I'm a fairly quiet person and during conversations, I quite frequently am cut off by people that I'm talking with (This happens in more than just one group). I find it very irritating because I usually forget what I was going to say, or it is no longer relevant by the time I get a chance to speak. What are some polite ways to assert myself in a situation such as this, without coming across as pushy or self centered? This happens in both professional and personal settings.

Note: When I was younger I was told quite frequently to 'speak up' which I make sure to do now, I do not believe this is a volume issue.

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    You might want to change your subject, it looks like you mean gossiping ;-). But on the side. Do other people notice it. is it at work or with friends? Generally speaking, not letting someone finish is very rude but people often don't realize it until you say 'hey can i finish?' Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 19:39
  • I'm not one to gossip really. I speak of what I feel is important and no more. Other people do notice occasionally and will even speak up for me in some instances, but it's few and far between.
    – Mr Guy
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:37
  • I meant the subject 'to talk over' sounds like 'gossip' to me, but nvm. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:53
  • This question is related from the opposite point of view - Talking over my family and interrupting them
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


What are some polite ways to assert myself in a situation such as this, without coming across as pushy or self centered?

This depends a bit on what you consider pushy or self-centered. Sometimes, especially in informal or animated conversations, it's push or be pushed! Some people are more confident than others and take the floor more frequently. A few people are rude. If you're considerate and reserved, "pushing" to be heard will feel like you're sinking to their level.

Being talked over is so significant a problem that in some discussion groups, people have a limited number of tokens representing minutes they can talk. That way everyone gets a chance to speak uninterrupted by the more eager-to-share or dominant members. It's frustrating and discouraging, but like many things, it's most likely not about you (so please don't take it personally.) It's more likely to be "about" the other participants.

It's good that your voice is strong. That's a big hurdle you overcame. I would suggest you pick a few phrases that you can say quickly (slower, more deliberate speakers risk being talked over more often unless they rank high in the hierarchy) as soon as you pitch in, perhaps,

I'd like to say something here.
Here's a thought... One option worth considering... What about this?...

If someone cuts you off, be polite but confident.

Give me a minute here.
Hold on, let me finish my thought. Just a second, please.

If someone is being rude, you can repeat a variation on the above.

Group dynamics are tricky. Groups can have different standards (very polite and formal to excited, competitive, and rowdy) and you may need to match what you see to be heard.

The Harvard Business Review has a lot of helpful articles devoted to just this thing: breaking into a conversation gracefully, holding your own, etc. How to Interject in a Meeting

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    I am the person that would feel like I'm 'sinking to their level'. I like the idea about 'tokens' however I do not believe my department would be highly receptive to the idea of doing this (won't hurt to ask though). I feel like Joel's suggestion to bring it up in annual review with the combination of the token idea would be a great solution to the professional side. I feel as if the personal conversations are the tricky one here however. Suppose a large portion is where I live (south-east) so people can get a bit rowdy while talking. Guess I'm the odd one in that respect.
    – Mr Guy
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:26
  • "it's most likely not about you (so please don't take it personally.)", "Guess I'm the odd one in that respect.". I know I'm late, and I hope you have resolved your issue @Mr Guy. However, This is entirely about you, please take it personally, only you can fix this, you are the odd one out. If you wan't people to listen, give them a reason to. Be confident, clear, and interesting. It is much harder to change everyone else, than to change yourself. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 13:35

In general, people might not realize. Really the only way to let people know is to confront them, and say:

Hey, can I finish my story?

or nicer

Hey, you didn't let me finish

It is good to realize that not letting someone finish in a conversation is also normal and you can often just drop your thought if it is not relevant anymore.

If in a conversation someone cuts you off 3 times it's high time to tell this person you weren't finished. But before that, I would suggest just letting it go. Everybody has it all the time that they want to say something but the moment has passed.

based on comment: Make sure to know your goal is not to fight. If somebody jumps in defense and bites at you just let it go, other people in the group will know you were right and should defend you if they dare. If not don't answer, you brought your message across, just go away and talk with him/her in person later (if you dare or just see if the message came across).

You are doing the person a favor in the end. He might do the same to his partner/family/friends the earlier he knows his behavior the better for himself.

Professional environment

As for professional environment. if it's your colleagues I would say use the same treatment. If it's your boss. Try and plan a yearly performance/feedback meeting with your boss and drop this as feedback towards him.

I feel like you often don't let me finish.

Make sure you have an example if he wants an explanation. (and make sure to add tons of compliments around the feedback)

For close friends I would take the same approach as for a boss: speak with him in person and give the feedback. Also if you don't want to hurt/humiliation someone, take this person on the side and give him the feedback privately

  • Appreciate the input. The professional environment is a good idea, I'm a bit iffy on the personal side though. I feel as if I were to follow up being cut off with cutting them right back off with a 'You didn't let me finish' could quickly turn into a shouting match with some people. I find it hard to interrupt people like that (Maybe it was the way I was raised) but I'll try it. Also, marking this as the answer for now.
    – Mr Guy
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 19:55
  • @MrGuy yea make sure it is not to start a fight, you can simply state it and if they defend themselves, dont say anything back. It is about you conveying your message. Think of it this way: They might do it with their friends or partner and also making them feel like you feel, better they no sooner than later. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:02
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    @anongoodnurse I Agree and i think your answer is better than mine. As you also say some group dynamic are more dominant and saying these things are not seen as impolite but necessary for more introverted people to get their message across. Thanks for properly explaining why and groupdynamics! Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:15
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    Wow, thank you for being so gracious! (I'm not quite used to that.) Now I feel like a cad... but thank you. You're right that in rowdier groups, those lines are likely to be necessary. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:19
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    Seriously wish I could select more than one answer here. I like what both of you had to say but I'm going to have to mark nurse's answer mainly because of the part about the group dynamics. I carry myself a lot differently than most of the people I interact with on a regular basis; I may need to just lighten up a bit and try matching the group's enthusiasm (The analyst in me is screaming bloody murder thinking of that).
    – Mr Guy
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 20:34

Disclaimer: This answer is largely derived from this Charisma On Command video.

  • Put pauses mid-sentence, not at the end

    If you pause at the end of sentences, others may think you're done speaking and jump in if they have something to say.

  • Sound excited

    Even if you have something really interesting to say, if you say it slowly in a monotone voice, people will lose interest.

  • Be loud

    Don't shout, but make sure you're speaking loudly and clearly enough for others to hear you.

  • Use appropriate body language and gestures

    This relates to the two points above. If you're slouched with your arms next to your side, that's not going to convey confidence and others may be more likely to lose interest or interrupt.

  • Make eye contact

    If you just look straight ahead, or worse, look down, that doesn't send a great message. Keep looking around and making eye contact with others. If you try to make eye contact, they'd feel more engaged in what you're saying and they'd be less likely to interrupt.

  • Speak through (minor) interruptions

    If someone interrupts, there will be 2 people speaking for a short time. If you keep talking (with confidence) and finish what you were busy saying (and then look their way to indicate that you're done), others will get the message that they shouldn't interrupt you. Of course using this too much will make you come across as rude.

    If you're not a sentence or two away from being done speaking, you can decide whether it would be appropriate to acknowledge them with a, for example, "Bob, I'm almost done" before continuing. Avoid asking permission here, as that conveys a lack of confidence - simply say it and move on.

    This is especially true if others are simply making noises without actively trying to interrupt - if you stop talking every time this happens, others are going to use that opportunity to jump in.

  • Tell tight stories (don't ramble)

    A really interesting story can be really boring if you focus on the wrong details or include too many of them.

  • Make others feel good

    Make use of complements or fun or funny stories, and try to avoid things that evoke negative emotions. If you make people listening to you feel good, they're going to want to keep listening to you.

  • Wrap complaints in stories

    If you want to voice a complaint, wrap it in a riveting story - if you want to complain about your boss, for example, don't just say what they did and how much you think that sucks, rather wrap it in the story of how it happened.

  • Relate back to the listener

    Talk about what others in the group are interested in. If you're talking about something no-one's interested in, you're going to lose them.

    You could sometimes make use of a phrase like "Oh my god, you're going to love this" to pique the interest of those listening, but use it very selectively - overusing this, or regularly using it for something that others don't find interesting, will have the opposite effect in the long term.

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