A friend keeps interrupting conversations
QUESTION: My friend constantly interrupts my conversation and / or others when we are talking. I’m not sure if she thinks everyone takes too long to tell a story or if she just can’t help but jump into her own story. What should I do when this happens?
CALLIE’S RESPONSE: If this is your friend and you feel comfortable, let them know. I think she’ll probably realize she’s doing this if you point it out to her.
LILLLIE-BETH’S RESPONSE: There are many reasons your friend keeps interrupting you, and if she’s your close friend, I guess she doesn’t mean to be rude. She might just be a chatterbox who is excited to connect with you, and sharing her stories is part of that excitement.
She might unwittingly get impatient or maybe she – or her thoughts – is in a rush all the time.
Finally, she might be self-centered and not caring about what other people think, but this behavior would show up in your friendship in another way. If not, I think it’s okay to interrupt her and say “please let me finish my story”.
If she’s a good friend, give her the benefit of the doubt, but gently set boundaries. Often times, a prompt like this will be enough to let her know that she is frustrating you and that she will back off on her own. If she doesn’t get it with a prompt, talk to her privately as a close friend.
I think we all know someone like this – or can be one ourselves. In general, people don’t want to be rude or bad listeners, but can get caught up in the moment. After a year of partial isolation due to the pandemic, we could all be more unusually excited than getting together – and talking.
HELEN’S ANSWER: Your friend probably just wants to add to the conversation and is eager to share her experiences. It’s annoying to be interrupted, but you could just set up a roadblock and say, “Please wait until I’m done.”
Maybe she’s trying to change the topic of the conversation and put up her own roadblock. Just keep being friends and treat her as gently as possible. There are times when you could also be at fault, either by telling too long a story, or by being interrupting to tell your point. Hope we can all be heard!
GUEST RESPONSE: Patti Leeman, Community Volunteer: Constantly? Before you dismiss your friend as rude, consider the following:
• Teenager: Usually everyone speaks at the same time throughout the conversation. (No cure).
• Middle Ages: Often afraid of not having the microphone (Insecurity).
• Elderly people: often have hearing problems and do not know if the speaker has finished thinking (physical blockage).
• At any age: People so deeply interested in the subject and their own opinions fear that they will miss the opportunity to put them on the table.
• North, especially Philadelphia and Boston: Conversation tends to be lively, intense and to the point. Native people often view the people they talk to as “boring” if they don’t communicate with the information.
• The South, especially wealthy southerners, follow the age-old etiquette of listening. They regard those who interrupt as rude. They believe that thinking before speaking and pauses provide depth.
Etiquette rules change
Not knowing your age or where you live, I would simply suggest that you consider all of the above and let your instincts guide you. Speaking the truth in love will never be wrong when you call on others.
Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this column on the generational label. They also include responses from customers of a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is over 20; Lillie-Beth is over 40 and Helen is over 60. To ask a question about the label, email [email protected]