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Interrupting: How to Lose Business in 3 Easy Seconds

What Interrupting Tells Others About You

We are in high the cocktail and social season now in Nantucket, and I can't believe how many allegedly successful business people I meet could qualify for the award, "Master Interrupter!" Sorry, I'm on a bit of a soap box here - but these conversations aren't much fun for me, and are actually somewhat painful...

How many times have you been interrupted by someone while you’re in the middle of speaking a thought? Annoying? Disrespectful? Selfish?

I’m willing to bet that nothing positive came to your mind when you were interrupted.

Take it one step further. How can interrupting someone help you? The act of interrupting basically says that you think your words are more important than those being spoken at the time. It says you think you know how the sentence will be finished. Frankly, it says that you are inconsiderate, and maybe even selfish.

Looking at all this from the positive side, then, I believe that there may be no finer compliment than have someone listen to us. And listening to others is one of the best things we can do for others.
Listening communicates importance and respect. When you attend to another person, you are saying, “I am listening to you and only you right now. You are getting all of me. No distractions. No mind wandering. No looking at the papers on my desk. No peeking at the TV over your shoulder. You’re getting all of my attention because you’re important to me.”

Interrupting is a sign that you are not a good listener.

Unfortunately, poor listening is extremely common. One study asked several thousand workers to identify the most serious fault observed in executives. The most frequently cited response, mentioned by 68% of the respondents, was the boss’ failure to listen.

Actually, I think it is an excellent business and career strategy to listen, and to have great listening skills.. When you really listen to someone, he or she often feels quite good about you. And when it’s your turn to speak, he or she is more likely to listen to what you have to say. What a great way for you to be heard yourself.

The good news is that now matter what your listening skills are now, your listening prowess can be sharpened. Listening is not only a skill but a discipline. It can be learned, and it can be perfected.

Here are some tips:

First, Decide to Listen. Good listening starts with your conscious decision to do so. Do you remember the old adage about having two ears and one mouth? Maybe we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Listening discipline starts with the decision to listen.

Second, Listen with an Open Mind. It’s so easy to enter a conversation with preconceived ideas about the other person or his or her  topic of discussion. And once you have a preconceived idea in mind, it’s almost impossible to “hear” what the other person is saying. Your preconceptions act as a filter, and you hear only what supports your preconceptions

Third, Count Silently to Three before Responding. This practice alone will stop your interrupting, and give your business associate the space to finish what he or she started. It will also help you focus on what is being said rather than what you are going to say. Stephen Covey admonishes people to “Listen to Understand, Rather than Respond.” I think that is great advice.

Fourth, Focus on the Speaker. If you doubt the importance of eye contact, think of someone who doesn’t look at you when you’re speaking. Remember how it feels. Not very good. You intuitively know that eye contact is critical, so use it. Anybody worth listening to is worth looking at. Put aside everything else that is not related to the listening process. Don’t try to write a memo at the same time you’re listening to your colleague. Don’t try to read the newspaper at the same time your spouse is talking to you. Stop tapping your fingers or jiggling your foot. All those things suggest you have more important things to do than listen to the other person.

Being able to listen sincerely is not only an effective communication tool, but it actually can enhance your business and career success. People respect good listeners. They trust them. Listening can give you new and powerful information and perspective. And most of all, listening exudes respect.

So the next time you even consider interrupting someone, don’t. Count to three and listen closely instead.


Marsha Egan is a board certified professional coach and island resident. Join her "Coaching at The Corner" discussions every other Thursday at Mitchell's Book Corner. $15 at the door with season passes ( available. For more information, please visit


What other tips can you share about how to better listen to your friends, family, prospects, and customers?



Nicely said.

As Executive Coaches, we are taught the fine art of listening. However, as you know,  we are also taught the art of redirecting someones three act play.

Speakers, take a breath and be sure not to dominate the conversation. Count to three and let others have a turn. Just as important as good listening skills, remember that a conversation is a two way street.