How To Stop Interrupting and Actually Learn Something

Don't Speak

It’s very tempting as a manager to try to prove your expertise and knowledge in a conversation. Your status as ‘boss’ often makes you believe you have to have an answer for every problem team members bring your way, and you may feel you have to be the font of all knowledge, the ‘Google’ of the office.

But being the ‘manager’ doesn’t mean you have to be faultless and the guru of the team. We often see managers jumping in to solve problems within the team in a sort of “‘Jim’ll Fix It” routine every time.

There is a way to reduce the snap decision-making that often proves to be too judgmental in the way it’s put across. If you find yourself reacting too quickly at times, try this simple technique that will allow you to ponder rather than pounce.

Instead of coming to some quick judgement of a situation, instantly say to yourself  ‘Pause-Think-Act’.

This will accomplish a number of things.

Firstly, it will stop you interrupting when someone else is talking. When you interrupt, it is impossible to listen, as you’ve entered the ‘talking-mode’ and left the ‘listening-mode’ in your brain. Your brain flicks off your ‘paying attention’ section when you speak, as you are focusing on what you want to say.

Instead, become curious instead of judgmental. Ask yourself  ‘Why is this person feeling this way? What are their motives? What is driving their position?’

This way, you move away from being an advocate and start to take the position of enquiry.

So you pause, just long enough to let what the other person has said sink in and register.

Now is the time to ‘think’. Ask yourself about the meaning this person is putting across. What emotions are they describing? Read between the lines and identify the deeper purpose behind the facts.

This might take you a second or two, and it might elicit more questions you need to ask before coming to a specific conclusion that you can work with.

After taking that pause, thinking through the real purpose and meaning that the person is putting across, you can then ‘act’, knowing that you have really understood the message that is coming across.

Don’t jump to unnecessary conclusions, thinking you have to have all the answers. Your position doesn’t automatically enhance your knowledge and abilities.

Does all this take time? Won’t it lead to unnecessarily long pauses in conversations?

Not really. Pausing and thinking through what should be said next should only take a second or two. And you can always put in a filler, like ‘Let me ask you a question…” which is always a good thing to say when you’re trying to think of the question to ask!

By being curious instead of judgmental, you actually start learning things. You get to see the position from the other person’s standpoint. You identify the reasons and rationale behind their ideas and thoughts. And you enhance your listening skills while all this is going on.

Try it in your next conversation.


You might find you have a new perspective.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stock Image of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Originally published: 1 October, 2012

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