• person A was telling a story;
  • person B (me) asked a follow-up question while person A was talking (telling the story);
  • person C (a friend) aggressively told me to stop interrupting.

The other day I (person B) was at a dinner with friends, when upon asking a follow-up question to a story somebody (person A) was telling, a friend (person C) jumped at me and told me, quite forcefully, to stop interrupting the conversation all the time. They said something along the lines of "You need to stop interrupting." I was taken aback and mentioned that I found the way they said that to be rude, to which they replied that my behavior had been rude. Looking back, I may have occasionally interrupted during that evening. However, the way my friend presented it to me made me feel bad for the rest of the evening. I felt called out in front of everyone and became self-conscious and withdrawn, leaving shortly thereafter.

What could my friend (person C) have done better? Having been on the receiving side of this exchange, I would in the future be much more hesitant to call out another person in a group for interrupting from time to time.

  • 2
    Hi and welcome to IPS, I feel like as it stands we would have a lot of difficulty answering this. You haven't completely explained what happened or what potentially may have lead to this outburst from your friend. If you could give some context: The relationship/s between people involved, what the conversation was like leading up to this, specifically what you said, if you regularly deal with things like this or if your friend often says things like this? Lastly making the goal of your question a bit clearer might help. For now I've voted to close but don't let that discourage you.
    – Jesse
    Dec 19 '19 at 23:44
  • @RollingCompass: I made a small update to the question to avoid some minor confusion. If it is incorrect, or against the intended meaning of the question, please edit it or entirely roll it back to the original version.Thank you.
    – virolino
    Dec 20 '19 at 8:18
  • @virolino the update is spot on! Thank you for the clarification. Dec 20 '19 at 13:06
  • @Jesse I have added some information. I hope this makes it easier to give advice. Dec 20 '19 at 13:06

I lead a few activities with small groups of people, and I ran into this problem quite often. The way it happens usually the is "everybody starts talking at the same time".

I assume that there is not a big difference when only one person starts talking extra, or several persons do it.

Either way, I use this kind of reply:

Please wait with your answer a little, I cannot listen to two / several persons at the same time. Thank you.

An then I turn my attention to the person who was talking first. After that, I will give everybody around the chance to express their ideas, until everybody is satisfied.

NOTE: Of course, people will always want to say something, especially if it is a larger group, and the activity is more entertainment-oriented. In those cases, there is an ongoing effort to maintain the priority of taking turns talking. But with well-intentioned people, that is not a big deal.

There is especially one girl, she always needs to say something. Most of the times, totally unrelated to what goes on - even though she is a nice girl otherwise. She gives me most of the opportunities to train my moderation skills, and my patience, at the same time :)

It might happen that the person interrupting seems to have something important / urgent to say. In that case I address the person already speaking with something like:

Please wait a second, this seems important. We shall continue in a few seconds. Thank you.

And then I turn my attention to the new person, trying to keep the discussion to a minimum. Then I go back to the first speaker.

Note: I do not judge the importance of the message based on the excitement of the person. I evaluate his entire body attitude, and a very important factor is if the person was present to the discussion previously, or just arrived.

It might happen that somebody starts talking while I am speaking. In this case, the sentence / request changes a little:

Please let me finish my idea, and I will let you present your immediately afterwards.

Of course, there are cases when the person who interrupts does not get the point, and keeps doing that. In that case, I change the strategy a little:

  • I start telling what I want to say.
  • when they start peaking, I just adopt a "waiting" body attitude;
  • when they finish talking, I just resume what I started to say in he first place.
  • repeat the three previous steps until the person gives up, or until I finish my idea - whichever comes first;

With the above "strategies" I almost never needed to get to the point to become explicit:

Please do not be rude interrupting me. Use your education to refrain yourself talking what someone else already tells something.

  • This might be good when you are the one talking, because you can then decide how to handle the persons talking at the same time. OP said they were pointed out by someone, but not the one telling the story. So it seems very very different. How can your advice be used in this case? Why would it work? Can you please clarify? Thanks.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 20 '19 at 6:32
  • It is not very different at all. I lead the activities, but I encourage the people to do the talking. I try to speak as little as possible. They ask questions, other "they" answer. I provide my point of view only when nobody discovers it first. I am usually the last one speaking, when the silence comes upon the room. I hate being the stereotypical teacher, where I speak an nobody remembers what I say.
    – virolino
    Dec 20 '19 at 6:38
  • Also, about "when you are the one talking": I thought I was clear: " I cannot listen to two / several persons at the same time." With different words: I behave like a moderator, making sure that everybody can tell their point of view.
    – virolino
    Dec 20 '19 at 6:40
  • 1
    That's not what I meant here :) when you talk and get interrupted, you can say something, sure. In the case we're talking about, the one talking didn't say anything, it's someone else who did and made OP uncomfortable, that's why I think it's very very different. Hence my kind of request to clarify. Or I completely missed the point (read again OP for the 4th time and still in doubt though...). Maybe OP should clarify then.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 20 '19 at 6:44
  • @OldPadawan: "the one talking didn't say anything" Really?! How does it even make sense? And again, during the activities, I am the person listening, not the one talking. But I am the one who tries to keep people talking one at a time. When person A starts talking even though person B was already talking, I address person A as I wrote in the answer.
    – virolino
    Dec 20 '19 at 6:51

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