Have You Ever Been Interrupted?

by Ron Haynes

How well do you listen to others? How well do others listen to you? This past New Year’s Eve I was at a party hosted by some friends. The food was fabulous. The music was great. And I decided to try an experiment. I decided to test how well other people listened and I was shocked at my findings.

Not ListeningPeople, in general don’t listen very well…at all. I was interrupted to the point that I decided to do nothing BUT listen to others tell me about their Christmas stories, vacations to the mountains, their Presidential picks, who would win what bowl game, and what was going on at their jobs. I didn’t take it personally, but noticed that others were interrupted too. NO ONE could finish more than 2 or 3 sentences without being interrupted. You could see people waiting to catch a pause in your speaking so they could jump in. It appeared like a sports car waiting to jump into a break in the traffic on the highway. What was going on here?

The interruptions centered on one theme. People thought they had something more important to say than anyone else in the room. They seemed to love the sound of their own voice and the stories of their own adventures. Dale Carnegie and others have written about the fact that people love to talk about themselves to anyone who will listen. The completely shy person who refuses to talk about themselves is a rare breed. What’s driving this? I think there are several factors:

  • We have been conditioned by advertising and marketers to anticipate having our train of thought interrupted every 5 to 6 minutes for advertisements. Sometimes the segments on certain radio talk shows last less than 30 seconds!
  • The songs we all have on our iPods and CD’s last only 3 to 4 minutes on average. We have our minds changed for us constantly. When is the last time you say only three songs on one side of a record album? Hint: Boston’s debut album.
  • People have more information available to them and are eager to inflate their egos by showing you how much they know. In my business, someone will “do some research” on replacement windows and come into a store and think they know more than a guy who’s been to every training class for the last 20 years and has been selling and installing them for 35 years.
  • Manners have gone out the window. Interrupting has almost become so commonplace that no one even notices anymore. People almost seem to expect it.
  • People have failed to learn the forgotten art of listening. They think what they have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say.

What can you and I do? For one, we can learn to become better listeners ourselves. You see, listening isn’t just a need that we have, it’s a gift that we give.

So, I resolve to give the gift of listening. Here’s how I plan to do it:

1. I will cultivate a desire to listen. Listening to others is a powerful tool. If given the opportunity, the others will tell me everything I need to know. If this doesn’t create desire, I don’t know what will.

2. I will always let the other person do 70% of the talking and I will refuse to interrupt. My speaking role will come into play when I am asked a question. Besides, I get to use this blog to get things off my chest!

3. I will ask for clarification and will insure that I understand by repeating back what I heard. Once I ask a question, I will shut up and listen.

4. I will learn to read another person’s body language. Non verbal communication can account for up to 60% of the message. Tone accounts for 30 percent and the actual words used accounts for only 10%.

5. I will take notes if needed. That means I have to be prepared ahead of time!

6. I will be present in the moment. I won’t allow myself to be distracted by external or internal forces.

These will all be very difficult to do. But if I’m going to get ahead in my job, in my personal relationships, and in my life, I will have to develop superior listening skills. Imagine how you would feel if you had a friend who really, I mean really listened to you.

Become that friend.

[tags]listen, listening, interrupt, friend, gift of listening[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1003 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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We have been given 2 ears and one mouth for good reason.

Someone made this great statement in his blog earlier. Let’s listen, really listen and don’t just wait to speak.

And like you said, no one seems to want to listen anymore.

I think I’ll join you in your resolution to listen.



Thank you. It’s a struggle for me sometimes, but I’m still going to work on it. I’m learning to put my ideas on paper rather than blurt them out. It helps me weed out the bad ones so I don’t look foolish! ;)

jason holmes

Hi Ron
This post of yours reminds me of a quote by Winston Churchill
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

A very rare resolution but must say a courageous one.

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

I think it is important to not only listen, but strive to understand. As you suggest, watching people’s body language and nonverbal clues is a powerful way to gain understanding as to the true meaning of their words.

Great article and a fantastic commitment to make!


Great Blog, great comments.

I think that most peoples inclination to interrupt is to subconsciously remind themselves they are important. I think it’s fair to say this behavior has increased over time. The amount of commercialization of our culture has also increased. Ads with some superstar promoting some product showing how important they are, are everywhere. Now-a-days just look at Paris Hilton, or reality TV and see how inundated we are with attention hogging celebrities in our face time and time again. When a person lives in a world cluttered full of everyone one getting their 15 minutes, at some point they are gonna strive for their own relevance.

Interrupting makes you relevant.

For that brief moment you grab the audience. You have drawn attention from somewhere else unto yourself WITHOUT PERMISSION. It’s a mini ego trip. Even if what you add to the conversation doesn’t make sense, you are relevant. More over, your interruption may alter the conversations direction. Now that’s real power.

When you do add to the topic, it’s usually to show you know something others don’t, as said earlier. How many times have you heard someone say

“I’m sorry to cut you off but…”

They aren’t sorry. If they were they wouldn’t have done it or waited till your story was over. What they mean to say is “Oh wow, a chance to exert my power.” And it usually works. The laws of the social arena. All eyes on that person. It’s like members of a group discussion become both gladiator and spectator.

“Wow, look at him take the lead. Oh, my time to strike.”

Andy Wood

An amazing “bonus gift” -

I have a friend who reminds me on a regular basis of things I have said in casual conversation – sometimes years later. Some of them are funny, others pointed, others surprisingly wise… to the point where I question if I actually said them.

Capturing a concept or actual quote, then offering it back to the speaker, is a charming and affirming gift.

It has been said that “Rapt attention is the highest form of flattery.” Brian Tracey is even more pointed: “The opposite of listening is ignoring. You always listen to that which you most value. You always ignore that which you devalue.”

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