Skip to content

Does Being Interrupted Drive You Crazy? Here’s How To Respond

Does Being Interrupted Drive You Crazy

“Now there is nothing in this world I abominate worse than to be interrupted in a story…” ― Laurence Sterne, The Life, and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Key Points:

There are three types of interrupters; beware the narcissistic interrupter.

The motivations of interrupters are different, and the responses to them should differ.

Understanding the motivation of the other person takes the sting out of interruptions.

During the pandemic, many of us replaced in-person get-togethers with Zoom meetings. For many people, virtual get-togethers were an important antidote to the loneliness and boredom of being at home alone or with a partner.

However, phone or Zoom conversations are prone to interruptions. Sometimes the speaker invites interruption. People are more desperate to communicate and may speak for longer periods without allowing for a response. It is also harder to intuit a listener’s response when you cannot see them crossing their legs or wiggling in their chair.

But most of the time interrupters are serial interrupters and their response is not related to the speaker. In my experience there are three major types of serial interrupters and determining the best way of responding to them requires distinguishing between them.

Types of Interrupters

1. The narcissistic interrupter.

This person is thinking about what he/she wants to say while you are talking. The purpose of the interruption is to take over and change the direction of the conversation.

Speaker: “I’m really upset about my grandson who doesn’t want to go to school.”

Interrupter: “My grandson is getting married to the daughter of a Senator. They are going to have to ceremony at the Plaza…”

Related: 15 Things Narcissists Don’t Do

2. The empathic interrupter.

This person is listening to you and thinking about what you’ve said. She wants to expand on what you are saying or underscore that she understands it by offering a similar experience.

Speaker: “I’m really upset about my grandson who doesn’t want to go to school.”

Interrupter: “Yes, that’s really upsetting it happened with my son when he was little…”

3. The mind-reading interrupter.

This person is listening to you and finishes your sentences.

Speaker: “I’m really upset about my grandson who doesn’t want to go to school. I’m afraid…”

Interrupter: “…he has a phobia.”

Speaker: “Yes, he has a phobia. My daughter isn’t worried about it, but…”

Interrupter: “You think she ought to be.”

The first type of interrupter is the most provocative because he (men are more likely to be narcissistic interrupters) is not listening to you and not interested in what you are saying. You are being pushed aside.

The second and third types of interrupters, on the other hand, are listening to you and want to show their interest and express support for you. The empathic interrupter is not trying to take over the conversation or change the direction of it. Rather, she is encouraging you to continue speaking. The third type of interrupter is over-involved in what you are saying. She cannot wait for you to finish your sentence before she offers her support and understanding.

Despite the differences in the motivation of interrupters, many people respond to them in the same way. For example, Tom is a retired litigator. He is accustomed to interrupting witnesses when he is cross-examining them, but he is not used to being interrupted himself. When he is interrupted on a Zoom call with friends, he gets angry and tells the other person not to interrupt him: “I’m not finished yet;” or “Stop interrupting me;” or “Let me finish.”

Karen is also unaccustomed to being interrupted. She was a world-renowned lecturer on cultural subjects before she retired. Like Tom, she is indignant about interruptions regardless of the person’s motivation. But she does not say anything to the friend/perpetrator, rather she withdraws and pouts.

Related: 14 Handy Social Skills That’ll Make You More Likable Instantly

Just as the motivations of interrupters vary, so should the responses. We can reduce our blood pressure when we are interrupted by friends and relatives if we focus on why the person is interrupting. Is it a narcissistic interruption? Then it might be useful to say: “Please don’t interrupt me in the middle of the story;” or “Please don’t change the subject when I’m explaining something to you.”

On the other hand, if it’s an empathic interruption, which can also be frustrating, you might say: “I know you are being supportive, but it would be easier for me to talk about it if you let me finish;” or “I know you understand what I’m saying, but I need to get it all out first.”

Finally, in response to a mind-reading listener who constantly finishes your sentences, you might say: “I know I speak slowly, and I am grateful that you understand what I’m saying, but it’s upsetting when you finish my sentences;” or “I’m grateful that you understand what I’m feeling so well, but I need to express myself even if it takes me a while to figure out what I’m feeling. It would help me if you didn’t finish my sentences.”

In conclusion, most of us are both interrupters and interrupted. But we can interrupt less and feel less angry when we are interrupted by others if we understand the motivations for interruptions and develop responses that enhance rather than disrupt dialogues with our friends and family.


Written By Roberta Satow Ph.D.  
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today  
Does Being Interrupted Drive You Crazy pin
Does Being Interrupted Drive You Crazy? Here's How To Respond

Roberta Satow Ph.D.

Roberta Satow is a New York-based psychoanalyst, speaker, and author of Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You, Gender and Social Life, and the novel: Two Sisters of Coyoacán. She is a professor emerita of the department of sociology at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York. Dr. Satow speaks and writes about issues of aging, gender, and mental health. She has been quoted in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, on ABC News and other national media platforms. She gave the keynote addresses at the EAP Symposium on Diversity and Well-being for the National Defence Department of Canada, Ottawa, and the New York City Dept. of Aging White House Conference on Aging. She has also appeared on The Diane Rehm Show, AARP, Prime Time Radio, and several other NPR programs.View Author posts

Leave a Reply

Up Next

Feeling Down? 5 Reasons Why You Feel Like Shit And What To Do About It

Feelings that make you feel like shit

Feeling down? Me too, buddy. The keyword here is ‘feeling’. Feelings are weird, if you ask me. Emotions make life complicated. It ruins relationships, families and even careers. It makes you feel like shit and like hitting your head against the wall. But that’s not completely true, is it? 

Not all emotions pull you down. After all, who would we be if we didn’t feel anything? Emotions make us who we are and it adds meaning to our lives. The secret lies in identifying which negative emotions make you feel like shit and knowing how to deal with them.

Dear negative feelings, thanks for making me feel like shit 

Yes, I know we should experience the whole spectrum of human emotions

Up Next

How to Tame and Silence Your Inner Critic: 5 Ways

Ways Tame And Silence Your Inner Critic

“Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take it’s place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.” ― Beverly Engel. This one quote perfectly shows why it's important to silence your inner critic.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with your inner monologue? You know, the voice that can motivate you to press on or stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel a few inches tall.

It is the same voice that attempts to protect you from shame, embarrassment, or making a mistake. If not tamed and regulated, this voice morphs into an intense critic, one that can sabotage and stagnate if it gains too much power.

<

Up Next

Thanksgiving Blues? 11 Ways On How To Feel Grateful When You Don’t

Thanksgiving Blues

Not feeling grateful this holiday season? Well, even if feel like there's less to celebrate this Thanksgiving 2022, here's how to feel grateful when you don't.

The expectation of feeling grateful can be challenging when we’re struggling with loneliness or relationship, work or health problems. It can be even harder to have gratitude around holidays when we see other people happily celebrating.

When you’re discouraged or weighed down with negative thoughts, there are several things you can do.

Up Next

5 Ways To Be Yourself In A New Relationship And Make It Last

Ways To Be Yourself New Relationship

It can be tempting to hide your true self to impress your new partner. But to be yourself in a new relationship is the best way to a healthy and lasting relationship. Here are five ways to achieve that.

I find it very strange how hard it is to be yourself in a new relationship. After all, we are ourselves in every other area of our lives. Why do we struggle to be ourselves as the relationship progresses?

I believe that, when we first get into a new relationship, we feel very confident because having someone new in our lives, someone who thinks we are fabulous, is a very heady experience.

Up Next

Is Your Life Pre-Planned? How A Soul Contract Can Decide Your Entire Life Course

What Is A Soul Contract

Do you believe some people come into your life for a specific purpose? As if they want you to learn valuable life lessons and help you move forward in your spiritual journey? We are all part of a great cosmic master plan and our soul relationships are guided by spiritual laws, rules, agreements. The more you learn to identify your soul contract, the farther you will go on your spiritual journey.

While the understanding of life may vary from person to person, we are all spiritual beings going through a human experience. Our souls exist and shine in the spiritual realm before we are born and after we die. Our soul’s journey and our human experience is predetermined so that our soul can learn and grow during our time in the mortal realm. As our soul’s