Too many Interruptions

Too many Interruptions

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

“Too many In-ter-rup-tions!”


Jan Fowler

There was a time when we were taught to be polite by not interrupting others until they had finished speaking and by turning down blaring music to respect another person’s need to concentrate. Good manners, we were told, put people at ease. But in today’s world, we seem to be overloaded and overburdened with endless unwelcome interruptions everywhere we turn.
As if it isn’t bad enough that society already suffers from information-overload and daily dissonant distractions, but now we’ve added ringtones of cell phones, text-message beeps, and robot-reminders to take medicine which interrupt our conversations all the time. Not to mention the intrusion of cacophonous radio and television ads, blaring sidewalk music (especially at airports), and such deafening music inside restaurants that we can barely hear the waiter and the waiter can barely hear us.

And how about the number of pedestrians who cross the streets but are not mindful of traffic because their eyes are glued to the face of their cell phone? And no matter what the fines, we still see many drivers texting all the time. Scary, isn’t it?

I wonder if there’s anyone else out there besides me who especially resents the interruption of annoying computer pop-ups which frequently derail us before we’re finished with important correspondence. And what about the many people who interrupt or over-talk us when we’re speaking? Plus those who impatiently try to finish our sentences for us?
But wait! Before you impetuously cut me off and sign me up for anger management, please hear me out. Did you know that interrupting may actually be dangerous to your health?
Researchers have found that people who interrupt are more likely to suffer coronary heart disease than those who wait patiently for you to finish. It has been theorized that “interrupters” are generally Type A personalities and have the tendency to be excessively controlling or competitive.
As a matter of fact, I was particularly impressed with one study which found that the subjects tested demonstrated lower stress and blood pressure levels without the use of medication or dietary changes, but simply by being good listeners. So there. If we don’t cut in and interrupt conversations, we may very well lower our risk for heart attack.

How to Handle People When They Interrupt Us

There’s really nothing to be gained by becoming cross or getting angry. I suggest either repeating the same sentence (known as the ‘broken-record” technique) as often as necessary to complete our thought. Or politely say, “Please allow me to finish what I was saying.” Also, bear in mind that if a listener constantly interrupts us, it may be a signal that we ourselves are actually being too wordy, too detailed, or long-winded. If you believe this to be true, try pausing more often to allow for a two-way conversational exchange.

How to be a Better Listener

For those of us who are still trying to be better listeners—which certainly includes me—we need to focus on what is being said and remain silent while others are speaking. (I fear my tongue is going to be black and blue!) One habit practiced by counselors and clergy is to use what’s called the “five-second delay” technique so that the overall conversational tempo is not rushed. And by the way, have you ever noticed how there’s a rhythmic harmony to “conversational turn-taking?
Interrupting implies rude disinterest. But for most people, interrupting others in mid-sentence is merely a habit or the result of mild impatience or nervousness.
Even though interruptions are bothersome, we can still keep a cool head. And since we are never too old to learn better habits, I for one, will be striving to become a more gracious and patient listener by not interrupting others until I’m absolutely sure they are completely finished talking.

Please wish me luck in my new resolve!

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