Interrupting others is rude, impolite and can set off tempers. It’s also absolutely necessary if you find yourself in an aggressive professional environment. That was the lesson that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had to learn.
Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Whether or not you’re raised not to interrupt, there are often occasions when your profession can call for you to speak up and insert yourself. How do you judge the difference between rudely talking over someone and asserting yourself appropriately, though? Madeleine Albright suggests the key distinction is knowing what you’re talking about:
But if you’re going to interrupt, you have to know what you’re talking about. And you have to do it in a strong voice. My classes are a bit of a zoo because I tell people, men and women, not to raise their hands, to interrupt. But I do think it’s a lesson. And it was a lesson even to myself, having preached about this, to then be in a position on the Security Council where I kind of questioned, “Shouldn’t I just wait and not talk initially?” But if you raise your hand, and you don’t get called on, by the time you do, what you had to say doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not germane. So I made up this term, active listening — you listen differently if you think you’re going to interrupt. Because, frankly, there are some people who talk too much.
If you’re the new person in the group and you’re still learning, then sure, let the others in the room have the floor. However, if you have something worthwhile to contribute, don’t hesitate to speak up. Presumably, you’re there for a reason and it’s not to decorate the office chairs.