The lesson to not interrupt is often one of the first taught to children as they begin speaking, but for some reason, this lesson is often lost in adulthood – and especially in the workplace. Knowing that at any moment, we might lose the microphone to someone else, we rush through our thoughts, sacrificing the quality and clarity of our communication. When we interrupt others, we never let them learn the process of presenting their ideas in a clear and productive manner, and as a result, they never feel the confidence to speak freely in front of us or take the time to fully develop their ideas. But what would happen if we made the promise to never interrupt again?
In her new book, “The Promise that Changes Everything: I Won’t Interrupt You,” Nancy Kline explores the powerful impact of such a promise. As digital devices compete for more and more of our attention, listening has become more important than ever if we hope to create meaningful relationships – both personally and professionally. Listening without judgment to everything someone has to say helps build empathy for them, and through that empathy comes more productive interactions. The promise to not interrupt creates the opportunity for real communication between individuals, resulting in deeper relationships and more innovative thinking.
A Safe Place To Speak Creates a Safe Place for the Flow of Ideas
By committing to not interrupting you, allow people to vocalize their complete thoughts without fear of being cut off. To create an environment that encourages innovative thinking, we need to take away the stress of handling and overcoming interruptions. Stopping a person mid-thought may cause frustration in not being able to express their full idea, which can then result in them withdrawing from the conversation and any future conversations.
A conversation without interruptions creates a better thinking environment. When the uninterrupted input from an individual is appreciated and encouraged among a group, people feel more comfortable sharing. If they trust that they’ll have the freedom to voice their thoughts in full, communicating becomes easier and less stressful. With a promise not to interrupt, everyone goes into a meeting confident that their ideas will have equal access to everyone’s attention, making them more receptive to differing opinions or questions that may follow. The free exchange of ideas without interruptions is where innovation takes place – and the significance of having greater innovation, especially in the workplace, cannot be overstated.
A Complete Picture Yields More Productive Responses
Not interrupting allows you time to hear and react to the full concept of an idea, rather than only the first part of it. People never say everything they think, and by interrupting them, we lose even more information. Letting people explore and explain their entire viewpoint before you speak means you have all the necessary facts to form a balanced response. This, in turn, benefits both you and the speaker.
Committing to understanding someone’s full perspective before responding may allow you to understand (and even accept) an alternative viewpoint. When you can see how they came to their conclusions, you can use that process in support or defense of your viewpoint and how it contributes to or counters theirs. By not interrupting, you also create a shared empathy and reciprocal respect for your thinking processes when the time comes to share your perspectives.
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Disruptive Thoughts Keep You From Really Hearing
But interrupting is more than just speaking over someone else while they speak. Making a promise to not interrupt means also avoiding interrupting thoughts. When something triggers an immediate response that we want to voice out loud, we might hold it in so as not to interrupt, but we stop listening in the process and just end up waiting for our turn to speak. Not interrupting needs to also come with a commitment to really listening; otherwise, you’re still interrupting.
When other people speak, it’s important for them to know they have your full attention. When people have the full attention of a captive audience, they are able to better process their thoughts with more depth. Give their opinions space in your head without your thoughts talking over them. Even a short silence when they’ve finished speaking can help you reflect on their complete presentation and prepare a more meaningful response
Too often these days, people are in such a rush to say what they think without even hearing the full story or reading the full article, resulting in inauthentic and destructive communication. When you make a promise not to interrupt, you fundamentally change the way you interact with people. An environment where everyone is allowed to share their thoughts completely is more innovative, creative, and allows opportunities for new ideas to develop. This practice will help you to develop a team and community that is able to reach new heights of intellectual friction and progress, something that will universally benefit you both personally and professionally.