“God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
From Psychology Today, “Interrupting implies that you deem your words more worthy than the remainder of what the other person has to say. People will view you as not having the self-discipline to avoid being rude and egotistical.”
In this episode:
- The evolution of interrupting and the role of technology
- The reasons why we interrupt
- Lack of self-awareness
- Fear of forgetting
- Desire to prove expertise
- Social norms (“Everyone else is doing it.”)
- Tactics to control yourself if you have this problem
- How to deal with an interrupter
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How Do I Deal With A Chronic Interrupter?
In this episode, we talk about chronic interrupters and why they tend to make terrible salespeople, leaders, managers, owners and cohosts of podcasts. If you are new to our show, subscribe, like, follow and share it. If you are a longtime reader and you have not given us a five-star review on Apple, shame on you.
Frankie, how is it going?
Before we start, I need to interrupt you and finish ordering my lunch. It’s a true story.
The entire time as we were prepping for this, what should have taken fifteen minutes, Frank took three phone calls, put me on mute and turned off his video a couple of times to deal with firing some dude. The emails kept popping up as we were working on the agenda together. He would hit reply and send emails right in my face almost to show how little my time mattered to him. I feel very much like this is an emotional episode and one in which I’ll be coaching you most of the time.
You would think that way after you interrupted the entire start. I need to push it back 30 minutes.
Frank’s business is so goddamn important. We can’t get this episode going.
The fact that you are somebody’s accountability coach for not interrupting is the most ironic thing I’ve ever heard.
You can’t even let me complain you’re interrupting me. It’s ridiculous. Let me finish my gripe about you, for God’s sake. Hopefully, we get deep into your psyche. You have some big breakthroughs when we go through this episode of, “Are you an interrupter?” In my opinion, Frank is most definitely an interrupter.
It’s funny. I feel the same about you.
We’re trying to come up with the best examples of this. I saw this all the time when I first started out of college and I knew nothing about anything. I was in sales. My job in the first six months was with GE. I had a corporate credit card and they said, “Go spend time with salespeople.” I would go and travel around the country. I would be in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, New York and then Florida. I was all over the freaking place. I was 22 years old and almost all of these sales guys were in their 50s, some of them were in their 60s so they had been in the sales game longer than I had been alive.
I didn’t talk at all in these meetings. This was business-to-business and we would go and see customers. A lot of times, they would see their old friends. They would take me on farming trips to go around and talk to people that were already buying for them. A lot of times, they would see new customers. One thing I recognized because I would go with a notebook and take notes. I wasn’t there to talk. I was there to observe. It was how recognizable it was on the customer’s face when the sales rep would interrupt them.If you cannot stop interrupting, people will see you as rude, egotistical, and have a compulsive need to establish dominance and strike others as arrogant. Click To Tweet
Normally, when I would see an interruption and now I’ve seen this for many years with some salespeople, a customer would start to give a little bit of their problem. They would start to say, “We’ve had some intermittent issues with our drives that we put in in the 1970s. We think there’s something with the heat.” You would hear the rep jump right in and be like, “What you should probably look at doing is replacing those old drives that you got with the new variable-frequency drives.” You would see the customer’s face change.
Sometimes they would be like, “We’ve looked at that. That’s not our issue. If you let me finish the issue, one of the issues we have is we had to cut our maintenance staff back. We’re not maintaining the drives the way we used to.” The whole solution was more, “We need a preventative maintenance program, not the drives are not working anymore. We quit doing maintenance.” The sales rep would interrupt them and assume he knew the solution better than the customer but wouldn’t do a fulsome job of listening to what the whole problem was.
You could see the customer get irritated when they would be interrupted before they could even tell their whole problem or situation of what they were going through. I saw this over and over. Frankie, it made a big impact on me. When I got into sales, I didn’t do it but it was for a different reason so I got into sales and I didn’t have the experience of these 30-year veterans. I didn’t know what I was selling at that time. A lot of times, a technical engineering manager would be getting into their issues and I didn’t know what they were saying to me.
I had no idea so I would be taking notes. I would spend an hour and say, “What else is going on? What does that lead to? Translate that to me. On your production line, how does that hurt you? What have you tried to fix it so far? What’s worked? What’s not?” The reason is it wasn’t that I was this great salesperson. I was scared to death that they were going to ask me my opinion of what solution might solve it because I didn’t even know what they were talking about.
I got good at asking open-ended questions that made them talk more about their pain. I would always wrap it up with, “You’ve given me so much to think about. Is there anything else that I missed?” They would be like, “No.” It would take an hour for them to talk. I would say, “I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I’ve got a few thoughts but I want to get back to my team in the office. I’m going to share all of your situations. I would love to set up a meeting with you with a few of our senior engineers. We’re going to come in and propose some solutions. I’ve already taken a lot of your time.”
I got good at that close because I was scared to death where they would be like, “I’ve told you everything. What can you do for me?” I would always be like, “I’m not sure.” I got good at beating them to the punch on that of not admitting that I didn’t know the solutions yet because I was too new to know how to fix it.
What I found was people loved that approach. I did it out of necessity. There were zero interruptions because I didn’t know what to interrupt with and I was scared to talk. I wanted them to talk. I went through my whole career, seeing, “That works. You keep asking questions and don’t propose any solutions until the very end. That’s how sales work.”
If this wasn’t an episode on interrupting, I would have interrupted and said fulsome. That’s an SAT word. For those of you scoring at home, we have one SAT word early. I’m going to tell a story but I want to talk about a couple of things first. I find the theme of this is that you tend to be more patient. Our generation of people tends to be more patient and better listeners when they’re newer. We’re humble enough to know that we sucked at something. We didn’t have the answers. Instead of making asses of ourselves, we would be quiet. Now, that’s not the case with nowaday’s generation.
The two best things that I can talk about with not interrupting are this. The first one is a personal story. The second one is a business story. My son had his birthday. In a lot of instances, I want to do things for him. I want to interrupt him because it’s inefficient and it takes more of my time. I’ll use it as an example, potty training. It would be better if he could go from diaper to pro. Anybody who has ever potty-trained a kid, you have wiped poop out of a pair of underwear and you have seen them piss through their pants.
If you interrupt that process, they’re never going to learn it. You have to give them the ability when the time is right that they’re going to have to make some mistakes. Most of us are potty-trained. Someone has had the patience to do this with you in your personal life because if they hadn’t, we would all still be wearing diapers. That’s the easiest example to come up with in life. Anything you want to say parenting-wise before I get into a different business example?
No kid ever liked a parent answering your question by saying, “Because I said so.” That’s the only thing I would add is that’s an irritating thing to hear. You want explanations and you want to be able to come to those conclusions yourself. No one follows anyone because I said so.
My kids are too young to understand that. The second story is this. I was at Ryan Homes and I had moved from construction over to sales. I was this hotshot kid. I had a little bit of influence. I was like, “I want to learn from Suzanne.” Suzanne is the best salesperson. She is the one who crushed everything all the time. What I learned early is salespeople and people from construction function differently. She was unorganized. I know this now. I didn’t know that then.
I walk into my meeting. It’s my first day with her. We have an appointment at 5:30 and she goes, “We have an appointment today. Just an FYI.” I’m like, “Okay, cool.” She goes, “Allow me to say the following. The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for this reason. Listen, don’t say the F-word and don’t open your mouth.” I was like, “Yes, ma’am.” That customer walked in. I said hello, shook hands, sat there and said nothing. She asked me a question and I looked at her. She goes, “When I call them, you can speak.” I spoke and then I said nothing else until it was time to shake hands and they left.
This is not how I would react now because I know what I’m doing and I’m in an arena where I know what I’m doing. It’s very rare that I have to shut my mouth and listen but when you’re young and learning, you do. When I get into new situations and I know I’m the dumbest person in the room, I revert back to that person who listens more than I talk. It’s rare but it does happen because I know I’m here to listen and I’m not here to talk.
Suzanne knew that the only thing you could possibly do by interrupting or jumping in was to ask permission. Through experience, she knew that this was the customer’s time to talk, not ours. We’re going to let them talk as much as they can, let them feel like they’re in control and make them feel important. This is from Psychology Today. This is our half-assed internet research portion of the show.
This is a direct quote from Psychology Today in what interrupting is, “Interrupting implies that you deem your words more worthy than the remainder of what the other person has to say. You appear uncontrolled. People will view you as not having the self-discipline to avoid being rude and egotistical. Interrupters feel a compulsive need to establish dominance and strike others as incredibly arrogant.” That’s the psychology portion of this.
Suzanne knew that at her gut and she also knew, “That’s about the last thing I want to make a customer feel, all of those things. I’m going to let them control.” The thing you did where you looked at her like, “Are you sure?” A great salesperson will do that. They will listen and wait for a long pause and be like, “Is everything out? Are you done?”
It’s not in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and be like, “I know that was a little long pause. I want to make sure that your whole thought got out. Can I say something?” You see them obnoxious to lean into asking for permission to even interject or speak because they do care a lot about it. They know I can’t sell if I don’t know the whole story so I got to get it all out of them as best I could.Everyone has a notification for everything. People are becoming almost numb to interruptions from the devices in their pockets. Click To Tweet
This is not in our notes but I’m so glad you brought that up. I’m going to bring it up now. What you learn in sales when you get good at it is there are going to be awkward pauses. The awkward pauses need to be embraced and not run from. What happens in every transaction is there is a point where it gets awkward and the first person who speaks loses.
Sometimes I have done this where there is a four-minute pause. Over the phone, it’s dead. The person goes, “I’m making sure you’re still there.” I’m like, “I’m here.” They lost. That little thing they care more about it than I do. We can talk about this in more negotiation but if you interrupt at that moment, you’ve lost. It’s a common courtesy that we’re going to talk about generationally but it also is a negotiating tactic, utilizing the pause, break and interruption.
In my opinion and this is one person’s opinion that has been on this planet for 45 years. I feel like this is worse than it has ever been. I feel like interrupting is commonplace. When we were trying to figure out why we felt that way, I felt like it’s a little bit of a function of the connective nature of society in general. I call this the notification-ization of the world.
I feel like with a smartphone in your pocket, everyone has a notification for everything. Every app wants to notify you. Amazon wants to tell you that your order shipped and they did receive and you should have it by now. You get notifications of every new email that drops in and every new post, “Did you know that Frank Cava just posted a new video? Go look at it.” I feel like we were almost numb to interruptions in general from the devices that are in our pockets.
If you are not around your computer or you left your smartphone in your car, you got a watch on that’s buzzing and bothering you throughout your entire workout. You can’t even relax anymore when the whole point of you getting that watch is to have better workouts. Now, the watch is stressing you out during the workout. Part of it is, in general, now we were used to getting interrupted, “Why not if two people are talking or eight in a meeting are talking? Why wouldn’t everyone interject and interrupt all the time because life is one big interruption?”
What I want to do right here is talk about stuff that happened way before we were born. We got in an argument about this like, “I’m talking about the John Wayne era. We were not alive.” That’s true. I’ll tell two quick stories. We’ll talk about where society is now and get into where it started. There’s a famous story that goes around in my family. My granddad has been dead. He was born in 1931. There was a story about one of his brothers interrupting my great-granddad at dinner. My great-granddad beat the shit out of him at the dinner table. He got up, hit him with a broomstick and pinned him on the floor. Clearly, that’s not going to work in nowaday’s society but that’s the way interruptions were handled in society years ago.
For people that are related to me, that’s how it worked. My dad tells stories about how his dad calmed down a little bit but it was still not allowed. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. In the ’80s and ’90s, there were constant interruptions. There were all types of things that happened that we let come in. It’s not as bad as it is now but that’s the era that we grew up in. One of the things that you’re going to learn if you’re a younger person on this, if you’re a Gen Z, you’re used to having interruptions. Most of your managers, people like us, aren’t. It’s different and you have to understand your space.
When you talk generationally too, if I’m in my parents’ house and the phone rings, my parents both still scramble and will go pick it up no matter what’s going on. If I’m talking to my mom and someone calls me a line, she will still say, “Hold on. Someone is calling.” It would be like, “Mom, you can see who is calling. Call them back.” That would be rude if I didn’t pick up because there weren’t as many distractions, whereas you and I live in a world where everyone is texting, notifying and calling us.
If someone calls on another line with someone, I’m not picking it up. It’s a pain in the ass, first off. The last time, I dropped the wrong person so I don’t do it. It’s a little bit of a function of where you grew up and what you grew up in. Frankie, as you were talking too about in the old days, do you remember the famous quote from The Godfather when his son jumps in and asks a question during the deal where they’re asking if he wants to get into the drug trade?
He is having a conversation with Sollozzo and he goes, “Clearly, I’ve spoiled my children and they speak when they should listen.”
That’s such a good line. The look The Godfather gives Sonny when he bursts in on it, he stares at him.
It’s incredible because The Godfather was born around the same time my great-granddad was born. As soon as Sollozzo walks out of the room, he smacks him in the head.
It’s a beautiful scene in the book and the movie because Sonny showed his hand. Sonny showed that he was game. Sonny showed that if we kill the old man, Sonny will do business with us in drugs because Sonny opened his mouth and said, “They’re in on it? Barzini is in on this? Are you sure?” It showed his hand that Sonny, the only reason they’re not in the drug trade is that the old man won’t let us. They were like, “Here’s the solution. Let’s go knock off the old man.” By Sonny interrupting in that meeting, he got his father shot.Interruptions in dinner table conversations are just rude since these aren't really sales. But it can tip your hand in a lot of other instances, especially in business. Click To Tweet
That’s a perfect way to talk about how interrupting in sales negotiation is. Life is a negotiation. At the dinner table, conversations are not sales. It’s rude but in a lot of instances, it can tip your hand especially in business. I want to talk about something generationally that’s hysterical. Did you ever see the Sebastian Maniscalco skit when he talks about the company? Sebastian Maniscalco goes through this whole thing about how when he was a kid, his mom would buy the Entenmann’s coffeecake and like, “You people aren’t allowed to touch the Entenmann’s. This is for company.”
He goes through this whole thing. He is like, “In the ’70s and ’80s, people come and rush to the door to see who it was like, “I can’t believe who is here. We’re going to bring out the Sanka and the Entenmann’s.” He goes into this whole thing and it’s awesome. He fast forwards and he is like, “Now, when the doorbell rings and it’s like, ‘You, down, you over there.’ People are doing army crawls to the door. Someone has knocked on the door.”
We’ve changed as a society where it used to be good news. Now, we don’t even have to get up to see who is at the door. We’re like, “Let me look at my Ring. Let me see who is here. Fuck it. Leave it alone.” These things do morph and change over time. Technology and society are part of it and it goes back to what we’re talking about with interruptions and where we are as a group.
It’s probably indisputable. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that being an interrupter is not great for your career. We’ve talked about sales in general. Clearly, we’ve made our point that it’s hard to solve something for a customer if you don’t listen to all of their problems and get a real good understanding. The 80/20 rule, I had a little thing that I always said in sales classes when I taught it. It’s the WAIT Model, Why Am I Talking? When you’re talking, if you want the customer to talk 80% of the time, your 20% should be open-ended questions, getting them to tell everything.
It’s the 3D model where you listen once and you see, “How does that impact you? Tell me more.” People offer information in layers like peeling an onion. That’s whether you’re trying to persuade someone within your company, a customer, a manager or working up with your manager. We’re not wired where you ask us one question and we tell you everything. You got to keep asking more and more and what else.
It’s the same thing as a manager. If you’re managing people, it’s hard to coach someone. I had a customer. I have a good example of this. I was doing my Leadership Essentials class with them. We had a group coaching call. There were 8 managers on this call and the 2 seniors were on it. This was the lesson on how to fire someone the right way. On these calls, it goes without saying that they’re confidential because we’re talking about people here. Someone was like, “I got this person and she is not working out.” We never used her name but the other managers knew who they were talking about.
Fast forward, they end up firing this person and she says, “I knew about that. I got tipped off by one of the other managers.” The two senior people called me and they were like, “What do we do about this? Someone in that call leaked.” Everything in me was screaming exactly what I would do. I wanted to say, “You got to sit down with everyone. You got to ask these questions.” I had to pull myself back because I’m coaching and consulting.
If I give them a solution that doesn’t work then they’re not going to feel bought in. I was like, “What are you thinking of doing? What are you going to try? That’s certainly new to me hearing something like that. I have some thoughts but I would like to hear yours first. Have you ever run into something like this? What have you done so far?” I forced myself to ask questions and not jump to a solution for them and tell them what to do because I was supposed to be coaching them. A coach doesn’t just tell you what to do. A coach tries to get you to pull out the best solution that you could think of.
At the very end, I said, “I love everything I heard. Here are a couple of other things you need to think about of how those people might respond.” Thinking about this call, I never once told them prescriptively, “Do A, B, C and D.” They had to come up with it themselves. I had to listen and ask a lot of questions. I had to fight my need to want to interrupt and say, “That’s not a good idea. That’s the right idea. Here’s exactly what I would do.” That’s the same with leading people and other managers. It’s the same thing if you go to your boss and you want your boss to make a change for you. You don’t tell them, “Do this.” They’re going to get defensive. You get them to talk about the problem and ask what their thoughts are.
This is good for this reason. We’ve talked about when you’re new and you’re in sales, especially about being quiet. We talked about being quiet with movements like helping your child potty-train. I told you a story about Max’s birthday. We had to teach him how to wash his hands by himself. That was a three-year-old. It’s a multi-step process. He can’t reach the sink. He’s got to get a ladder, drag it over there, climb up the ladder, reach and turn on the faucet and get the soap. We had some people watching them do it as a three-year-old. He has screwed that up hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Now, as a three-year-old, he knows how to do it.
Parenting and sales start that way. What you need to realize as well and you realize this with your coaching business. If you interrupt, the student doesn’t learn and you’re not as viable as them because you’re not there so you can’t do it. Where this does happen is when you get the middle management or upper management. I know how to solve most of the problems people bring me. I’ve seen it and done it. It’s the reason I have a corner office and why my name is on the door. What I had to do was a couple of things. I had to be patient for a very long time. I didn’t have middle management or upper management group for 9 of my 12 years in business but now I do.
Now, I have middle managers and upper managers and I say, “This problem has come up.” I coach. I don’t do because if I do, I’m going to be a bad manager and they’re not going to learn. You have to understand where you’re at in the pecking order. There was a period in time where if a problem came up, it came to me, I had to deal with it. My way of having to deal with it now is not to be interruptive. It’s to be a listener and a coach or I’m going to have to do everything.
I am not interrupted all that often by this thing throughout the course of my day because I’ve trained people on how to handle, think for themselves and bring me a report, not bring me every instance. That is how you scale a business. I see tons of people who are in my position or smaller and they’re interrupted constantly. They can only get to a certain point with staff. Somebody we work with can’t get past twelve employees. The reason is he can’t allow others to feel important or delegate to. Because of that, it’s very limiting. People will cap out and turn over. You have to know where you are in the process.
I want to stay on something you said because it’s important. If people come to you, they’ve got a problem. You’re a unique individual. A lot of people have their names on the door. Not a lot of people have 40 employees and have grown something the way you’ve grown it in 10 to 12 years. You have a distinctive way of doing things. You’re gregarious and personable. You’re also direct and you can cut through the bullshit. You have specific strengths and I know your team. They have some strengths you don’t have. They lack a lot of strengths you have. It is the reason their name is not on the door.
If someone comes to you and says, “We got this problem,” you say, “Do A, B and C.” That’s your solution that works with Frank Cava doing it. That would be like someone coming to me in a baseball game and saying, “Here’s what you got to do, Ian. Lay a bunt down the third baseline, leg it out and get the first.” That’s what I would do. That’s someone who is fast telling me that. I’m slow and I’m not a good bunter. That’s a bad way for me to get to first base.
By you not telling people exactly what to do, your way might suck for Carla. She has a different personality than yours. She has different strengths and things. She might come up with a much better way of doing things her way if she is the one having to execute. A lot of times, with managers, where they struggle is they think, “I’ve seen this a million times. Here’s exactly what I do and I know it works. Just do it.”
That works for you because it’s based on your set of facts and strengths that works on you doing it. If you are not doing it and someone else is doing it and they have to feel comfortable with the solution or it’s not going to work. That’s smart by saying, “Why don’t you tell me what you’re thinking of doing? I’m going to help you think about some things maybe you’re not thinking of.”
I want to talk about this from a couple of different perspectives. We went through a shift in management. I’m moving away from some of the day-to-day stuff. I moved one of my more talented managers into a role where they handle a lot of things that they’re not accustomed to. What I asked is, “I need you to talk to me more. I understand you want to put all of the burdens on yourself but what I’m going to assure you is that the more that I’m looped in and the more I’m going to understand your decision-making matrix, the more I’m going to trust you. The speed with which we talk more is going to hasten the ability for me to trust you and not second-guess or ask questions. What I would like you to do is bring me the stuff that you think is a little bit minuscule. It’s not because I don’t think you’re a hard worker or smart but I need to have trust and know our decisions are calibrated.”
We were having a conversation and I go, “Every single decision you made was perfect. The only thing I didn’t hear that I need to is I need you to report it to me. I understand what’s happening in the micro so I can support you. If something does fly in the face of what I’m trying to achieve behind closed doors, I know about it and I can come to talk to you but every little decision you’ve made is perfect. I can’t tell you anything otherwise. It’s the conversational point.”
As you promote people up, that’s the way to do it. The people who did it with me that way allowed me to be me. It gave me rope, autonomy and authority and then talked to me and said, “I love it. However, have you considered this? Have you thought about that? Thank you for informing me of your decision-making.” That was a great example. I don’t know if you have anything to say there. I got another one I want to bring up.
He will come to you more often and do that too if you don’t interrupt him while he talks. He came to you and he was like, “I got four things I’m working on. Here’s what I’m thinking of doing in the first one.” He gets a minute in and you’re like, “Here’s what I’ve done. I don’t think that was right.” You start putting him off. If I’m him, I’m probably going to bring you to next time. I’ll do the other two and ask for forgiveness.
I’ve had managers like that that cut me off all the time. They interrupted me. As I was starting to tell them, I would be like, “Why do I even bring this to them? I’m going to do it next time. If they don’t like it, I’ll find out later but I already have done it. I’m confident enough in myself it’s going to work. If I got to ask for forgiveness, that’s what I’ll do.”
You’re not fostering the right relationship. Back to something you said about Carla, Carla works here. Ian loves her. Whenever they’re both on the phone, they tell me to make fun of them. They got a great relationship. They know each other very well.
I can’t spell her name. She can’t spell mine.
Thankfully, my name is on the door. No one screws mine up. It’s a different part of this. I’m a young manager. I’m in my mid to late twenties. There is a guy who ruled through fear. He was the regional sales manager with white hair. He is a jerk. He wanted to be in charge and he didn’t want peers. He didn’t want to help you. He wanted to remain in power. I was learning how to interview and I sat with him. I didn’t pick this. Some other person thought this would be smart and it was terrible.
I watched his interview and he asked all the questions. I asked no questions. He went into niche things that I didn’t know about that he was passionate about. It was like avant-garde with someone who knew about avant-garde jazz. I could barely identify jazz, let alone this genre. He spent 30 of the 60 minutes talking about all the things about it. They were speaking a different language. In the end, he asked me what I thought of the interview and the candidate. I wasn’t confident enough in myself at that time to say, “I got nothing out of it. I don’t understand avant-garde jazz. I don’t know what you’re talking about. They seem friendly.” I tried to lie and nudge my way through it.
That fits right in with an episode we did on Perfectly Acceptable Times To Lie. If you would have looked him in the face and said, “That’s one of the worst interviews I’ve ever seen. I’m shocked that someone with 30 years of interviewing experience would waste an entire interview talking about jazz. I didn’t learn anything about the candidate. You asked terrible questions and you spoke almost the whole time,” which is the truth. He asked you what did you think. If you had said that, your ass would have been out six months later at that company. That would fall right under the perfectly acceptable times to lie but that’s not the point we’re making. We’re making the interruption point.
We’re also saying like, “Giving people an ability and have the autonomy if you don’t interrupt them.” I’m not him. I didn’t get anything out of it. Thankfully, I had friends behind the scenes who were on that panel and were like, “We know this guy. He is a jerk.” They supported me and I didn’t lose my job. I ultimately got promoted. The point is I couldn’t make a decision based upon his talk track. It’s the same reason you can’t interrupt your employee because you don’t understand them. You have to listen, not interrupt, understand and gather.
The other thing is and I’ll tell this to job hoppers who are reading, I understand my employees fairly well. They’ve been here for years at this point. My best team has been here all-around five years or more. I understand them. They understand me. We have a narrative. I have things to build on. They get more autonomy because I know who they are. That’s a big part of the whole trust thing and not getting interrupted and giving them the ability to fail forward as a leader and a manager.
It’s worth sticking on this for one second because there are interviewing managers here. The interviewing piece is worth talking about for a second. Interviewing is exactly the same as sales and 80% of the talking should be the candidate. A bad interviewer is the one who is talking 80% of the time. There’s certainly a time for it at the end where you ask like, “What questions do you have? Are you selling your company you’re doing that?”
I’ve been in some interviews where I felt like I didn’t even talk much in the interview. The interviewer did all the talking. After I got the job offer, I felt like, “You probably let anyone in here. I barely told you anything about my background. Every time I would start to bring something up, you would jump in, talk for seven minutes and not let me talk.” It’s the same with interviewing. You have to stop yourself from interrupting a candidate so that you can learn about them and keep asking open-ended probes.In no way does being an interrupter serve any career at any level or position. It just doesn't work. Click To Tweet
At some point, we have it prepped. We’re going to get into things that should alarm you in an interview. One of the things is if someone talks too much. Let’s say you are the interviewee. Who you’re interviewing with is important. There’s usually a panel. There’s more than one person you’re interviewing with. The older the person is and the more senior they are, the bigger the ego they have especially in a big company. Those are the people who talk the most.
To win that interview, understand they’re going to talk and keep them talking. If they’re talking, they’re in a good mood and think you’re great, there’s nothing to ask you. I won a Vice President’s job because I knew that about one of my interviewers and I didn’t interrupt him. He was on a roll. I was being interviewed. I want him to walk back and say, “That’s a great interview.” He told me at the end. He goes, “That was an incredible interview.” I talked 30% of the time. It was a terrible interview but I won the job. You need to know where you are in this process of when to open your mouth or when not to.
That’s an awesome story because it’s a great warning for anyone reading here. Frank’s company ended up promoting the wrong person. They put Frank into a job he wasn’t ready for. He ended up fucking the whole thing up and it’s because that interviewer kept interrupting. If he had asked enough questions, he would have seen, “Frank is not qualified to even remotely handle this position and we’re going to end up having to fire his ass. He is going to have to start his own company with his name on the door later on.” It’s an amazing story that you told. I thought I would interject that.
This is some more deep shit on Psychology. To show you how deep we go on this show, this wasn’t the number one result on the search results. This was number two. We went all the way down. Normally, everything you read from us is the number one item on a Google search. Why do we interrupt? It’s that need to feel dominance to feel important. It’s usually someone who is self-conscious and who has a lack of self-awareness. They don’t even realize they’re interrupting other people.
I could tell you one that is a big one for me and it might be a lack of self-awareness. Another big one to me when I’m interjecting is a fear of forgetting. Frank says something and I’m like, “I have something good to add to that and I want to get it out.” When I interrupt Frank, which I shouldn’t do, he doesn’t get his whole story out. I interrupt his train of thought. I’m doing it because I’m afraid that I’ve got this cool story that would add value right now. I want to get it in but that sucks for him. I’m not patient enough. I’m anxious that I’m going to forget something that would add to his story that I screw up his story by doing it. We’ll get to how to handle some of that.
Another one is the desire to prove your expertise and this comes back to not having self-confidence. You feel like you have to show everyone. To go back to Suzanne’s deals telling Frank don’t talk, it’s awkward to sit in an hour-long meeting with a customer and not say a goddamn word. After 45 minutes, I’ll guarantee you, you started thinking like, “This customer probably thinks I’m an idiot and I had no value.”
It did not take 45 minutes for me to think about that.
It’s the worst. I’ve had that feeling before. I’ve been in a meeting and I’m young. I don’t know what I’m doing. I start getting this imposter syndrome and I’m like, “I got to say something and jump in here. Even if it doesn’t add a lot of value, I need to let everyone know I’m not sleeping over here in the corner that I came to the meeting for a reason.” There’s this need to feel accepted as belonging at the table or wherever you’re at, “I belong in this conversation. I wasn’t just brought along.” There’s this need to chime in.
I found that that need went away the higher up I went. The bigger my title was, I could sit in meetings for an hour and I would say a goddamn word and listen because I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought. They all knew I could get up and leave the meeting anytime if I wanted. I’ve called the damn meeting or it was nice of me to go to the meeting a lot of times. When you’re the most senior person, you don’t interrupt as much sometimes because you don’t feel that need for belonging. Everyone knows you belong in the room.
There are a couple of things. If you’re interrupting a lot when you’re a senior person, the people in the room don’t belong. The people who are contributing are not prepared because you’re decimating them for some reason. In a lot of instances, you sit back, listen and take notes. You’re the sage at the end and you summarize. What is interesting is this. When you’re young, you think you need to know everything. When you get seasoned and experienced, you realize, “I don’t need to know everything. I need to know where to get the answers.” That’s a big shift.
I was talking about Eddie. We’re putting a house on the market. It’s a unique house. Harry brought us the deal. It’s a unique purchase. Everything about it is unique. It’s in a community where we don’t do a lot. It’s a seven-bedroom house and it was a unique situation. I asked Eddie to involve me because I want Eddie to understand what I understand and I don’t want to lose that knowledge. He called me and then he sent me a text with an update because it was my kid’s birthday.
What I did was cut and paste Eddie’s text into three groups of people. I put Eddie on it so he would see, “Here’s the question. Here’s where we’re at. What do you think?” He saw three different people weigh in on the same question and I was like, “I think we got our answer.” I didn’t know the answer but I wanted Eddie to understand, “If you text these three people with this problem, you get the answer. I took it to so-and-so. They all said this. Do you agree? If Tammy said, do this, I believe Tammy. She is right.” That is how you cannot be. “I know I belong and I know I don’t have the answer.” I wanted to show him, “This is how you formulate an answer.” That’s part of the whole process about an understanding of, “Should I interrupt whether it is the one with the answers or not?”
The last one I’ll add here on reasons why we do it and this one I’m guilty of myself, you’re excited or passionate about the topic. It’s difficult for you not to weigh in because you have so many things swimming in your head. Your energy level is high around that topic. A lot of times, it happens when you’re out with good friends where you joke like, “Can I have the talk token back? You keep interrupting. Let me finish my story. I get it.”
I remember that too where Frank and I do this to each other a lot. When we go out with a few friends, everyone is talking at once because you’re excited and passionate. That can happen at work too, where a topic comes up that is something that you’re a deep domain expert in. You’re not trying to prove your expertise. You’re just excited. You want to add to the conversation but it can also be detrimental when that happens. I see engineers do this a lot because they’re so passionate about something that comes up that they need to jump in because they want the conversation to be complete.
My wife is smarter than me. We all know this. Also, conversationally, she is faster than me around most things that don’t involve sports or real estate. In everything else, she is a faster processor. The point of this is I get frustrated and annoyed because she interrupts. She gets frustrated and annoyed because she is excited and wants to say something. What we’ve learned to do is she is like, “I want to talk about this but keep going. Don’t let me forget.”
That’s our conversational style. I know if she is talking about that, I’m in a good spot because she is excited about it. We had to learn that about each other and develop this methodology. What is interesting is it’s also generational. There are people who are younger who are more used to their phones will say weird things that you and I don’t necessarily agree with and it’s completely out of sequence. It’s understanding when to say something and how to say it, “I need the floor back.” All of these things are part of conversational style.
If you are an interrupter and can relate to the topics we’re talking about, what can you do about it? If you are reading this episode, that tells me you have some self-awareness that you might have this problem. The first thing is everyone is paying attention. If you are an interrupter, people talk about you like this. People might not want to talk to you or invite you to a meeting to be around you. You are irritating people. This is what you do. It comes across as rude. In no way does being an interrupter serve any career. At any level and position, it doesn’t work. We’ve mentioned all kinds of different positions where it doesn’t work. It will alienate you from other people. It works against you if you don’t stop it.
This is worth bringing up here. If you’re an interrupter, you’re probably also somewhat obtuse. If you’re a constant interrupter, you’re probably someone who would benefit from real feedback if you can be self-aware enough to say, “I do find myself on the outside. Maybe this is me.” I was listening to an incredible episode with Tim Ferriss about how he grew his podcast from nothing to 770 million downloads. It’s a three-hour tone.
It wasn’t necessarily on interrupting but it was around self-awareness. He talked about one of the people he interviewed and the person made him give him feedback. Tim Ferriss was like, “I don’t want to give you feedback. You did great.” The guy goes, “No. I want to ask. I want something. As small as it might be or whatever, tell me something.” Tim Ferriss gave him a piece of feedback that goes, “Thanks. That’s great. I appreciate it.”
What I would ask you and I know this to be factual for myself and Ian, we both always sought feedback and people to tell us, “What are you good at? What are you bad at?” I learned way more about what am I bad at than what am I good at stuff. I know what I’m good at. If you do find yourself being in this position, ask a friend, find a buddy or talk to a mentor or somebody at work, “My mom always told me I used to interrupt. If I get into that habit at work, will you help me?” These are things that being honest about and asking for feedback helps you with.
I got excited because between Let Me Speak To A Manager and The Tim Ferriss Show, we have a combined 770 million and 30,000 downloads between our two shows. Two shows putting up those numbers combined is sensational. I’m very proud of what we’ve done here, Frank. We can be used in the same sentence as Tim Ferriss is awesome.
A second thing that you should do on how to stop interrupting is to partner with someone, a friend, colleague or partner that will tip you off when you’re interrupting, when you’re in that mode or when you’re getting excited. I don’t want this to come across as negative at all. I talk about my boy, David, all the time who is the Founder of Keep, the company I’m doing. I’ve worked with him for many years. David falls into the interrupter level but on the excited level. He is an Engineer and inventor. His mind moves so much faster than the average person. He loves to explain things in minute detail.
He is close to it. He is inventing a product. He is feeling all of the pain, little failures, little wins and how hard it is to make little things that you and I would never think of work. He knows that sometimes he goes off on tangents and he’ll cut someone off to explain something. I’m not afraid to tell him like, “You got to quit that. I’m way closer to this than they are. You lost me in there. Quit doing that.”
We had a whole episode on Shaq where we talked about it beforehand, where he was like, “You lead with the questions because I’m going to get too excited sometimes.” If he asks a question, I know I’ll get too into the weeds. We worked together a little bit there where he’ll ask me to cut him off. We talked about the Gary Vee thing. He was like, “Explain our company real quick.” I was like, “Okay.”
It was fifteen seconds and he was like, “You’re way faster than me. You’re going to be the person that explains what Keep does because I can’t do it in less than five minutes because I’m so close to it.” When David does interrupt, I never take it as an ego thing. I take it as someone excited whose mind works fast and he is into details that maybe other people are not interested in.
That’s an example of it and that’s self-aware. David is brilliant and he knows that he is self-aware. He’s got a good partner who is not going to let him step on his own dick because Ian has invested in this. They get to the other side. Let me give a different example of how you manage it. We went to a different format with our team calls. We added team calls. I had a relatively new person to the company who ran the calls. It’s not fair to that person to have me interrupt. I want them to run the call.
What we would do is we talk ahead of time. We talk after and I told them, “Either look at the chat button or your phone. If it goes off, it’s me. This is me nudging you in the right direction without interrupting you or taking away any of your authority. You should pounce on this at this moment.” That lasted for 2 to 3 months and it ended. The person was great. They took all the feedback and implemented it. I’ve got new people that do the same thing. If I jump in, I completely neutralize them but I can do it with technology in a way that is incredible.If you can't convince someone to quit interrupting, try to appeal that they are irritating everyone in the room and wasting their time. Click To Tweet
This is another example of our phone calls. We have all of these apps now that with phone calls, when they’re happening someone can listen in and they can tell the salesperson, “Say this, do this, do that.” It’s not interrupting the call. It’s in the person’s ear, almost like an offensive coordinator is in the quarterback’s ear. You can do these things to help people train. When you’re done, you talk about it. The call is recorded. You have both ends. Why did I say this here? That’s how you build a real skill and you teach people how to do things. Both ends of that are covered here with an accountability partner, helping someone and guiding them along the way.
What we’re saying is to look for a coach. It’s someone who is willing to ride along with you on some things, come to some sales meetings and go to some meetings with their employee like, “I got to deliver some pretty difficult feedback to an employee.” If you’re a new manager, that’s stressful. If you know about yourself that you might be an interrupter or you might get right in, if you’ve got some a little more senior, I’ve been in a lot of meetings where I would say, “Joe, I want to hear Neil finish that story.”
Joe interrupted. Neil got cut off. I’ll circle back and say, “Neil, finish what you had to say on that.” You can do it in a polite way that’s not like, “Quit interrupting, dick.” You politely say, “Hold on. Stop. I want to hear him finish that.” I’ll stop you from doing it and say, “I want to hear him finish.” I’ll do that in a sales meeting too, where I’ll say, “I want to hear you finish what you had to say there because I feel like you didn’t get it all out.”
Being someone who caused the interruption to stop is strong leadership. I work in an environment where we don’t have that and people interrupt all the time. The person who is in charge doesn’t call it back into, “That was great. Let’s finish that. Let’s explore that further. Write your thing down. Let’s get into that.” That’s what good leadership is. “Ian is on the run here. Let’s finish that out. I know you got something. Jot it down.” It brings us to our next point about one of the ways you can do this is jotting things down.
For those of you that are reading and not seeing our beautiful shirts, one of the things that I do constantly is I have pages of notes and I carry them around with me. I’ve got them organized by subject matter and massive topic. I’ve got a cover sheet that I build every week or two. It breaks my business into eight different components I take notes on. Whenever Ian and I do a show, I print everything and jot down notes on it.
As he is talking and he is on the run, I don’t want to interrupt him. I jot down, “Talk about this in the same spot.” That’s a way to not lose momentum, not interrupt and at the same time, not lose your point. Sometimes, Ian will get to the end of what he said and I’ll cross off my point because he did it. I can talk about something different because he covered it.
You don’t need to be redundant. I do the same because I’m admitting that one of the reasons why I interrupt is because I’m afraid I’m going to lose the train of thought. Same as you, I’ve been jotting this whole time. I jot a word and look down at the end when you’re done. It’s funny that 2 of the 4 things I’ve written down here, you ended up covering and I was like, “He covered that. I’m not going to be redundant.”
As soon as I write that word or a couple of words down, it takes away my anxiety of, “I’m going to forget this thought.” I could make this conversation more valuable by jotting it down. It comes back to Eli is saying, “Don’t let me forget.” If she had a way of writing it down on a piece of paper so she didn’t forget, she could comfortably relax.
I know that feeling. What Eli’s thinking is even if she says, “Don’t let me forget sometimes,” it might be better to be like, “Eli, what’s on your mind because I won’t forget mine?” She won’t even hear what you’re about to say. The anxiety will be in the back of her head if I’ve got something I need to talk about. I’m not even listening to you because I’m counting the seconds until you’re done talking so I can share my point. When someone like that feels that anxiety, sometimes it’s best to let them talk and you remember your point as it goes.
There’s a constant construct of conversation. Sometimes the best move is to shut up and let them talk now. Sometimes it’s to write down. It’s always in flux but if you’re aware of it, it makes the conversation a lot better.
We already talked about a pause but it’s worth going right back through here. Don’t assume a pause is the end of their thoughts. Some people’s conversational style, especially if they’re from the South or they’re a different generation, they’re going to pause a little more and think. I see this in interviews all the time. Interviewers get so anxious when the applicant is thinking.
What I will say is, “Take your time. I know this is a tough question. Don’t feel awkward. I want you to think of the best thing you can.” I’ll warn them beforehand, “There are going to be some awkward pauses because I’m throwing questions you haven’t heard before. That’s not unusual for there to be a gap. You’re not being graded on how long the pauses are in between my question and your answer.”
We did an episode. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s about conversational style. My wife is a linguist. She studied under 1 of the 2 linguists that’s super popular in the US and we talked a lot about it. The funny thing was Ian and I, in that episode, admit we were going to go in a different direction with it. She taught us something. We thought it was interesting. The conversational style and pause are a big deal. We talked about it in sales cadence. Sometimes a pause is a tool. Don’t rush through a pause.
Another thing you can do is announce it early with whoever you’re talking to. If it’s a group or one person, announce that you have a tendency to get excited. Sometimes you can interrupt, “If you do it, please tell me I’m doing that.” Sometimes by putting that out there, it forces you. Now, you’re thinking about it. You’ve made it cool for that person to be like, “You’re interrupting me.” By admitting it, you make it seem silly by saying it and then you won’t do it as much. It’s the 8 Mile approach of, “Tell these people something they don’t know about me.” Admit one of your issues and admit you’re trying to work on it so that person can help you.
We talked about it with Adele. She did the best you’ve ever seen. She started off bad, admitted it and everyone gave her grace. If you ever met with someone with a hearing aid and they’re like, “I have a hearing aid. Sometimes I might say what. You might need to speak up a little.” I’m like, “Perfect. Thank you for making this easier.”
There are times, though, where interrupting makes sense. If someone is speaking and they’re clearly going down the wrong track or they have misinformation or bad information, that’s a time where you can interrupt if you don’t understand so if they’ve said something and it didn’t compute with you. Now, they’re onto the second point and you need to understand the first point to get to the second. It’s like a difficult Math class in college. If you failed the first quiz, you were failing the second. They build on each other.
Those are moments where you need to interrupt. You need to say, “It sounds like you’re working off of bad information. That didn’t happen,” or, “I’m not quite sure I understood how you explained that first part. Can we go back over that?” Those are times where it’s perfectly fine because if I’m speaking and the other person didn’t understand anything I’ve said or I’m speaking on something that’s totally wrong, I would hope someone would interrupt me and be like, “That’s all changed. You’re working on old information.”
That’s perfectly fine to say, “I’m sorry to interrupt but you might want to know this. That’s changed a little bit. That’s a little different. Can I explain how that’s changed? We did something different with that.” That happens to me all the time with Keep because we’re changing so many different things. They will be talking to a vendor, partner or someone and I’ll be like, “Here’s the way the device is.”
David will be like, “Sorry. It doesn’t work that way anyway. We just changed that this week.” I’ll be like, “How does it work now?” That happens all the time with me and Keep because I feel like I’m not there so things changed so fast that decisions are always being made about the product that I’m out of the loop a lot. He interrupts me and says, “That’s not how it’s working anymore.”
You guys have a good enough relationship where that’s how it goes. Let’s get into how you deal with it.
If someone is always interrupting you and you’re frustrated about it and you want to deal with this, how do you deal with it? If you’re presenting at a meeting or talking in front of a large group, one thing that I always like to do and I do this in interviews as well, start by stating a specific time when it’s going to be appropriate to ask questions and add details.
If you’re doing an interview, you say, “I’m going to be asking most of the questions throughout this interview but in the last ten minutes, I always save time so you can ask me all the questions you want. If something comes up while we’re talking in this interview, I will encourage you to jot it down and let’s bring it up at the end. That’s usually how my process works.” I find that that works.
I find that as an interviewer, I don’t get interrupted by the applicant trying to take control of the interview. That can work in a presentation, where you say, “There’s some time in the end for Q&A. I want to get through my talking points so you all can absorb it.” As a manager sometimes you say, “This is a pretty meaty topic and I have a lot of things I want to cover. I would ask that you let me get through them, absorb it, think, take notes and then let’s all talk together.” Those are good ways to start a conversation by saying, “Please don’t interrupt me because I want to get through my points.”
The other thing is while I’m in an interview if you’re in flow, I don’t want to interrupt. I want to jot down notes so you stay in flow and you’re telling me the story and getting through it and then I will come back to other things that I’ve jotted down.
If someone starts to interrupt you and you’re trying to get your points across, even if it’s the two of you, a good way to do this is to say, “There are a lot of moving parts with this story. If you could bear with me, let me get through so you have the whole picture before you start diving in because you might be surprised with some of the later stuff and I’m probably going to cover it anyway.” That would be a good way if someone started to interrupt you to nudge them and be like, “You’re interrupting me a lot. Let me tell the story.” It’s a polite way of saying, “There are a lot of moving parts. Let me give you the whole picture and then let’s talk about it.”
I see this a lot on our daily calls where people will bring things up. They interrupt or they’re not topical. The way to do it is, “That’s an awesome thing to talk about it when we break out into groups. You talk about that specifically with the sales team but I don’t think that it’s relevant for all 50 of us. We’ll come back to that but great point.”
Something Frank did there was good. This is important. Frank, in that case, did not answer the question of the interrupter. If you answer every question of the interrupter or address it directly, they will continue to interrupt you. What Frank did there was, “Let’s go back. I’m going to deconstruct exactly how you said it .” Frank said, “That’s a good point. I’m not going to answer it now. Let’s talk about that at the end. We may end up answering it throughout this conversation. Let’s stay on task.” What that does is that re-establishes that Frank is in control of this meeting and running this. You can’t just keep popping your agenda items in because it’s not productive.
It’s not relevant to 40 people out of 50 on this call. I don’t want to waste 40 people’s time. I’m an arbiter of everyone’s time, not this specific thing and it’s relevant for a small group. Let’s handle it later.
Another one that I like to use that keeps me in control and is a polite way of doing it is, “I appreciate those thoughts but this is already starting to run a little long, especially if you have a group.” What this does is this infers that the interrupter is wasting other people’s time. If I can’t convince you to quit interrupting me, maybe I can appeal to the fact that you’re irritating everyone in this room and wasting their time. Those are all the nice ways of doing it. At some point, though, if someone doesn’t get it, I will look at them and say, “Can I finish?” It’s almost being like, “You’re being a dick. Quit interrupting me. What did your mom teach you?”
You see people do this on cable news all the time. You get a Right-wing guy and a Left-wing guy. They start arguing and one will finally be like, “Can you let me finish my thoughts?” They will keep doing that until finally, one of the guys is like, “I’m sounding like an asshole right now.” By asking that, it’s a nice way of saying, “You’re acting like an asshole in front of everyone.” The last thing after the meeting is over or after the discussion is done, pull them aside. Address it like, “I love your energy but when you constantly interrupt a meeting, it’s chaos and it comes across to me and some other people as rude and self-serving.” They can’t argue with that.
If you said, “You’re blowing up the meeting,” they might say, “How do you know that? Maybe the meeting was better because of my interruptions.” When I say this and I’ll repeat this again, “I love your energy but when you constantly interrupt, it comes across to me as rude and self-serving. If you’re going to argue with me, you’re going to tell me that I didn’t have those feelings, which how do you know? Those are my feelings.” You can’t argue it. You have to listen to that. It’s important you address the person head-on if it’s something that is derailing their career.
One thing you can do with someone is you can put them on blast like, “It doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the road to confidence with others because they don’t think they can trust you.” It is certainly the road to confidence with the person you put on blast. Sometimes you deserve to be put on blast but the way to do it is you pull them aside and you have that conversation quietly. You don’t make it public. You make it quiet. That’s the way that you get through to someone, “When you did this during this period of time, this is how I felt. Others have given me feedback about it. You’ve got a bright future. These are things you should potentially write down and bring up at a different meeting.”
This is one of the funniest episodes that Frank and I have ever done because you could see the tension of us trying not to interrupt each other as we each get our points across. I’m biting my lip.
This was by far the least interrupting we did. It was the most civil because we both are miserable.
This is the most civil episode. I’m literally bouncing my feet the whole time, squeezing and biting my thumb as I go through to not interrupt you.
I’m going to interrupt you right now and say the following. This was an awesome episode. I got a boogie. If you liked it, like, subscribe and follow. We’ll see you soon.
Thanks for interrupting me.
- Apple Podcasts – Let Me Speak To A Manager
- Psychology Today – Interrupting is More Harmful Than You Think
- Sebastian Maniscalco Skit – Youtube
- Perfectly Acceptable Times To Lie – Past Episode
- Tim Ferriss – How I Built The Tim Ferriss Show to 700+ Million Downloads
- Shaq – Ian’s Meeting With Shaquille O’Neal – Part 1
- Is Conversational Style Holding Back Your Career? – Past Episode