Can I interrupt for a bit?

A lot of speakers see an interruption of their plea as an annoying coitus interruptus with their hearing. A pity, because who limits quantity gains quality. Five tips from Debat.NL to interrupt effectively and diplomatically.

1. Choose a method

Simply talking right through the other is not chic nor effective. You present yourself as a nuisance rather than a perfect distraction. The polite question “Can I interrupt for a moment” will make most speakers stand down directly.

2. Give a reason

Don’t make interrupting a goal on its own, like some politicians do: how do I get screen time? A clear reason improves chances of the conversation taking a turn for the better. Example: ‘You are making us very curious’, ‘I want to go back to the original question’ or ‘Like you I’m curious to the reactions of others.’

3. Avoid the duel

If you interrupt someone and look at them with piercing eyes you will get fireworks in return. Therefore you should not only look at the speaker, but also the rest of the meeting. Bet that they will agree?

4. Click on keywords

Notoriously ‘well spoken’ people can sometimes easily be interrupted by ‘clicking’ one word: ‘sustainability you say. You said it 5 times. Shall I tell you what that means in practice?’ Talented speaker who knows how to ignore this interruption.

5. Non-verbal amplifiers

By clearing your throat, raising a finger and giving a nod to the chairman you will signal that it’s time to take a different approach. If you are looking for a stronger means: touch the speaker for a short time.

And remember: most people are grateful for an interruption, sometimes even the speaker!

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