Are You a Serial Interrupter?

Robert Terson

I know a man—he shall remain nameless—who ubiquitously interrupts others, and when I say “ubiquitously,” I’m not exaggerating in the slightest; every time I’ve been in his presence it’s been a constant annoying phenomenon. Annoying and blatant to the point that I don’t want to be around the guy. He’s close to my age, the husband of a woman I’ve known since childhood. I don’t know him that well, but other than that one unpleasant behavior, he seems to be a decent fellow; certainly, from what I’ve observed, a good husband and father.

The man is a salesman, has been all his adult life. I’d be willing to bet that his interrupting behavior takes place as much during his working hours as it does socially (a leopard doesn’t change its spots, my mother liked to say). Which makes me wonder: How many “professional” salespeople are out there behaving the same foolish way, socially and professionally?

A good many I’d wager too, and I doubt that any of them are aware of how much money it’s costing them in lost business; or that they’re pissing people off, instead of performing in an effective manner; that their inability to control their mouths and not utilize their ears more is as disgusting as bad breath or body odor.

If it’s so self-defeating, why do they do it? They do it because they have little interest in you or what you think or have to say—it’s all about them, not about you; because they’re so enthralled with themselves that they think you surely must be interested (fascinated?) in what they think and have to say; because they’re so busy getting ready to proffer that next bit of brilliance, that they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying. In many cases, they’re totally oblivious to what you’re saying.

My father used to say, “There’s a good reason we have two ears and only one mouth.” A professional salesperson needs to ask a lot of questions, and after you ask a question, you must listen carefully and not interrupt. Absorb every word as though your life depended on it. Becoming a good listener is vital for a salesperson; it requires great dedication and lots of hard work. If you don’t think so, why is it you can ask someone his name and a minute later you can’t recall what it is? It’s happened to all of us. Careful listening is so rare that it’s become an anachronism.

Finally there’s this: when you interrupt someone, you’re displaying a complete lack of respect towards that individual. If that isn’t the message you want to send, STOP INTERRUPTING!


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