Being interrupted is a terrible feeling, especially when you’re talking about a tough topic or trying to clearly communicate an important point at work. While those who rudely interrupt are often to blame, it’s never a bad idea to complete a quick self-assessment — especially if you find that a diverse variety of people keep interjecting or talking over you in tons of different scenarios. Stacey Hanke — C-suite mentor, CEO, and the author of Influence Redefined — gave us a few pointers to use when you consider yourself in each situation. Are you guilty of any of these common communication mistakes?

A woman makes a point in a meeting

1. You’re not concise. Using direct language is key when making your point, and Hanke tells us that many people struggle with communicating clearly — which can lead to interruptions. “Consider if you’re truly taking too long to get to the point because you’re not using pauses or speaking in short sentences,” she advises. Find yourself struggling? Hanke suggests giving yourself permission to “think on your feet.” “You’ll find this is only possible with pauses,” she reveals. “If you want to practice, see if you can have convos with friends and family or your professional peers to figure out where you’re creating run-on sentences.” She also says to try speaking as you read a book out loud, with pauses and a breath at punctuation. When you’re the one being interrupted, Hanke tells us, you need to make a quick decision on which approach is best for your listeners: “Keep in mind, your purpose of the conversation is to influence others to take action. They will only take action if they understand your message and believe your recommendation has benefits or value.” Good point.

Two colleagues have a discussion

2. Your message is all about you — instead of your listener. “When your listeners can tell you haven’t prepared a message for them or what they need, they may feel disrespected or frustrated,” explains Hanke. Before you start a convo, she says to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do your listeners already know about your topic?
  • What’s their opinion on what you’re talking about?
  • What do they need to know to take the action you want them to take?
  • What’s important to them?

Once you have your answers, you’ll be in an awesome spot to have an inspiring and engaging dialogue that’ll hold your listeners’ attention while preventing them from feeling like they need to interrupt to reroute what you’re talking about.

A woman listens to a friend in a cafe

3. You’re talking for way too long. Is there anything more frustrating than someone who just keeps talking? Yikes! Hanke says knowing when to stop is key for preventing interruptions. “To get good at keeping your listeners with you, practice,” she encourages. “Use audio or video to record yourself on a regular basis, and increase your self-awareness each time you listen. Ask yourself: ‘How did I sound rather than I how I felt during the conversation?’ And, ‘Would I be influenced by me? Would I be able to follow the conversation?’”

Hanke reminds us that communicating clearly is important, since interruptions at work can cost teams valuable time, have an effect on company culture, and even leave people feeling unimportant or disrespected. “Each time there’s an interruption, you need to take time to address the interruption and even more time to get back on track, and interruptions can throw you off. To keep moving forward, ask yourself if you’ve completed your thought and addressed the interrupter’s topic, or if it makes sense to veer off course to address what’s been brought up.”

If you’ve completed your self-assessment and feel like you do a good job conveying the right information, Hanke says to deal with your interrupters in a professional way. “I like to consider the interruption a gift,” she confides. “Your listener is telling you how to adapt your message to their needs or expectations. The ability to change your message on the fly without skipping a beat is the sign of a great communicator.”

How do you handle interruptions? Tweet us the details @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)