You are making a presentation, just about to wow the room with a power-packed punch line and someone hits the brake on your moment of glory. Who? An ‘interrupter’.

We have all encountered this person in our professional lives. Someone who interrupted us without warning or good reason (mostly) and displayed no remorse in doing it. In fact, they may be repeat interrupters who aren’t concerned if you were in a flow or just about to make the most crucial point of your speech.

This is obviously unnerving. It disrupts your presentation, speech, or argument and quite frankly, leaves you fuming. 

So how do you avoid this interruption? Or more importantly, if it happens how do you deal with it?

Well, you have no control over the whims of a serial interrupter. But there are some maneuvers you can deploy to ensure sure the interruption is a comma, not a full stop.

Maneuver #1: Keep Calm and Continue 

You need to remain unaffected and keep going. Even if you are angry, the key is to not let that show. Look like the calmest person in the room and continue talking. If you react, you give more importance to the interruption than your own content. Be stern, resolute, and calm. The person should get the message and concede.

Maneuver #2: Recruit Supporters

It is helpful to have some supporters in the room to help you out when someone interrupts you. Ask your supporters to look out for this and when someone interrupts you, your supporter can say something like “Can we just go back to the point Martha was making” or “I don’t think Sunil was done talking”. 

Maneuver #3: Establish Rules 

If your workplace has many people who are in the habit of interrupting others, then a good way is to set the rules up front. Before starting a meeting or your presentation, make it clear that you would appreciate everyone to wait for you to finish and raise their points at the end. If you are someone senior who has power, then make this an official rule for meetings and discussions.

Maneuver #4: Non-Verbal Cues Matter

There are ways to signal you don’t appreciate being interrupted without launching in. verbal confrontation. You can do this by exhibiting strong and sure body language. Sit straight, lean in, and place your hands comfortably on the table, using them to gesture when required. Also, before a critical meeting take up positions in the room that make you prominent. Avoid the corner or back seats.

Maneuver #5: Say It How It Is

Sometimes there’s no way to counter an interrupter except giving them feedback upfront. Try to frame this conversation as requiring their support to deliver a good presentation, rather than sounding accusatory and aggressive. But be firm and highlight how their interruption undermines your presentation.

Saumya is a Specialist in the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education. She is a pistol shooter and a devoted snacker who loves finding simple ways to express complex ideas.

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