Do you want to know how to stop interrupting people? Despite our best intentions, a lot of us struggle with interrupting others. Interruptions happen for many reasons. Generally, they aren’t a big deal. However, if interruptions are a recurring problem in your life, you might start to feel it’s a bad habit; you might wonder how to stop interrupting people and correct the behavior.
There’s no need to shame yourself. This article will discuss potential reasons behind interruptions and how to stop interrupting others or better navigate interruptions – even when neurodivergence plays a role.
If you’re reading this, you might be here because interruptions have negatively affected your life. Interrupting others when you don’t mean to can make you feel guilty and misunderstood, or it might even impact your interpersonal relationships.
To start, let’s make this clear: Interrupting other people doesn’t make you a bad person. People interrupt others for many reasons, and most aren’t malicious. For example, you might interrupt someone because you’re excited about the conversation topic, and your enthusiasm takes over before you can stop yourself.
Try these simple, easy-to-use tips to use if you’re looking for ways to stop interrupting other people. These are general tips, and some may be effective regardless of neurotype. However, we’ll talk about specific considerations for when ADHD, autism, and related concerns play a role further below.
We pay attention to things more automatically if they’re tied to intense emotions. Can you remember a time when you were upset by someone interrupting you? What about the time somebody talked over you? If so, think about that time and try to re-experience what it felt like in your body.
It sounds simple, but sometimes, a thought exercise like this can help your brain naturally keep better track of turn-taking in conversation.
If you can’t think of a time you felt bothered by an interruption, it is still possible to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think of what it feels like to be annoyed during a social interaction in general or about a time when an activity was interrupted (even if not a conversation). What impact did it have on your productivity or mood?
Applying that empathy to the situation might make it easier to take a moment and stop yourself before you interrupt. This tip can be particularly helpful if the person has expressed concern regarding interruptions. Try to combine it with another tip, like replacing the behavior of interrupting, for the best effect.
Interrupting others is a habit, and like any other “bad” habit, it’s hard to stop the behavior without replacing it. So, try these things instead of interrupting the other person:
Working on active listening skills can also be helpful, even if just for the sake of showing other people that you are interested in what they have to say. Setting that stage can diffuse the impact of accidental interruptions.
We talked about some of the potential reasons interruptions may happen. Sometimes, the key to curbing behaviors like interrupting others is to understand why you do it.
For example, if you interrupt because you get excited, it is a great opportunity to gain awareness and create an intention to say, “Can I add something? I’m so excited about this!” next time you are about to interject.
Or, it could be that you never got to speak while growing up, and you finally feel free to say what’s on your mind. That’s an understandable reason for interrupting, but you may still benefit from exploring that underlying trauma.
Let’s say that you are someone who interrupts frequently. If that’s the case for you, or if you have a harder time stopping for any reason, it could be beneficial to acknowledge that to the people in your life.
Express that this is a struggle, or even an insecurity, you have. You might share with a friend or loved one
If you feel comfortable at this point, you can also ask other people for help. When you bring up the tendency to interrupt others, you can ask a friend or loved one to help you out. That way, the next time you interrupt, they can speak up and give you a gentle reminder.
When slip-ups happen, a quick but sincere apology can go a long way. Stop yourself and apologize as soon as they are done speaking. Especially if it is a recurring theme or if the person is visibly upset, it might be relevant to take a moment after they finish, to explain that this is something you’re actively working on.
For those with ADHD or autism, it can be more difficult to catch yourself interrupting others – and harder to stop doing it. This is part of why we search for things like “ADHD impulsive speech,” “ADHD no filter,” or “Is having no filter a symptom of ADHD?”
Interrupting can have compounded social consequences for people who have ADHD or autism. Combined with rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD), a higher likelihood of frequent social misunderstandings, and related experiences, the battle of interrupting others can be extremely challenging.
That challenge can feel tragic, because when it comes to ADHD and autism, saying things without thinking is common. Your behavior is certainly not purposeful, but you still may feel its consequences.
Remember that there can be power in talking to other neurodivergent people about this and how it makes you feel. And find considerations specific to your situation below.
Note: if you have a loved one with ADHD, autism, or related disorders, you might gain some insight from reading the following, too. Don’t hesitate to take a look. If you want to discuss interruptions with a loved one, working to understand the reasons for their disruptions may give you some ideas of how to work on the problem together.
People with ADHD may relate to blurting things out or saying things without thinking. Someone might tell you that you have impulsive speech or “no filter.”
This can happen at least partially for chemical reasons. For instance, some describe ADHD brain chemistry as being “all gas, no brakes.” If you were driving a car without brakes and with racecar-level acceleration, it’d be hard not to cut people off on the road.
It’s possible to learn to work with your brain more effectively and curb interruptions. But it’s also valid to recognize the chemical foundation for your tendency to interrupt.
ADHD brains have differences in executive functions, which usually fit into one of four categories: working memory, set shifting, fluency, and inhibition. Struggles with all of these executive functions can affect our social lives and general communication.
Executive dysfunction (a cognitive problem) is the exact reason why you might lose your train of thought mid-sentence, blurt something out, or forget what you’re going to say if you don’t say it immediately. One could even say that the ADHD brain expresses attentiveness differently via engaging in the conversation right now.
For people with ADHD, interrupting others may be rooted in brain chemistry, but it also may come from how you experience the world and your own brain.
ADHD is known to include the experience of cutting yourself off internally or losing your train of thought mid-sentence. When you interrupt people, you may want to yell: “It’s not personal. I do it to myself, too!”.
If you have ADHD, you may blurt things out mid-sentence because otherwise, you’ll lose the thought entirely. You may worry that if you don’t comment now, you won’t have anything to say when you finish your sentence; then the other person might think you’re not listening.
Or, you very literally may not realize you’ve interrupted until after the fact. With ADHD, blurting things out happens before you have time to register that you’re speaking. The brain does not provide adequate time to recognize that you’re talking and combat the impulse.
It’s not your fault that this happens. But you can work to catch yourself and give yourself grace. It’s a process to discover ways to manage interrupting that work for your particular ADHD brain.
For those with autism, some of the above considerations for ADHD may also apply. However, interrupting others in autism may happen largely due to trouble reading social cues. These cues may be interpreted automatically (subconsciously) by some people, but may require conscious effort for others to interpret.
It’s just like how your brain may automatically attune to details “neurotypical” brains don’t. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
So, what social cues can you consciously attune to, to make it easier to take turns in conversation? Look out for one of these:
And how can you “cushion” the fact that you might sometimes accidentally interrupt? Having a few scripts ready can help:
It can take some time to find the tips that work for you. If you get frustrated or can’t find what works, it is always worthwhile to try a new approach. A clinician or your peers may have more ideas to try out.
No matter what, know that unintentionally interrupting others does not make you “broken.” There are ways to work around it, even if it’s due to a condition.
Switching gears, getting creative, and trying a new way to handle interruptions are practical ways to find solutions without getting burnt out. Whether due to autism or ADHD, speech and social mishaps can be a marked challenge.
Striving for progress rather than perfection is another valuable practice to take home.
Interruptions are just one of many possible concerns with the potential to affect your interpersonal relationships, general communication, and life overall.
Supportiv is the perfect place to go to get something off your chest without judgment. Here, you can also practice turn-taking and using the tips that might help you interrupt less.
Supportiv is 100% confidential. When you connect with Supportiv for individuals, we will match you with a real, empathetic peer in as little as a few seconds.
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