Sector News

4 ways to respond when ‘manterrupted’ at work

October 23, 2021

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told an NYU Law School audience last week that recent changes were made in the format of their oral arguments after studies revealed a history of female justices being interrupted by male justices and advocates. This phenomenon is part of a larger trend of women being interrupted in the workplace. One George Washington University study found that men interrupted their colleagues 33% more often when they spoke with women than when they spoke with other men.

I often hear this concern in my communication workshops. The most common question: What do I do if I’m interrupted?

Below are four ways I counsel women—and anyone unfairly interrupted—to make sure their full points are heard and their voices respected.

Whether you are interrupted to be contradicted or supported, you have the right to finish your point (no more or less than any of your colleagues in the room or Zoom), so as soon as possible after the interruption, use a statement like these to resume conveying your point:

“I’d just like to finish what I was saying to make sure I was clear…”

“Thank you, Fred. To complete my point, I’d like to say…”

“One point I want to make sure is understood…”

In your mind, be clear about your intention: not to shame the colleague who interrupted you or act on a grudge, but simply to make your point complete and clear. That requires focusing on responding over reacting. A reaction is instantaneous, like feeling insulted and defensive. A response involves patience and consideration, leading more quickly to corrective action.

To keep the focus on insight, not insult, avoid saying things like “Before I was rudely interrupted…” (Believe me, your interrupter will get the message.)

I also don’t recommend trying to talk over your interrupter (perhaps louder), as if in a battle to see who backs down first. This tactic creates conflict and competition, two elements that don’t belong in effective meetings. Let the interrupter finish or pause—because that’s how you show respect to colleagues—then jump in to complete your point. READ MORE

by Joel Schwartzberg


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