6 Ways To Expertly Handle Being Cut-off Mid Conversation
There’s nothing more frustrating than telling a story or presenting an idea and having a friend or a co-worker cut you off.
by Michal Bernolak
12 Aug, 2019

There’s nothing more frustrating than telling a story or presenting an idea and having a friend or a co-worker cut you off. This happens to me so often that I wonder if what I am talking about is really that boring, or if I just know a lot of inconsiderate people. I’ll stick with the latter.

There are two main scenarios where this happens most often. The most common is when I am chatting with some friends and we are swapping stories. Less common, but also just as frustrating, is at work while presenting a point of view or an idea. My goal is to equip you with a checklist that will make this occurrence easier to handle.


1. Determine the scenario

What works around friends might not work as well with co-workers and vise-versa. That is why it is important to determine the scenario so that you can deploy the tactics correctly.

If you’re with friends, it’s easier to call them out in a playful way when you have been cut-off. Maybe they were excited and didn’t realize.

At work, we need to be more careful with the wording we choose, but we also cannot be afraid to be assertive and gently bring it to the attention of the offender. You want to make it known that you will not tolerate getting cut off.

Some people are just narcissistic, and you can’t help it. Again, this is why it is important to gauge the crowd. It is extremely difficult if not semi-impossible to win with a narcissist without a small verbal bloodbath.


2. Not all interruptions are worth your time

The most important thing to understand is that sometimes getting your spotlight back is not worth it. There are plenty of situations where the best course of action is to just let it go.

If you go around trying to fight back and counter every interruption during the day, you’ll wind up emotionally and verbally exhausted. Learning to let the small ones go will help you find more peace in conversation.

You also don’t want to seem like everyone can just walk all over you at anytime. Determine if the conversation you’re having is worth the effort. Many conversations where I get cut off are not worth my time.


3. Start the conversation by letting others know you need a minute to get it all out

Whether you are in a business meeting, or talking with some friends, setting the expectations will greatly reduce the chances of getting cut off. Here are a sentences that I have used that work wonders.

• Hey guys, hear me out. I have a few ideas I want to share with you. Let me get them all out while they are still top of mind.

• I have a good story and there are a couple of details that you need to hear, but I need to get it all out in one go.

• I have a few things I wanted to run by you, so I’ll share them and I encourage some questions and feedback afterwards.

This is a polite way of saying “Listen to what I have to say and don’t cut me off.” Nine times out of ten people will understand that you are asking to speak uninterrupted.


4. Call them out on it

This one takes a little bit of courage. There will be no shortage of scenarios in life where you should stick up for yourself. This is one of them. Don’t be afraid to bring it to the attention of the person cutting you off.

It is even better if you are in a group. People will see that you will not tolerate getting pushed aside until your ideas are out. It might seem mean or rude at first, but if said sternly and politely, people will see that you are in the right.

After all, who is doing the injustice? The cutter-offer or the the person calling them out on their behavior?

I called out my friend once. I’d had it. Every time we spoke in a group he would bulldoze over my conversation without a second thought. I got angry, but I didn’t skip a beat. I said,

“Hey man listen, you cut me off almost every time we have a conversation. It’s not cool, it needs to stop. I don’t think you realized how inconsiderate you’re being. I am going to finish my thought and then you can continue”

There was a short pause and he completely acknowledged what I was saying, apologizing profusely. I am glad to report that the number of incidences has reduced dramatically.


5. Plow right through the interruption

Sometimes the best reminder to the interrupter is to show them you are still talking by continuing to talk. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but it will get the job done.

I raise my voice slightly, and make direct eye contact with the person who is interrupting me. They will see that you are giving them and explicit sign to wait their turn.

I will usually throw in a quick “hold on a sec” or “I am almost finished” and this will clear up any confusion with attention of the group. Remind people who holds the reins while you are being interrupted so that their attention doesn’t shift immediately.


6. Take advantage of silence

Many of us have lots of ideas, are quick thinkers, and therefor quick talkers. Sometimes people need a second to think or make a response.

Often times I notice that there is a pause in my phrase or train of thought. This might mistakenly give someone the impression that you are finished speaking.

It is important to press on, don’t give the impression that you are finished speaking. Get it all out. If you make a pause short enough, on purpose, it can re-engage your listeners and prevent interruptions.

You will notice that when you pause briefly, people will begin to process the information and someone will start formulating a response. Begin speaking a second later, and they will have to snap out of it and re-focus on your words more intently than before. It works like a charm.

May 27 - Originally published on Medium

Michal Bernolak - Blogger, writer, psychology fanatic, vegan. Refusing to live a normal life.