Monthly Archives: April 2016

The interrupting generation

My elderly mother is now very deaf, and unless I am sitting right in front of her and she can see my lips moving, she doesn’t really hear an awful lot (which is, of course, terrible for her and difficult for everyone else).   The consequence is that whilst attempting to hold a conversation with her, she will often interrupt before I have finished speaking as she misses a lot of what is being said and thinks that a sentence is finished before it is.

This has been going on for some time, but lately I have been finding it more and more difficult to cope with… to the point that I start to get stressed the minute I start talking as I know that I must speak as loud as possible, and get whatever I want to say out as quickly as I can before she jumps in.

Returning from a visit last weekend, I pondered why I get quite so uptight about this whole situation as I used to be a lot more patient (it is, of course, possible, that it is just my own older age and bad temper!). However, after a few days back at home, I think I know why.   I am surrounded by ‘interrupters’, with the result that I am becoming one myself. And I don’t like it.

We had an old friend that used to love to say ‘there is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth’, and I rather liked that expression as that is what I have always been taught (and teach) in the communications world.   In order to do a good job, we need to LISTEN to what our clients/customers want or are saying. (Unfortunately, this particular friend, whilst loving to use this expression, would then continue to talk non stop until one or other of us fainted on the floor or started to froth at the mouth).

In my own ‘service orientated’ business, it is not unusual for me to go a whole day without saying more than a few words; at some client meetings (and I had better say this very carefully!), after a quick greeting, the clients will launch off at length, often asking rapid fire questions but interrupting after just a couple of words of the answer before moving off again, and I am lucky if I say anything more than ‘good morning’ and ‘goodbye’.

After a recent meeting that I was chairing, one of the guys attending told me afterwards that I am too nice to everyone and I should ‘take more control’ of everything. The trouble is that at these meetings (which are quite regular) there are at least three ‘champion interrupters’ that I know are desperate to start talking the minute I say a word.   So I start a bit tentatively, and prepare myself for when one of them jumps in (usually within a maximum of four of my words), which then allows one of the others to interrupt him and so it goes, until I jump back in by interrupting them in order to try and get the meeting back on track.

I might have thought that this was all because of the type of business I am in and the friends that I keep, if it wasn’t for watching Sky News over the past few days; this has led me to realise that my friends and clients are actually amateurs in the interrupting stakes.   Politicians and overly pushy TV journalists can outdo anyone that I know, to the point that there is no point.   Each discussion ends in chaos and no one knows where anyone stands, other than that they have finished the interview extremely disgruntled.

Having complained (often) that we will soon not remember how to communicate in words (i.e. we are all too busy writing emails and sending messages to bother with actually speaking), I am starting to think that maybe writing to each other is no bad thing.   At least then there is a chance that the person being addressed will actually hear (read) what is being said and respond accordingly.   But then… does everyone read every email/message word for word and to the end?? I think not!!!   That, I think, could be the subject for another blog!

I wrote this sitting on the plane, and then landed and called my partner to announce I had arrived safely. This is how the conversation went:

Me: “Hello, I have…”

Him: ‘Have you only just landed?”

Me: “Yes and ….”

Him: “How was the flight?”

Me: “Very good. I sat next to…”

Him: “Anyone that you knew on the plane?”

Etc.   Don’t even start me on the difficulty of having a normal conversation on a telephone!!   Is it just me?  Or?