I work in a facility with a large manufacturing plant and a large number of engineers, lab techs, and manufacturing personnel. Because of the nature of the equipment we produce and the documentation standards we adhere to, when even a relatively minor change has to be made, it often requires that several people be informed of or asked about the issue so that a production deadline can be met.

That said, many of my coworkers are 'talkers' with decades of seniority on me, and they're often engaged in chit-chat or low-priority work discussions when I need to get or pass on important info. They have many years of practice interrupt-proofing their speaking-- it is difficult for me to find a good 'in' with a lot of my coworkers, because there are no significant lulls or pauses in their end of the conversation.

A good example would be me running up them, papers in hand, obviously in a hurry and needing to get or receive information, and the talker will make eye contact, but keep talking as if I had not appeared.

I'm not the shyest person, so I'm not above butting in directly, but does anyone have any recommendations or social/conversational hacks that I can use to bring attention to my issue immediately, and then pass the mic, so to speak, back to whomever was interrupted?

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    Can you give some examples of these "interrupt-proof" speaking patterns? Can you edit your question to include a situation where you tried to pass on important info but they didn't let you interrupt them?
    – scohe001
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:24
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    @scohe001 I don't have any great examples, but I have something more general. What I'm really asking is: how do I interrupt a 'talker', direct the conversation in a very specific direction briefly, and then extricate myself quickly?
    – Bort
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:45
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    Ahh I see, they just don't give you a pause to interrupt. Have you tried talking over and interrupting them before? How well did it work?
    – scohe001
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:49
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    It works, but people get butt-hurt around here easily. I'm looking for a way to create that pause or distract them, with direct interruption as a last resort.
    – Bort
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


You have important information to convey, but the person who you need to tell is busy talking. You say that interrupting them to tell them is not an option since they'll be upset, and waiting for them to finish talking can take forever. As such, I would suggest you be willing to walk away.

If you know they're one of the "talkers" as you dub them, I'd walk up and regardless of whether they're talking or not, wave to get their eyes on you and say,

Sorry to interrupt, do you have a moment?

Short. Concise. Easy. Either they tell you that they're in the middle of a conversation and busy or they let you convey your information. But either way, by giving them a choice and keeping the interruption to a minimum, you'll likely be better received.

In the case where they always tell you now is not a good time, document the exchange. Go back to your computer and send an email to them to let them know you need to talk to them about the new change and you tried but they were busy. Create a paper trail.

If they never respond to you or let you tell them, then you have proof that it's on them that they didn't know about this change when the deadline passes.

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    Agreed. I would also like to add on that you probably will need some management level support on your case. So when you sent the email, would be good to copy your managers. It will also be good if you could let your managers know the whole situation and the difficulties you faced. You can also set a OCM to schedule meetings (online/physical).
    – Yoshiaki
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 7:41

I would say something like, "Excuse me, this is urgent." Or even, "excuse me, this could be important." Then stop.

One of two things will happen. They will stop talking and let you present your message.

Or they won't, even though you tell them, that is "urgent"or at least "important."

In the second case, I would send an email, as scohe suggests, and apologize for interrupting them with an "urgent" message while they were talking, ask for time to deliver it, and copy management.

Of course, do this only when it is urgent or important.

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