Interrupting is typically a rude thing to do. In fact, most of the time interrupting a conversation or disturbing someone when they're talking isn’t recommended, but there are situations that call for speaking up.
There are ways to interrupt that aren't quite so rude or disruptive. The most important thing to consider when you need to jump in and say something important is to show respect for the other people.
When to Interrupt
If there is an emergency, the person is saying something that you know is incorrect, the group is gossiping about someone who isn't there, or there is any other strong reason to stop the discussion, you may interject as long as you do it politely. Knowing when and how to interrupt is essential if you want others to see you as a polite, gracious, thoughtful, and interesting person.
Can't Get a Word In
Another reason to interrupt may be that it's someone else's turn to say something. Conversations should be inclusive of everyone in a group, but there are some people who don't give others the opportunity to speak. If interrupting is the only way you can have your say, wait for the person to catch a breath and speak.
Don't be that person who monopolizes a conversation. Being a good conversationalist involves actively participating in a discussion and knowing when to interject. When it's time to listen, stop talking but look for opportunities to interject with questions or brief statements.
Tips on How to Interrupt a Conversation
- Have a specific purpose. Whether you are jumping into other people's conversation or you're stopping someone's monologue, it's essential that you have a reason for doing it and the ability to relay that to the person talking. State the purpose as briefly as possible.
- Use proper timing. It's best to wait until the person speaking stops to catch a breath before speaking up.
- Be as polite as possible. Always speak politely and start the conversation with a polite introduction to your interruption. Some things you might say include, "Excuse me," "I need to say something here," "Do you mind if I interrupt?" "I have an idea that relates to what you just said," "I'd like to add something to that," or "I beg your pardon, but I need to say something."
- Use a gesture. If your interruption isn't acknowledged, lift a hand or use eye contact to get the person's attention. Never hover. When you make your gesture, you can say, "Excuse me for a sec. I'll keep this brief." Then say what you need to say as quickly as possible so they can get back to their conversation.
- Clear your throat. This is likely to have heads turning in your direction. Take advantage of it to say whatever you need to say but do it quickly.
- Keep a noticeable distance when interrupting someone else's conversation. If you walk right up to the person who is chatting, it may appear that you want to simply listen. Stand back a bit as you make eye contact to show that being part of their conversation isn't what you want.
- Get clarification. When you are in a business or committee meeting, and the discussion is heading in a direction that you and perhaps others don't understand, it is okay to interrupt to get an explanation. You may be surprised by how many will thank you later. Chances are if you don't understand others don't either.
- Thank the others for allowing you to interrupt. After you say what's on your mind, show your gratitude for the others allowing you to speak.
- When someone starts to gossip, you can interrupt at any point to stop it in its tracks. One of the most important times to interrupt a conversation is when it turns to trash talking someone who isn't there or making fun of anyone. If you continue to stand there listening, even if you don't say a word, you're participating and encouraging this sort of thing. And chances are, when you're not with these people, they're gossiping about you. Firmly speak up and change the subject. If they don't get the hint, you can say, "I'd rather not discuss her when she's not here to defend herself." If they continue, leave.