Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, November 10, 2008

Beware the Conversational Faux Pas

It will only take a moment for you to come up with a name or two when I pose the following question: Know anyone who constantly interrupts you when you’re talking?
This trait can be one of the most annoying that affects you in your friendship, work relationship, or romantic relationship.

Why do interrupters interrupt? In general, people who interrupt others consistently do so out of anxiety – yet what the anxiety stems from can vary. For some, they interrupt others almost as if to finish the thought of the other person. In such cases, this anxiety reflects the wish to connect – but to an overly enmeshed degree. In other words, the interrupter is hungry to feel close and connected to someone. For others, the anxiety can stem from a wish to have the last word or to be perceived as the authority in the conversation. At root, the person lives in a state of anxiety because he or she is always sensitive to power hierarchies and feels a tremendous need to emerge in conversation as powerful and knowledgeable.

It goes without saying that this is a trait in others that you must address if someone in your life does this with you. You can confront the situation by gently pointing it out. I always believe that to say something directly but gently is much better than to do what will inevitably happen if you don’t address it – ultimately you’ll likely say or do something passive-aggressive.

If you can’t think of anyone who does this to you, ask yourself whether you are perhaps a guilty culprit. Has anyone ever given you feedback that you are an interrupter? Even if no one has confronted you, keep this question on the back burner in one of your next conversations with a friend, co-worker, or your significant other. Sometimes we do things and are not even aware of it. In general, I always tell my clients that becoming more conscious of our behavior will ultimately always improve the relationships we have.

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