Ever feel like you are constantly spoken over the top of or interrupted in meetings?
Do you feel like your opinions or ideas are often unheard, or overshadowed by someone else?
Or, worse yet, an opinion or thought you were trying to articulate was interrupted by someone who then essentially just continues saying exactly what you were saying!!? This one I see all the time. I’ve named it DSS (you’ll have to private message me though to know what it stands for).
Not always, but more common than not, I see this happening to women. I see it in meetings regularly where we build the courage to speak up or share an opinion and someone consistently speaks over us, interrupts us, or starts talking at the same time.
So, we stop.
We lean back so that someone else can lean forward.
We stop talking.
We let ourselves be interrupted and then ultimately, we let our thought, idea or opinion fall by the wayside, never to be heard again.
A missed opportunity.
Being able to speak with confidence, and even more so, speak so that people stop and listen is a critical skill for success.
Yet, it is one I see lacking so often.
I wrote this article back in August when I went on a bit of a writing spree reflecting on areas in career and in life where I so often see women leaning back instead of leaning forward. Playing small. Making themselves small – instead of showing the world what we are really made of and how valid, relevant and important our ideas are.
What is interesting about this post is that even though I wrote it back in August knowing what a significant barrier this is for women, we have seen a real life, high profile example of it play out publicly in the last few weeks during the US Vice Presidential Debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence.
We saw Kamala repeatedly being interrupted, or spoken over the top of.
But what we also saw was a woman assertive enough in her self-power to break the cycle. To lean forward and say “Mr Vice President – I’m speaking. I’m speaking”. On the second occasion she then puts her hand up and reminds him “If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can then have a conversation, OK? OK.”
Kamala is just one example of where this happens daily. But so often we don’t keep talking. We don’t keep pushing forward with our thoughts. We let ourselves be spoken over. Interrupted. We assume (often unconsciously) that someone else must know more than us, their opinion must be more valuable than ours, so we let them speak.
This was a skill that for a really long time I lacked in. One that I still see myself mess up from time to time when I allow myself to be the one to consistently lean back so that someone else can lean forward. When I think that my opinion is not as valuable as that of others.
And then I slap myself and remember I am a powerful f*cking human! As are you.
To be clear, I am not talking here about the ***occasional*** interruption in a conversation. This is part of life, and often occurs when people get excited. I am talking to people who find themselves being continually interrupted, or spoken over, likely because…… they allow it. (Or, for many of us, because we are women in a male dominated environment- but that is a story and a topic for another day!).
So, let’s give you a game plan for the next time you start speaking and someone tries to interrupt you whilst you are sharing an opinion or an idea (and yes, you can even do this in a virtual world!).
Here are three things you can do to stop interrupters, and ensure that when you speak, people STOP and LISTEN.
- Make direct eye contact with the interrupter, but KEEP talking. Don’t give away the floor as you usually would just because someone else has misplaced their manners or decided that they need to be heard right this second. Your voice and your opinion are just as valuable.
- If this does not work and the interrupter still continues to try and talk over you, politely but assertively add a hand gesture (no, not the kind that I’m sure some of you are thinking of right now!), but a raised hand almost like a stop sign just for a second or two in the direction of the interrupter and then STILL, continue on talking.
- If, after this, the interrupter still continues to try to speak over you, at this point you can stop speaking, and ask the interrupter to let you finish. Now, to be clear. This is not a question. You are not asking if this is ok, this is a statement, or a direction if you will. Do not say it aggressively. Instead, say it with authority and assertion “Michael, please let me finish what I am saying and then the mic is yours, Ok”.
With all of this said, will there still be times where people will talk over the top of you and you pull back?
And sometimes that will be the right thing to do depending on the conversation at hand. I am not suggesting that you never stop to listen to others when there is a group conversation at play and you have something to say.
Who this article is for are my ladies (and some men) out there who continue to be the ones who let themselves be interrupted.
Continue to be the ones who bow out before even trying step one of the game plan above and just stop talking all together to let someone else step forward. They step back. Again. And again.
Communicating with confidence is a skill, and communicating so that people really stop and listen to you is a talent. But the first part of mastering it is believing that what you have to say IS of value, and therefore that people should want to hear it. If you believe this, you will be far more comfortable when it comes to stopping others from talking over you.
If this post has hit a nerve with you, or communicating with confidence is something you struggle with, check out my new, hands-on and practical transformational coaching program designed to help YOU Sell yourself with Confidence in all aspects of your life (Selling you to YOU is step one).
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