Suyin Aerts
December 9, 2022

The value of interruptions

It was Hilde Helsen that sent me the link to episode 60 of Simon Sinek’s great podcast “a bit of optimism’.

When she listened to the podcast it made her think of some ideas we shared in “Time for the creative generalist” the book that we published about 6 months ago. (only available in dutch)

And indeed I think it is absolutely worth listening to this interview. I am a big fan of the interviews done by Simon, a true inspiration to me.

The link to the podcast :

I love the idea Janis Burl shared about how she became such an expert in social media. She literally stuck post its on all the things she did not understand in the file that was handed to her when she got asked for the job. And she went on a quest to talk to people that could explain all about it. The way she actually attacks all the things she wants to learn. She also explained the value of interruptions, she deliberately decided that following a non-linear career path was an excellent way for her to find joy in her career. Something Simon recognised, and so do I .. 

It makes me think of the value or danger of interruptions in a discussion. What if a speaker is saying something and is cut off by someone else. When you are speaking you want to be understood. When someone interrupts  you, what we call a power interruption, you might feel violated, and it makes you feel as if what you say is not essential.

So it is important to learn not to get interrupted and let the other person feel we do not appreciate getting interrupted when it does happen.

In a debate as a moderator I can sometimes tense these power games that are played between speakers and I think as a moderator it is my role to keep the ego’s under control. By using my own power, the power of listening that is mostly and deciding also when I cut someone. Having a strong body language as a moderator is crucial, because when you are able to cut someone off without using your voice it is perceived as less violent. 

Some interruptions are very positive in a conversation of course, even in a panel or a debate.

The danger might be that these “rapport” interruptions could be mistaken for “power”  interruptions. You might be trying to connect with someone genuinely, and they’ll feel like you’re interrupting. This might happen when you respond to a part of the speaker’s sentence for example.

But in case they had something good and exciting coming up later in their speech they do not appreciate this and feel as if you intentionally blocked them.

If they felt interrupted, they felt interrupted, even if it was not your intention at all.

Chances are, they may not be self-aware enough to understand you were only trying to connect. In any case, you should give them the floor back if they feel interrupted or at least that is what I try to do. But for that you need to listen very carefully. In a conversation and certainly as a moderator.

At the end of the day we need to be aware that people have different communication styles. I can tell you as a moderator it is crucial to be able to read people very carefully. It is in every little detail.

So for me in my career I love the interruptions so far, and I love what I can create as a moderator with interruptions in discussions.

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