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Some people can be a bit predictable and longwinded and it's very easy to guess what they will say, it's like playing chess and guessing a few moves ahead.

It happens often that a person only started to ask his question and I am already giving him an answer/solution interrupting him in the beginning. I think I developed this um... style when I was working at an ISP techsupport as a student and we had to be as effective and quick as possible.

Sometimes it results in very funny conversations / discussions with friends and family - they got used to it and usually don't mind. It helps skipping the boring parts. At work, it also helps getting rid of our most meddling and ineffective CEO boot-licking manager with his unprofessional questions. (He really hates it and leaves the scene real quick.)

But if we're speaking social conventions, how important is it to let a stranger finish his sentences? Would one be annoyed or glad he got an answer to his question quickly? Is it considered impolite? Are there any general (unspoken) rules about this kind of behaviour, or is it tolerated for the sake of effectiveness in our western society?

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    Where are you? Can you limit this to a certain group of people? You seem to know how friends and family feel about it... and your manager... what are you trying to understand? Right now your question seems like you're asking what each individual on the site thinks and I don't think there's one "correct" answer. Even your own commentary admits that "they got used to it and usually don't mind". – Catija Aug 2 '17 at 23:24
  • @Catija from this comment it's seems it's not a big deal. That's good to know :) i was afraid i secretly annoy ppl with it. – user1617 Aug 2 '17 at 23:43
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    If that's what you read, it's because I was intentionally trying to be neutral. I personally think your treatment of your CEO is very rude and completely unprofessional. Your personal dislike of this person and how they act doesn't (in my opinion) justify doing something you know he hates. I feel that your implication that your friends and family "got used to" it shows a disinclination on your part to change, so I'm hoping that you will elaborate some more so that I can better understand your actions. – Catija Aug 2 '17 at 23:47
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    I'm sorry you feel that way. We can only draw the conclusions that you give us the information to draw. I encourage you to add more details to your question that explain your actions. And, if you're only really interested in whether it's acceptable with strangers, perhaps your anecdotes in regards to others are unnecessary. – Catija Aug 3 '17 at 0:05
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    @Nahiri In your garage example, it's entirely possible that there is another issue that is not resolved by that. I have the habit of doing what you describe too, and it annoys me when my mind follows the wrong trail and thinks conversations are going another direction. – JMac Aug 3 '17 at 10:45
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How important is it to let a stranger finish his sentences?

  • Professional environment: VERY important / mandatory -> you don't stop your boss/manager/co-worker/client from talking/explaining his point of view. Not doing so is not only totally unprofessional, it's also definitely rude.
  • Personal/friendly environment: VERY important for many Westerners -> in western culture, it's much more than in other parts of the world, according to Professor Tannen - Linguistics Department - Georgetown University in a 1992 New York Times article:

    "The two forms of completing another's sentence are interruption and overlap ," she explained. "Either you may interrupt the other person, as in taking advantage of a pause, or you may chime in, in chorus with the other speaker."
    Professor Tannen calls this type of conversation "high-involvement style," which includes standing close, talking loudly and leaping from topic to topic. Cultures that feature this style include Eastern Europeans, Mediterraneans, Africans and Arabs; women, Professor Tannen reports, finish others' sentences more often than men do.

Would one be annoyed or glad he got an answer to his question quickly?

  • Professional environment: if it happens on a regular basis, no matter if you actually answered his/her question, the person will see the naysayer as unprofessional and rude. If it happens once in a while, you may just apologize: "I'm sorry for interrupting, please go ahead".
  • Personal/friendly environment: you already answered your own question, saying your friends/family are now used to that. But letting go and not saying anything doesn't mean agreeing...

Is it considered impolite?

Under most circumstances: YES.

Is it tolerated for the sake of effectiveness in our western society?

I can't say for so many different countries and culture, but from what you said of yourself, you seem to give people only the choice for tolerating it. Even if you're smart (er than others), don't be condescending. Maybe it's time for a Talking Stick :)


Looking for sources and references, I came across ADHD : Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. If you want to read about it, some points are really interesting and may show you workarounds, even if it's not a disorder you suffer from. Symptoms include :

  • Inattention (lack focus and listening)
  • Hyperactivity (always be "on the go")
  • Impulsivity / Impatience (having a hard time waiting to talk or react)

Other links: Adults ADHD and Stop finishing other people's sentences


NOTE: being a kid/teenager, I often did that to people to draw attention, and it bothered me as much as it bothered them. I found 2 tricks: 1. count mentally to seven before answering/asking 2. in class, put my thumb and middle finger under my chin, with my index on my mouth. That was a great self-taught "S*** U*" :)

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    I think one of the more valuable parts of the article is a bit further down: What matters is how the listener perceives the speaker's intention. The positive metamessage is 'I understand you so well.' The negative metamessage, if people don't like having their sentences completed for them, is 'You're putting words into my mouth.' " She thinks it is more often intended to be positive than negative; I think it is more often received negatively. My conclusion is based on subjective data, sometimes called my own experience. – Catija Aug 3 '17 at 18:30
  • @Catija : right :) I didn't want to use too many quotes because of intellectual rights and in order to keep answer quite readable (and on-topic), otherwise, I would also have enclosed parts about that and good tips on how-not-to .... but it's really a good quote! – OldPadawan Aug 3 '17 at 19:03
  • Just remember to quote things properly. You attributed the person but not the source of the quote. Much of what you were quoting is actually the words of the journalist who wrote that NYT article, not the professor herself. – Catija Aug 3 '17 at 19:08
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The "style" of communication you describe is rude, condescending, and not listening to what other people say.

Rude:

Take a moment to google "tech support customer review" and read some of the reviews for big companies whose tech support agents communicate in the style you describe. Take note when customers say things like: "Interrupted me constantly" and "did not listen to a word I said" and look at the star rating next to it. That is the star rating that you are getting when having conversations with friends and family.

Condescending:

it's very easy to guess what they will say, it's like playing chess and guessing a few moves ahead.It happens often that a person only started to ask his question and I am already giving him an answer/solution interrupting him in the beginning.

You do not know what people are trying to say, and now that you have interrupted them, you never will. If you consistently knew what people were trying to say you would not be having awkward conversations about it. The quote above gives off a "I am smarter than everyone else" vibe and is frustrating to deal with in a conversation.

Not Listening:

You mention in your question that you do not even let people finish their sentences. If you had let people finish, then you would know how to phrase a response to their actual question, not the answer to the question you made up in your mind. By not listening, you are basically shutting the other person out of the conversation and conversing with yourself.

Your question is not "How do I fix my communication style" (Which would be an excellent follow-up question) it is if it is considered impolite or rude. The answer is Absolutely. You are sabotaging your relationships with friends, family, and strangers.

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Generally speaking, it is rude to interrupt people while they are talking. It's as if you're not giving them a chance to say what they want to say, and that you think your response is more important than their thoughts. If I am trying to explain a situation or story to a friend and they were to cut in to talk about it before I'm finished, I would consider that rude, even with someone I knew well.

I would also add that in specific situations like the ones you mentioned you can quite reasonably predict where a question is going, but I would say that in social conversations this is not the case. Sure, you might be able to some of the time, but generally speaking social conversations can go a lot of different ways. Imagine a situation where an friend or acquaintance is describing a situation, and you jump in to give your opinion on the matter, only to realise that they were working towards a completely different point. Not only does that take attention away from the point they are raising, it makes you seem arrogant and a bit silly.

NB: speaking as someone from the UK.

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First of all, you should never do this at the beginning of a question. Or with people you don't know well.

If you know the person reasonably well, and the question is beginning to get "long in the tooth," it is ok to break in to ask for clarification. Sometimes you can slip in a answer like, "Is X what you mean?" where X is the answer.

Do this rarely, and do it in a manner that makes it look like you are helping to ask (or trying to understand) the question. If you do this properly the other person may give you enough time to answer the question if this can be done briefly.

In all fairness, people sometimes ask questions for the sake of talking/venting. Then giving/getting quick answers isn't the purpose. In that case, "brevity is not the soul of wit," except when is coming from you.

1

I do agree with the other answers that this is often considered rude or condescending. However, I have been in many situations when someone is explaining a problem to me like I am a child, which to me feels rude and condescending, as well as a waste of time. If my manager tells me every day how to do my job, and I never speak up to let him know that I can think for myself, then he may start to assume I'm not as smart or useful as I am; this is damaging to my reputation, possibly as much as it would be if I constantly interrupted as you're suggesting.

What I tend to do when I know the answer before they finish the question is to notify them that I believe I have the answer. Something like "oh, I think I know what it is" or "ah, are you asking about X?"; the idea is that instead of taking control of the conversation by answering, you're notifying the speaker that they now have a choice: either continue talking, or let you talk. Their choice indicates what part of the exchange they value more (the answer, or the explanation), so by giving them the choice you ensure they get what they wanted.

Plus, since you're not hearing the whole story, there's always a chance you're wrong. Better to provide your summary of the question than your assumption of the answer, if your answer is wrong you'll have to explain what you thought the question was anyway.

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Yes, it is unequivocally wrong in all cases.

Interrupting the question in order to provide what you hope will be an answer to a question you have not fully heard is equivalent to simply saying you really don't care what the question is and you would rather not be bothered by the individually asking regardless of the significance of the question or the questioner.

Better to be truthful and stop them in their tracks with:

“Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn” — Gone with the Wind

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