Please Don’t Interrupt, I’m an Introvert!

Sometimes, it can take far too long to tell a simple story, especially for Introverts.

For some people, the problem might be an inability to get to the point. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for example, the courtier Polonius says that “brevity is the soul of wit” as he tells a long, rambling story about what he thinks is the cause of the prince’s apparent madness.

I have met many people like that, people who seem to be unable to give a short answer to a simple question. When I lived overseas, for example, I would avoid asking a certain American friend for directions around the city, since I knew that her answer was likely to take at least five minutes and would not necessarily include the information that I needed.

In giving information, I face a different problem as an Introvert: interruptions. A simple Web search reveals that I am not alone in this and that many Introverts are frustrated when others interrupt them.

Part of the issue is that, in general, Introverts tend to think things through before they speak while Extraverts tend to think while they’re speaking. Thus, what comes out of an Introvert’s mouth tends to be important. Since they are not merely verbalizing their thought processes but are actually trying to contribute something valuable to the discussion, they can become frustrated and just withdraw when people interrupt them. I know I do that.

Some Presentations Are Just Too Hard to Give

Recently, I had two very different experiences in giving presentations to two groups. The first presentation was to a class at a local community college, talking about my experiences in helping to complete an oral history project. It was a small group, maybe about 10 people including the instructor, in the field of library technician studies.

According to my co-presenter, one of the students fell asleep during our talk, but I didn’t notice or care; the class was quiet other than a few coughs and dropped pens. Even though I had only planned the talk in my mind and had not written any notes, I was able to get through what I wanted to say and to give the students the information that I thought would be valuable to them.

The second presentation was very different, and often difficult. Members of a writing group that I participate in had asked me, as a published writer, to talk about how I came to the point of being paid for my writing. Once again, I prepared my talk only very generally but brought along some of my articles to show to the group.

We were meeting in a noisy cafe instead of a quiet classroom, but I was still amazed at how difficult it was to get my audience to listen. The interruptions from the coffeemakers and other patrons were nothing compared with my inattentive audience.

While people at the other end of the table held their own conversations and occasionally broke in on what I was saying to ask me something, I desperately tried to keep my train of thought on track. Sometimes, one person would start to ask a question and then another would interrupt, often asking about the same point. Since these people were friends of mine, I tried to be gracious and to answer their questions, but I was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, I abandoned the other end of the table to its own devices and talked exclusively to the people immediately beside me.

This kind of frustration comes in many forms. I know someone at an office where I sometimes work who will frequently ask me how I am doing and then interrupt me as I try to answer. So far, I have managed to control my frustration, but I have noticed that I avoid talking with that person beyond the basic greetings so that I don’t have to deal with the interruptions.

Learn to Deal With Interruptions and Promote the Art of Listening

Here are some possible tactics I’ve learned for dealing with interruptions:

  • Keep track of what you are saying and, when the interrupter pauses, continue the conversation.
  • Speak faster. Extraverts generally speak more quickly than Introverts, and they might not be able to focus long enough to hear what you have to say.
  • Moderate your volume. Try to talk as loudly as the interrupter. Alternatively, lower your voice to a whisper so that the other person has to stop talking to hear what you’re saying.
  • Cut to the most important part of the presentation or conversation and leave out the details. If the interrupter comes back later to get the information, you might have a chance to say how much disruptions bother you
  • Consider getting up and leaving the room if interruptions become persistent. This might be difficult, especially with friends or family, but it could get the point across

The bottom line is, Introverts can learn to deal with interruptions ….. but it would be so much better if people valued the art of listening.

Susan Huebert

Susan Huebert is a freelance editor, writer, and dog walker. She writes for children and adults, and she is always looking for new ways to communicate more effectively. In her spare time, Susan frequently has random thoughts about word origins and grammar, which she shares with her furry clients. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where she attempts to keep warm in winter and to stay involved with a wide variety of events and activities.

Comments

abulurd (not verified) says...

I would think talking to friends would be easier. I'm not polite with my friends. I make it a point to say what's on my mind. We have that understanding. If your friends keep interrupting, tell them to shut up already and to wait with asking questions until you're done talking.

 

Deb33 (not verified) says...

When I am talking to my friends, that is exactly what I do.  When I am interrupted, I talk faster and louder. If that does not work or if it happens again anyway, then I tell them 'please shut up and let me finish'. It often startles them and they back off. I think the extraverts really do not fully comprehend their actions.  They just do it without thinking first, kind of like most everything else they do.

purpleprose (not verified) says...

Brilliantly insightful article, thank you - I'm absolutely at one with you here. I'd never really thought of it in the context of introversion, but your reasoning is spot on. I've been married for 21 years so my wife is aware and (occasionally) tries to control the interruption habit, and I've got more used to dealing with it! You make some useful suggestions. Although it goes against my nature, just carrying on talking and refusing to acknowledge the interruption also sometimes works (although, as you point out, my carefully-crafted statement has usually vanished into thin air by then!).

Bobbie Grant (not verified) says...

When I'm interrupted when I am speaking, I will say, "excuse me but please let me finish my thought." 9/10 that will stop all interruptions.  If I am in an extremely verbally aggressive group, who refuse to respect my request, I will normally leave the conversation verbally and/or physically.

Alchemiste says...

Oh how I wish every extrovert in my life would read your article, including my dear hubby. I'll be in the middle of a thoughtful monologue... pause... and then he chimes in.  Makes me think he wasn't even listening. On the other hand, sometimes I have to be the interruptor. When my friendly neightbor gets on a roll talking and I think of something interesting (to me at least), I have to interrupt to get my self in edgewise. When talking with a small group of coworkers, my Te can kick in and I can ramble on. I'll be interrupted and realize I've been monopolizing the convo. When I am working quietly at my desk, I absolutely hate being interrupted.

Packers97 (not verified) says...

I come from a family that talks all at the same time. Interrupting each other is part of how I was taught to communicate. To me interruption means familiarity and friendliness. Reducing this means to me that I or my friend is being overly formal and reserved. I am not sure I would ever have said anything in any conversation if I had not learned to interrupt. I have struggled to learn to communicate in other cultures, because I do not know when to respectfully break into a conversation, especially with people who talk a lot. I can be late leaving for an appointment, because I could not tell my conversational partner that I needed to go.

I do best in situations where the conversation is moderated, and there is a list of speakers. Some presenters create clear expectations by telling audience members that they will take questions at the end of the presentation. Others encourage participants to ask questions at any time.

What I would like to contribute are the opposing emotional response that interruptions signal to two conversational participants. An interruption means coziness and familiarity to me and can mean disrespect and frustration to my conversational partner. 

I can also emphasize that in my family culture, people who do not interrupt do not get heard. I have read about studies that have found that men tend to interrupt women in business meetings more often. Here is an article about the US Supreme Court: https://hbr.org/2017/04/female-supreme-court-justices-are-interrupted-mo... For women, learning to interrupt, when needed, might be a useful and unfortunately necessary skill. On the other hand learning to communicate how you expect to be treated during meetings, presentations, and conversations seems like the other side of this skill. 

Moreover, I would also like to contribute that I (an self-acknowledged interrupter) respond well to expectations, guidance and structure about how conversations and presentations are formatted. If a friend indicates that they feel I am rude, I am self-aware enough to wait my turn without being offended. 

Jara (not verified) says...

"In giving information, I face a different problem as an Introvert: interruptions. A simple Web search reveals that I am not alone in this and that many Introverts are frustrated when others interrupt them.

Part of the issue is that, in general, Introverts tend to think things through before they speak while Extraverts tend to think while they’re speaking. Thus, what comes out of an Introvert’s mouth tends to be important."

- Sue Huebert

What's most important in communication is that the message is clearly communicated by the sender and understood by the receiver. It's an exchange. Otherwise, the communicater is practicing verbal (or written) masterbation. Cue frustration for the listeners (readers) who tune out or "rudely" interrupt...then for the speakers (or writers) who finally get a clue that their points have fallen on deaf ears (blind eyes).

"Since they are not merely verbalizing their thought processes but are actually trying to contribute something valuable to the discussion, they can become frustrated and just withdraw when people interrupt them. I know I do that."

- Sue Huebert

This belief assumes that the introverted way of processing and sharing information is more valuable than the extroverted way. That can hinder communicating effectively with extroverts who do not process and share information the way that introverts do - and never will.

"According to my co-presenter, one of the students fell asleep during our talk, but I didn’t notice or care; the class was quiet other than a few coughs and dropped pens. Even though I had only planned the talk in my mind and had not written any notes, I was able to get through what I wanted to say and to give the students the information that I thought would be valuable to them."

Feedback from others is one of the most valuable gifts to introverts who can live happily-ever-after in our own minds. I am an introvert who was raised in a family full of extroverts. It has taken a lifetime of miscommunication with them (and other extroverts) to teach me the value of receiving feedback from those who interact with, or observe, me. Yes, it's important to clearly articulate information...but it's even more important that the information is not wasted once shared. Balance is key! 

In this modern age, people's attention spans are limited resources. If we want to be successful in our jobs, relationships, etc., then we must learn how to communicate in a way that captures others' attention. That starts with focusing on the other person's needs first. Understanding people's differences without judging others as inferior to us is a good start. That's one of the advantages of studying people and personality types. We know that Extroverts' brains are literally hardwired to process information more quickly than introverts, so while we are still getting to our points, they are thinking, "How is this relevant to me?!" They appear to be more impatient and self-centered than us...but our frustration at their self-centeredness and interruptions reveals our own impatience and self-focus! True patience and selflessness can handle "rude" interruptions with grace.

Love Is the Greatest

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

 

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. - Proverbs 18:13 NLT

Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. - Proverbs 18:2 NLT

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. - Proverbs 15:22 NLT

Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe. - Proverbs 28:26 NLT

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. - Luke 2:52 NLT
 

JESUS: "But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” (Luke 7:35 NLT)

The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because He was nearing Jerusalem, He told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. - Luke 19:11 NLT

Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked Him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’ ”

Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? (Mark 4:10‭-‬13 NLT)

Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables,

For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.

“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

“‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

“‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

Parable of the Mustard Seed

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Parable of the Yeast

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables.

I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Parable of the Wheat and Weeds Explained

Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! (Matthew 13:1-43)

Acts of the Apostles 20:7‭-‬12 NLT

On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left.

Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved.

 

Acts 26:1-32:

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”

So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!

“As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope!  Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—  that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. 31 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”

And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

Max Pierson (not verified) says...

People can sense the introvert's self-assessed superiority, it kind of makes their stomach churn and they like to butt in. Not to mention that I get butted in on by an introvert that is so dumb his only path to success is to use ape-like Alpha Male behaviors. He butts in on me 100% of the time at lunch, he has clever ways to disrupt the conversation and make me miserable as well so basically sometimes the rude apes win.

Leslie53 (not verified) says...

I think that is an exception rather than the rule.  I'm an introvert and throughout my entire life all the people who have interrupted me or talk over me etc have been extroverts.  So much so I wonder why they are called extoverts in the first place.  Many so called extroverts have an entitled self-important viewpoint of themselves.  If you give them a compliment they consider it their due and it does not occur to them even once to give you a compliment back.  They often lack good listening skills compared to introverts.  I find it is actually the intoverts who are more caring individuals.  Yet we are the ones who are considered inferior to extroverts.  Go figure.

Max Pierson (not verified) says...

Honestly, I know three introverts that sit at lunch every day, pontificate, allow nobody to respond or interact... and they aren't the brightest bulbs, boring in fact, but nonetheless convinced of their superiority. It's hard to find a table where I can eat, have a nice conversation and gtfo with my sanity and digestion intact. The self assessed superiority thingy is being more and more understood nowadays.  I don't buy it, not entirely... during my entire career I put up with people that were where they were, doing what they did, just because they were part of the "introvert mafia"; all giving each other props and downgrading extroverts. I found a lot of incompetence hiding behind the impentrable exteriors. My gf, probably the love of my life given a little more time, is an introvert and I love her to her core. She is superior in a lot of ways, I'll grant you that and thinking one is superior leads to living a bit better, I'll grant that also but I just have to tell her sometimes that I don't view others quite the way she does. She gets it, she's warming to my friends a little, enough so they aren't upset with her at least... They have fun making her jealous sometimes, she's a wonderful woman but if they ask me to dance she stops talking to them :)

Chicago Gal (not verified) says...

Thank you for this fascinating post!  I found it especially relevant-my husband (ESTP) and I  (INFx) have recently had several conversations about his tendency to interrupt or, equally frustrating, abruptly change the topic of the conversation.  His mind is quick and lively and he will frequently respond with a brief comment when I raise a topic, then immediately move on to something else.   His style is to skim quickly across many topics, but when I contribute a topic it's generally intentional, and I am usually wanting to dive deep.  So I may perceive him as interrupting me, when in actuality he's interrupting the conversation’s "flow" before it reaches a comfortable depth for me. He also just plain interrupts me a lot, too, but will apologize when I call him on it.  LOL. 

With friends, I feel that I have a difficult time keeping their attention.  Introverts, in my experience, don't have the best delivery so people's attention seems to wander.  I also think that introverts can spoil their friends and family by being attentive and asking lots of questions, etc.  Friends and family can sometimes take for granted that the introverts "role" is to give attention rather than receive it, so they may be more dismissive when an introvert tries to turn the tables.  And since listening is generally a more comfortable position for the introvert anyway.......

Share your thoughts

Truity up to date