laws are stupid. When a poor person breaks a law, it’s a crime. We lock her up. Rich people commit much bigger crimes and get away with it. We shouldn’t have laws. Then no one could break them. We’d all be free to take care of ourselves and each other—”


Or words to that effect. It can be a show stopper, or an opener. It can say, “You’re wrong and I’m done listening,” or “That’s new, I’d like to hear more.”

How does eliminating laws get people to take care of themselves and each other? Clearly, it doesn’t.

But it does. In some way that is apparent to the speaker, but not yet to you, there is a connection. You talk about it until what started as noise begins to make sense. You hear ideas that are useful to you. You “cross the divide.”