Friday, July 3, 2015

When You Speak...I Should Listen

Interrupting when someone else is speaking is bad manners, bad form, rude, whatever.  We don't like it when somebody does it to us.  They don't like it when we do it to them.  Unhappily, many of us don't even realize we are doing it. My pal David says I have been interrupting since we were in high school a thousand years ago. It is a very hard habit to break.

Why do people interrupt others? The reasons vary but certainly include thinking we have a more important point to make than the speaker.  Sometimes we are trying to be helpful by agreeing and then launching into an example of our own to reinforce the speaker's thought.  Once in a while we view our own interruptions as public service to lessen the perceived (or real) pain being inflicted on those already listening. In any case when we interrupt we are thought of as someone who would rather speak than listen.

The late Ed Roach was a masterful storyteller who often held court around the better bars in Avalon, New Jersey.  His 1000 watt smile plus familiarity with the names and faces of the crowd gave him unbeatable weapons to deal with interrupters. “Let me finish this joke first, Tony, then I'll turn the mic over to you so I can have good manners and listen.”  

A conference speaker memorably dealt with an interruption by asking: “Sir, excuse me, how did the Middle of my sentence run into the Beginning of yours?”                                         

I don't usually watch morning television, but I learned a lot recently from the cast of NBC's Today show.  That otherwise likable group simply could not control themselves when on camera together. For a good bit of time every one was speaking at the same time, talking over each other and robbing viewers of a clear message.

On that day theirs was a showcase on how not to do it.