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  • Writer's pictureSophie Williams

Business Etiquette: How to counter interruptions?

Our company provides Business Etiquette consultation and training for individuals and companies (of different industries). I just completed a morning seminar for a company, and as expected I gathered one of the main complaints almost everyone had: People talking over others/interrupting others during meetings. I experienced a fair amount of frustration related to that throughout my corporate career too, where many sought to be heard but never took the time to actively listen. Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" came to mind...

"People talking without speaking People hearing without listening..."

I completely understand the need to fully express our thoughts and opinions, to be heard and understood. To be valued and respected, to be accepted and appreciated for our values, efforts and skill sets. But how can anyone successfully attain that when we ALL talk over one another, especially with heightened pitch and antagonism (albeit passive, in some cases)?

Imagine us queuing up to retrieve a certain prize, and each of us is guaranteed one. But instead of patiently waiting for our turn, we fight one another to get it first - what is the outcome? Is it worth it? That is not only a "bad look" (Outward Image), it is also an indication of impertinence, selfishness and lack of self respect. And if we were to look at it from a business standpoint - Efficiency and Optimum Performance are inevitably compromised.

If you are the one speaking, make it a point to be concise, to the point, and mindful of the time constraint - do not monopolize the time span or use it to hoard the limelight. Leaders and moderators - you have the responsibility to set the expectations from the beginning, and be firm about time keeping.

Here are some tips on dealing with interruptions during business meetings:

1) If you are the lead - gently set the tone from the beginning about not tolerating interruptions. This is also a good time to advocate for fairness in time allocation, suggest hand-raising as a method of signalling the intention to speak up/respond.

2) Make eye-contact with the NEXT person who wants to speak, gesture that you are aware of his or her intention so they will be at ease and more willing to wait for their turn to speak.

3) If there isn't a lead or moderator to advocate for you to finish up your point, do not be afraid to firmly state: "I hope you wouldn't mind, I would like to wrap up my point and I do look forward to listening to yours"

4) Make sure your tone is warm but also firm. No need to insert any "fillers" or "jokes", you can attain what you set out to achieve with your points/thoughts calmly, without having to raise your voice. Loudness is not the equivalent of true strength and influence. Many highly successful people I have met are soft spoken and mild mannered.

There are many more strategies to conduct an effective meeting, and I will certainly be happy to share them with you! Do not hesitate to contact me here if you are interested in chatting more about this and other important components of Business Etiquette.

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