We've had Ask vs Guess, and now...
June 10, 2018 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Are you a member of the Church of Interruption? How two conversational cultures collide very badly.
posted by Zarkonnen (278 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, no it's not a church.

It's just being an asshole.
posted by FJT at 12:03 PM on June 10 [14 favorites]


This is perfect, and I've been thinking about this lately as someone I know is somewhere between COI and a Barker.
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on June 10


I'ma let you finish, but ask culture vs. guess culture presented one of the best etiquette dichotomies of all time. One of the best dichotomies of all time!
posted by Riki tiki at 12:04 PM on June 10 [42 favorites]


This is an extreme culture difference between men and my husband as he comes from a context where interrupting someone is the height of rudeness and I come from a context where that means you’re listening and engaging with someone.
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on June 10 [83 favorites]


Dangit I just saw the post title, but I stand by my joke.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:06 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


That animated background is super distracting though.
posted by glonous keming at 12:06 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


It's just being an asshole.

counterpoint: when dealing with people who won't ever stop talking, it's the only way to say anything
posted by thelonius at 12:06 PM on June 10 [134 favorites]


I don't think this quadrant system is nuanced enough. I have friends who -- for the most part -- I'd argue are members of the Church of Strong Civility (which I am clearly not), but they don't use physical cues to signal they're done, and they don't speak briefly. I have absolutely no idea when it's okay to respond.
posted by DoubtingThomas at 12:07 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


Coming from a family of barkers, I can clearly see the overlap with the brevity required for a 'strong civility' type in a room of barkers.

You've just got to get your point across in the short amount of time it takes for someone to inhale.

And the point must be rhetorically strong enough to hold the attention of more than 2 in a room of 7.

From a family of barkers, I am afraid of the silence that comes from civil or meek listeners. I'm always afraid that their silence is resentment or disdain. I leave quiet rooms wondering what went wrong, or how I offended the room.
posted by eustatic at 12:09 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


I just like the sound of two voices talking over each other with perfect understanding in a crescendo of understanding and comity. It is music.

(Though it is important to remember that interrupting can be pretty gendered, and talking over someone is a common form of sexism in practice.)
posted by surlyben at 12:12 PM on June 10 [31 favorites]


(Nods politely)
posted by FJT at 12:14 PM on June 10 [22 favorites]


I have a dear friend who is an adherent if the Church of Interruption, and she will gladly interrupt to indicate she knows what I’m saying or getting at. The really frustrating part is that she is almost always mistaken about what I’m trying to say or get at. Speaking to her is an exercise in patience, and I’m sure she feels the same about me, in that it must seem to her that I never get to the obvious point.
posted by ejs at 12:16 PM on June 10 [48 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not entirely buying the splits here, and the "wizard" thing is freakin' annoying. There is the possibility of signalling understanding through moderate interruption, jumping ahead, so to speak, in order to save conversational space and time, then retreating to allow the person to continue their thought or finish their argument. Interruption isn't only used to take over conversations, but can be used to make them proceed more efficiently.

Of course individuals vary in their sensitivities, speaking styles, and expectations, so it mostly just takes some adapting from both parties to find a mutually satisfactory arrangement if the interest in building a speaking relationship exists. People who are blind to others require more work on your part to facilitate the relationship, which may or may not be worth it, but, really simply attending to the person you're communicating with instead of simply thinking about what you want to say is the best approach I know of. Trying to convert conversation into a hard and fast style/rules diagram doesn't do that.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:19 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


i'm HoH and have auditory processing issues wrt being able to hear a single voice if there are many other speakers in the background. if i interrupt to ask for clarification or for someone to repeat themselves and they take offense at this then i know they think it's a lecture and not an actual conversation, and i can safely tune out to think about what kind of jobs various dinosaurs would have in modern society.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:27 PM on June 10 [140 favorites]


Pterodactyls would definitely do package delivery.
posted by susiswimmer at 12:33 PM on June 10 [34 favorites]


Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting cow wh...
MOOOOOOOOOO!
posted by lalochezia at 12:34 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


I had a junior designer assigned to me who was like a High Priest of Interruption. Most of the time, it was fine and something I could work around, but when it was on a topic that was either brand new to him, or that he wasn't understanding it was incredibly frustrating. If his lips were moving, he wasn't listening. It *seems* like he was trying to be an active listener, but it was really just ignoring me and continuously leaping to the wrong conclusion.
Eventually, the only way around it was to institute a talking stick method or he'd just. never. shut. up.
posted by ssmith at 12:37 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


The 'physical cues' part of this seems problematic or at least superfluous (think about phone calls), but otherwise this is exactly right, and very useful to keep in mind.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:37 PM on June 10


I'm not sure this dichotomy is totally akin to ask vs. guess, because the difference between interrupt vs. don't is also gendered as hell. We have this one guy in our office who's super progressive, identifies as feminist, supports women's advancement through the organization, etc., but he's willing to interrupt anyone at any time for any reason. As a progressive workplace, that means we have lots of women around for him to talk over all the time, and when he does it I just lose all respect for him as a putative feminist. So... know that, if you're an interrupter.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:40 PM on June 10 [16 favorites]


I pledge to interrupt 100 men this year in support of your workplace.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:44 PM on June 10 [97 favorites]


Isn't this assuming we converse with everyone in the same way, everywhere? Because I don't.

I do interrupt, but it depends on a few factors:

1) Familiarity with who I'm speaking with
2) Public vs private spaces
3) Professional vs casual
4) Perceived age of who I'm speaking with
5) Perception of how much they want to talk
6) How excited I am to reply

And as mentioned above, gender definitely plays a role to and I work on being aware on not interrupting women even more so than I do with men.
posted by FJT at 12:47 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


The thing is, with interruption, if you're in a conversation with someone you know and like and everybody respects everybody else and you are both what they seem to call CoI here, and it's great. But I'm not sure I actually agree with their laws for it, amusingly enough, so maybe I'm actually a different denomination? For me it's more like I appreciate keep-going signals but if I need a please-stop signal more than a keep-going signal. I think the biggest distinction in general for me between barking and interruptive conversation is that I want to be and expect to be interrupted even just for the person to encourage me to keep talking, and the hardest time I have with conversation with people outside my conversation style is that they construe interruption to automatically mean "stop" and not "immediately pick up again after I've said a few words to let you know I'm here and listening".

I'm closest to CoI but I work with a barker and it drives me nuts because I thought at first we were going to be great friends because he was like I am, and it took me quite awhile to realize that, no, he doesn't want me to talk back. I really aggressively want other people to talk back but sometimes end up monopolizing conversations by accident when I wind up talking with people from other conversational styles. I'm trying to work on that, but aside from the fact that I'm super ADD, it's also just hard because, like... the non-interruption style always reads to me as someone actively not wanting to engage with me, and it's hard to break out of the feeling that doing it myself is the same thing as suggesting to people that they bore me and I don't want to talk to them.
posted by Sequence at 12:59 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


Oh yes, this is absolutely the biggest source of friction in my marriage.

I'm an academic and she isn't; I've always wondered if that has something to do with it. It's something I've been aware of for a long time, both because of the wife but also because I encourage my students and presentation audiences to interrupt with abandon. I want constant feedback and interrupting is the most efficient way to get it!
posted by dbx at 1:02 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


I'm an academic and she isn't; I've always wondered if that has something to do with it.

Probably not. Plenty of academics aren't like this, and in my experience people don't interrupt presentations with abandon. That doesn't mean that all presentations are lectures - it just means that when people have questions or comments, they signal they have something to say or wait for a good moment. Just interrupting the presenter is not really done and would come across to me as pretty rude or clueless.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:13 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


My current workplace is filled with interrupters. I find it temperamentally difficult to interrupt but I am able to get by when talking with anyone one-on-one. But at meetings two of them will start ping-ponging off of one another in agreement at a million miles an hour. Which illustrates one of the weaknesses of the protocol. The speaker ends up taking their cues from whoever interrupts first. I've taken to raising my hand when I want to interject.
posted by RobotHero at 1:13 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I married into a family of severe interrupters. Who are from New York, and to whom my Californian speech tempo is apparently interminably slow.

It has been approximately twenty-two years since I was last able to carry a story, anecdote, or joke through to its conclusion.
posted by ook at 1:18 PM on June 10 [48 favorites]


If you try to interrupt me, and you have jumped to the wrong conclusion, I will shut up. I will not correct you.

When you later suffer the consequences, I will take a certain amount of pleasure in saying "I tried to tell you <correct thing>, but you talked over me."
posted by sourcequench at 1:21 PM on June 10 [28 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi -- your experience is very different from mine. At most presentations I attend and give, it's expected that interruptions are OK. Now I'm not talking about formal conference talks of course, but rather department colloquia etc. In these cases, presentations are more like a conversation, I guess. A conversation that includes interruptions.
posted by dbx at 1:23 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I find myself using Slack more for things that I might have otherwise talked to someone about in-person.
posted by RobotHero at 1:23 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Some of the interrupting behavior must be contextual. I know my wife and I interrupt each other, but if I'm talking at a meeting, or talking with a stranger, I probably qualify as "meek"—if you interrupt me a few times, I'll just stop talking.
posted by adamrice at 1:24 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I'm a barker; i have many things to do, and have no interest in receiving unsolicited geotechnical engineering advice from a bank teller for a half an hour. Here's my deposit. I'm going to my next appointment now.

Some people dialogue as entertainment, or to waste time at work, or to conform to the strictures of a culture of conspicuous politeness. Monologue is transactional, purposeful and could be efficient. Each camp in this quadchotomy obviously has moral outrage at the others... like ask vs guess or morning vs night etc. I'm signing off now so i don't have to hear any responses.

/s
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:30 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I am going to have to think on this. I think there might be other columns to add in there. One might be "it's OK to contradict". I've noticed a lot of people do that, and I find it so bizarre, but they obviously go through life and do stuff so there's a modus vivendi in there. With my best friends we interrupt all the time - asking questions, checking understanding, skipping the long explanation, all that good stuff.

I try to be good at this, and I've got a nice conflict-prone couple of days coming up to observe through this lens.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:35 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


if you interrupt me a few times, I'll just stop talking.

At work, this is me. Because if you interrupt me, or give me no space to talk, it’s because you won’t listen anyway and in addition don’t deserve my input.

I have whole notebooks filled with me repeating “do not butt in” or just “fuck” over and over to keep myself from talking at all.
posted by chavenet at 1:43 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


the sound of two voices talking over each other with perfect understanding in a crescendo of understanding and comity

The very first time me and my college BFF met we apparently did this with each other right away, which quite startled the person who introduced the two of us - "Uh, I have no idea how you two can understand each other while talking over each other at the same time, but I guess I'll just leave you to it..."
posted by btfreek at 1:54 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I grew up in a family where people talked over each other not out of rudeness, but out of enthusiasm. Doing so was a way of signalling engagement in the conversation.

As a result, I find it really hard to navigate conversations with people who don't do the same. I will try not to interject or talk over people, but in group settings, I often end up biting my lips entirely, since I can't seem to find the sweet spots where it is my turn to talk.

(It probably doesn't help that, as a woman, I sometimes have to be more forceful than I'd like just to get a word in.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:56 PM on June 10 [43 favorites]


Nothing makes me feel like someone is uninterested in what I'm saying more than them not engaging with me. I expect people to express interest by being a part of the conversation.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:07 PM on June 10 [15 favorites]


As a youngest child and smart aleck, I admit being prone to looking for a chance to wedge observations or witty asides into other people's monologues. It was a survival skill, because otherwise no one would hear me. Definitely COI, but I have learned to not run over others in conversation by advanced practice in Shutting the Hell Up.
posted by emjaybee at 2:08 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


If you try to interrupt me, and you have jumped to the wrong conclusion, I will shut up. I will not correct you

you: the meeting is at 3pm today
me: 3pm tuesday?
you: [silence, to prove some weird point at my expense]
me: ok thanks see you then!
posted by poffin boffin at 2:11 PM on June 10 [68 favorites]


I know this guy!
posted by rebent at 2:13 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


As a youngest child and smart aleck, I admit being prone to looking for a chance to wedge observations or witty asides into other people's monologues. It was a survival skill, because otherwise no one would hear me. Definitely COI, but I have learned to not run over others in conversation by advanced practice in Shutting the Hell Up.

I am exactly like this too. I've had to learn to rein it in so as no to derail the conversation.
posted by Hutch at 2:13 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


CoI here; ADD as well so take from that what you will.

I confess I find the implied passive aggression of people who expect to make it to the end of every sentence a form of dominance display which brings out the worst in me.

I do have however to restrain myself when talking to speakers for whom English isn’t their first language where interruption really ruins their flow, not to mention the cultural aspects with say Eastern Europeans or Russians for whom it is fearfully rude without expection.

Agreed on the gendered thing though...
posted by dmt at 2:13 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


At most presentations I attend and give, it's expected that interruptions are OK. Now I'm not talking about formal conference talks of course, but rather department colloquia etc. In these cases, presentations are more like a conversation, I guess. A conversation that includes interruptions.

I actually like interruptions in these kinds of internal presentations where the audience consists of colleagues you know fairly well. This includes both my prior career in academia and my current one in an industry with a lot of academic escapees. A few times I've given talks and felt that I was a bit wooden until the first mid-talk question or observation, and then relaxed a lot as the whole thing became much more of a conversation. It's a bit like standup comedy - imagine if you did your act to an audience that had been told to sit there in silence and only let you know what they thought was funny at the end?
posted by kersplunk at 2:17 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


CoC here, and I have experienced the nightmare scenario where a Barker interprets open hostility as some kind of gesture towards friendship.
posted by The Gaffer at 2:17 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure this dichotomy is totally akin to ask vs. guess, because the difference between interrupt vs. don't is also gendered as hell.

Depends on where you are. Deborah Tannen has written some about this, specifically looking at the California/New York split discussed above (with some overlap with Ashkenazi NY Jewishness). Her key paper on this involves lots of examples of a women (her) interrupting a male Californian, in addition to some examples of what these conversations look like with, in the post's terminology, two members of the Church of Interruption; Link here, I can potentially send along a copy if you memail me.

(Though, as a side note, at least one critique of Tannen's work on gender, coming from a 'hey we need to be more intersectional in our analysis of language and gender', actually cites this paper as Tannen being aware of cross-cultural differences and how they affect conversational styles, and then goes 'why she didn't discuss how this all interacts with gender, we're not sure'.)
posted by damayanti at 2:17 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


I confess I find the implied passive aggression of people who expect to make it to the end of every sentence a form of dominance display which brings out the worst in me.

People wanting to finish their sentences is not a dominance display what the hell?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:18 PM on June 10 [95 favorites]


the "wizard" thing is freakin' annoying.

I’m reminded of ... something, somewhere ... in which it was pointed out in so many words that Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Deanna Troi’s half-Betazoid alien super power is empathy.* Like... That’s not a superpower. That’s a thing you’re supposed to have. Being aware of a situation, considering others’ feelings, reading body language, and adjusting accordingly doesn’t make one a magical half-Betazoid mind-reader, and neither does it make one a wizard.

* okay, it’s more complicated than that, but only slightly
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I confess I find the implied passive aggression of people who expect to make it to the end of every sentence a form of dominance display which brings out the worst in me.

Seriously, how long is a typical conversational sentence? 5 seconds? 10 seconds? You can’t even hold on that long and wait for the full stop before replying? The dominance display is being unable to stop yourself from butting in for even 10 seconds.
posted by Jimbob at 2:19 PM on June 10 [42 favorites]


I have to say, I am an academic, I work in an academic environments, and the academics who just talk over students who are trying to carefully tell them important things or ask important questions waste everyone’s time.
posted by Jimbob at 2:21 PM on June 10 [14 favorites]


Talking is hard. Often people use too many words to say too little, and if left uninterrupted will repeat with minor variations.

My solution? Once information has been extracted, think of something else pleasant until they wind down. I favour thinking about robots or pretty colours.
posted by Construction Concern at 2:24 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


One of my most touching memories of the contrast between these two "religions" was a family event years ago, the bat mitzvah of a girl whose parents were both deaf. During the meal and afterward, the round tables of ten were filled with (mostly) Jews, happily interrupting each other in small symphonies of conversation. At another table were the parents' other deaf friends, having an equally happy conversation in ASL, but of necessity taking turns: all eyes would be on one 'speaker' at a time, and when someone wanted to speak next they would rap the table so the others would feel the vibrations, and whoever got to 'speak' next was determined by the mysterious alchemy of which person attracted the eyes of most of the others.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:24 PM on June 10 [45 favorites]


From a family of barkers, I am afraid of the silence that comes from civil or meek listeners. I'm always afraid that their silence is resentment or disdain.


😶
posted by rodlymight at 2:28 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


In linguistics this is studied formally under the name of turn-taking.
Rules govern turn construction and give options to designate the next turn-taker in such a way as to minimize gaps and overlap. Once a Transition Relevance Place is reached, the following rules are applied in order:
1. The current speaker selects the next speaker and transfers the turn to them; or
2. One of the non-speakers self-selects, with the first person to speak claiming the next turn; or
3. No one self-selects, and the current speaker continues until the next TRP or the conversation ends.
posted by Panthalassa at 2:29 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


I don't interrupt at work or in formal circumstances, but with family I totally do. (I'm also fine with being interrupted in those same circumstances, I am a member of the Church of Friendly Interruption, I guess.) I just get excited and my brain starts firing towards my mouth and it comes out. My husband has a habit of kind of winding down his point with increasingly long pauses that really tread a fine line between a comma and a full stop, which, yes, has caused some arguments. Um. A lot of arguments.

The thing that people do in conversation that just flummoxes me entirely is extreme mirroring, where they try to say the final words of your sentence along with you. It's not interrupting really because they fully expect you to keep talking, they just really need to also participate in your thought.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:31 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


the implied passive aggression of people who expect to make it to the end of every sentence

Wow. Well, okay then, we have definitely confirmed that there are Two Kinds Of People
posted by ook at 2:36 PM on June 10 [40 favorites]


Depends on where you are. Deborah Tannen has written some about this, specifically looking at the California/New York split discussed above (with some overlap with Ashkenazi NY Jewishness). Her key paper on this involves lots of examples of a women (her) interrupting a male Californian, in addition to some examples of what these conversations look like with, in the post's terminology, two members of the Church of Interruption; Link here, I can potentially send along a copy if you memail me.

I heard her talk a little about this on a podcast (pretty sure it was Ezra Klein), and it was really interesting. She left me feeling more indulgent of interrupters. (I suspect women are better off raised in an interrupter culture. Both interrupters and "non-interrupters" will still talk over women...but a "non-interrupter" woman might have a harder time talking over someone to get a conversation back on track.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:37 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


If you try to interrupt me, and you have jumped to the wrong conclusion, I will shut up. I will not correct you.

Personally, I just continue talking when I'm interrupted.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:42 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Being aware of a situation, considering others’ feelings, reading body language, and adjusting accordingly doesn’t make one a magical half-Betazoid mind-reader, and neither does it make one a wizard.

Heh. That's exactly what was bugging me at first, but couldn't think of how to put it.

After some reflection on it, it also got me to feel like the author viewed conversation something like battles in D&D, where there are rounds with attacks and defense which should follow some standardized procedure for determining initiative. This goes against conversations as a dynamic and shifting method of engagement, where, ideally, the space shouldn't be thought of in terms of opposition, me vs you, but as a shared space developed between us. The goal is to bring the best possible life to that shared space, not to make sure two sides make their attacks in the right order.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:42 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]



I married into a family of severe interrupters. Who are from New York, and to whom my Californian speech tempo is apparently interminably slow.


I have no idea if this is real or if I just heard it somewhere and decided it felt true, but “they” did a study where they took a bunch of people from california and a bunch of people from New York and paired them up with conversation topics for like 45 min. At the end they separated them, and asked them about their conversation partners.

New Yorkers: they’re terrible. They have nothing to say, they contribute nothing to the conversation, and they are so fucking slow, Jesus Christ. What’s wrong with them?

Californians: THEY. ARE. MONSTERS.

Me, hearing this: what, were they waiting for their turn? Get in there!
posted by schadenfrau at 2:50 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


This was me and my ex. Me, a woman, interrupter. Him, a man, not. Only he dominated 80% of the conversation, and would get pissed at me if I interrupted. And if he forgot what he was talking about, and I didn’t remember, he got mad.
Even now, years later, I still play the game where I say nothing but “uh huh” until he actually asks me a question. He can go for hours and he’s never once noticed. I long-ago realized that his idea of a conversation is me being an audience of one.
So, yeah. I’m way more comfortable with interrupters. I *hate* it when I realize that someone has let me talk like an idiot and they already knew the story or the info or whatever. Ugh. Just say “oh yeah! I read that!” And we can move on.

Also, I come by interruption honestly. My whole family talks at once. If you want to participate at all, you’ve got to learn to yell over other people.
posted by greermahoney at 2:57 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


I'm a woman and I totally interrupt my husband all the time. Conversation should work in waves like the sea! He, on the other hand, would like to talk for a long time with no interruptions but dammit I have a question about this beginning bit and I want to understand that before you move on to the next bit! Otherwise this isn't a conversation, it's a monologue.

I've noticed at home that my family talks over each other a lot and you sort of develop the ability to listen to two people at once. Plus if somebody just sits there in silence I feel like they're not really listening and engaged.

I do not interrupt people at work though, I'm much more careful with my speech there.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:58 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


gusottertrout, I think it's fair to talk about the (informal, subconscious) rules of collaborative actions in a shared space. Anthropologists do it all the time. Indeed, being consciously aware of those rules can enable you to be a better collaborator.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:59 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Seriously, how long is a typical conversational sentence? 5 seconds? 10 seconds?

Whoa, not my experience at ALL with many male speakers, especially groups of men. Both personally and professionally I find most men want to lecture at me, with “sentences” connected with semi-cocoons and it is so tiring. I run in progressive, educated circles too, so it isn’t outright chauvinists.
posted by saucysault at 3:01 PM on June 10 [20 favorites]


I am a woman and I am absolutely an interrupter. This is something that is really typical of many autistic and ADHD people (hi!) and it's... really hard for me, because I have a neurodivergent partner with neurodivergent family and most of my friends are neurodivergent, and interrupting is totally normal and acceptable with (most of) them. It is something I have become aware of because one member of the family engages in the interrupting dialogue dynamic we have, but also gets hurt when we interrupt her. It's something I and her family have had to consciously work on to apologize for interrupting and bring the conversation back to what she wanted to say.

But it's also made me really aware of this dynamic and how if you have two interrupters it's totally not a bad thing at all. It's a method of engagement and it's the way autistic people and people with ADHD tend to interact. I can't remember the last time I felt hurt by being interrupted--maybe passingly disappointed that I didn't get to share my story, but I had plenty of other times to talk in the conversation, and anyway it gave someone else a chance to talk. So that's the way I'm used to talking and interacting, because the people I'm close to engage with me that way and are for the most part not bothered by it (and once we added in the extra step of acknowledging interruptions + giving the sister express permission to go back to her original thought, rather than expecting her to just jump back to it if it was important, as we would do, she has really been less bothered by it as well).

But it has gotten me into trouble engaging with other people who don't talk that way. I've had multiple professors scold me for interrupting them or someone else. The trouble is, I just don't know the signals for when I'm allowed to speak in people who converse that way. I generally understand that for people other than my partner and their family, I should wait until they're done speaking to respond. But I have found no reasonable way to discern if a pause is an invitation to respond, or just a pause for breath or to gather thoughts or for emphasis. Every time I have been called out for interrupting someone, it has been when they completed a full sentence and stopped, and I thought that was the end of what they had to say, so I responded. But apparently they had more to say, which I didn't pick up on, and then they feel hurt for me interrupting them. So sometimes I take to waiting for a more significant pause, but in group settings this means I end up never speaking because someone else picks up more quickly that the person is done talking.

The level of aggression some people have towards interrupting is really hard for me as an autistic woman. There are absolutely rude ways to interrupt, and I completely understand not wanting to be silenced. But assuming that if someone interrupts you they're not interested in what you have to say, or are a total asshole, or aren't worth talking to... I don't know. I feel like it's ignoring that there are different styles of communicating, and maybe yours don't match up. I think the best thing to do in that situation is state your needs and how the other person's communication style makes you feel. My sister in law initially just sulked and/or refused to talk to us if we interrupted her. Once she explained how it made her feel, and we explained why we do that and that it's not a personal attack against her, we were able to come to a compromise that works really well for all of us and reduces hurt feelings all around.

Obviously this isn't feasible for every single interaction you ever have, but I wish that more people would take the time to just say "hey, that kind of hurts, can we do it this way instead?" rather than going to the two extremes of either shutting up and refusing to talk to me, or yelling at me for interrupting. Because it definitely doesn't mean I'm not interested in what you have to say, I'm just trying to engage with you in the way that has historically been successful for me.
posted by brook horse at 3:02 PM on June 10 [46 favorites]


I think there are important contextual effects here. One on one, I had to tell my partner many times that I hate being interrupted because it makes me forget what I was going to say. He still does it sometimes. But put us at a party around other people and he will sit there for an hour desperately wanting to leave because he can’t figure out how to interject - a textbook case where interrupting is necessary. I don’t really understand any of this.
posted by eirias at 3:02 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


I'm very much a civility guy, but at my current job I consciously learned that I needed to interrupt certain people because they expected and needed me to -- that's just the way conversation work for them. I hate it.

And usually when they interrupt me because they think they know what I'm going to say, they are very mistaken. So the supposed efficiency benefit of interrupting completely backfires.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 3:05 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Me, hearing this: what, were they waiting for their turn?

Yes, they were.

Get in there!

In where? (How often, in an average month, does the average New Yorker have the word “edgewise” screamed at them in frustration?)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:05 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I’ve been trying to convert out of the Church of Interruption for the better part of my life so far, to very little avail. I know it’s rude, I know people feel like I’m shutting them up when all I was trying to do is quickly confirm or else correct my understanding of what had been said so far and then resume listening, I know it’s even ruder now that I mostly present male than it was when I was growing up as a girl. But I just can’t fucking stop doing it. When I don’t interrupt, I don’t find out whether I understand what’s going on, and that’s just intolerable.

I don’t even come from a family of interrupters. You’d think familial social pressure would have trained me into a Civility-based conversational style, but.... no. Doomed to be rude and annoying forever, it seems.

And I completely agree with those in this thread who have described mutual-interruption-heavy conversation in terms of music. It’s such a beautiful thing when it works. But it’s such a rare thing to find.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 3:05 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I think the “church of” framing makes this sound like a matter of personality and personal choice, when I think there’s a significant cultural element as well. The NY-CA thing is real. I come from a family of New York Jews, and I’ve noticed this all my life. I try to be really sensitive to other people, but I’ve also come from a culture where people talk a certain way with each other. I still have a tendency to interrupt, even though I try not to, and I apologize if I do (as in, “sorry for interrupting, you were saying?”). But it’s really a fundamental thing we’re taking about, and it’s disappointing to see people painted with a broad brush.

In other words, talking about this in terms of who is or isn’t an asshole centers the conversation around the ideal behavior preferred by one culture, to the exclusion of others. Lots of culturally-bound behaviors get coded as a negative personality trait. Ideally accommodation can go both ways: I’ll make an effort not to interrupt, but I’d hope other people would make an effort not to assume the worst about me.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:07 PM on June 10 [41 favorites]


Also, one thing people might not take into account is that people like me grew up in and around environments where waiting for your turn would mean you never, ever speak.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:08 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure I have ADD and sometimes my brain connects to my mouth to go 'Oooooh look at that dog!' in the middle of someone else's sentence. And if I waited they'd miss the dog anyway
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:08 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I want to interrupt more now than ever because life is shorter than when I was young. And I interrupt more easily when I find myself bored. But... I try very hard to bite my tongue.

What complicates my conversations now is that at work, I find myself speaking to recent immigrants of all eths -- Amharas, Arabs, Burmese, Cambodians, Chinese, Iranians, Oromos, Sudanese, Tigrayans, Vietnamese, to name but a few, for whom English is always a challenge.

I have to listen harder, talk more slowly, use Basic English and, worst of all, avoid idioms. Say, someone asks "Can I do this ?" I have to say "yes" rather than my usual "Hey, knock yourself out!" Since most of my everyday conversation is drenched in such circumlocutions, I find myself interrupting far less. It is very stressful, I find. But also very interesting.
posted by y2karl at 3:09 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I think, reading the article and seeing the responses here, that there are two different styles of interruptions- one, as mentioned is a collaborative exchange and doesn’t necessarily take focus away from the speaker, it just carries the conversation along by acknowledging that you’re on the same page or a point is already understood, or even seek clarity before the speaker is too far along in their point.

The other are interruptions by someone that’s is seeking to take over a conversation, or change the focus to whatever they want to talk about. This , in my experience is also usually the heavily gendered form with men talking over women. But I think it’s fair to say also used by assholes in general.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:09 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


(I am also autistic and the only non-Californian in a family of Los Angeles Jews, so that probably has something to do with something too)
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 3:10 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The trouble is, I just don't know the signals for when I'm allowed to speak in people who converse that way.

Yeah, that’s the thing. You folks who don’t like interruptions - how do you know when it’s “your turn”?
posted by corb at 3:10 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The other person pauses. My turn. Your turn. My turn. Your turn. Like playing catch. And you can signal that you're ready to say something, which encourages the other person to pause and give you your turn.
posted by pracowity at 3:15 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


I was raised in the CoI and have been making a concerted effort to change over the last few years due to the gendered dimensions that others have pointed out. It makes me a mansplainer, of course. When I get called out for mansplaining, my first reaction is anger at my interlocutor -- I think, "well if you already knew what I was telling you, why the hell would you let me waste both of our time explaining it at length for chrissakes??"
For my own self-respect, I choose to believe there are two types of mansplainer: the "incidental" or "situational" mansplainer who is the product of socialization in the CoI and will keep talking about anything until stopped and then gracefully cede the floor, and the "true" mansplainer (maybe this is a "barker"?) who will ignore or disbelieve women who tell them they already know this thing.

I literally just participated in a workshop on toxic masculinity and conversational styles and one of the big ideas we worked out was the way that these styles can be value-neutral and not motivated by misogyny, while still functionally and materially reinforcing unequal power distribution, since other class and regional backgrounds being equal, men tend to be interrupters and overtalkers, women tend not to be, and the overtalkers' ideas just naturally get more airtime.
posted by Krawczak at 3:17 PM on June 10 [22 favorites]


Yeah, that’s the thing. You folks who don’t like interruptions - how do you know when it’s “your turn”?

You just wait. And you accept that you might not get to say the thing right when you want to. Thing is, in conversations with more than one person, usually you don't need to say the thing because the idea behind the thing will arise from the conversation. And if it doesn't, then you say it later. And accept also that the world doesn't need you to say the thing, probably.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:18 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


The other person pauses. generally this, although after 8 years with my other half I still get accused of interrupting because he had paused, but not finished. There's definitely a failure rate there.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:20 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


This is an interesting thread to me since Metafilter is where I learned that a lot of people felt really angry and disrespected because of a pattern of interruptions/talking-over, and I consciously updated my behavior as a result to be less interrupt-y by default. So it surprised me a little bit to see a substantial number of people here who are OK with interrupting and being interrupted.

One of my favorite styles of conversation is in e.g. a meeting where there is both a civil verbal discussion happening concurrently with a text chat or collaborative editing backchannel. Then if there is a side point that I think is important but I don't want to derail or interrupt, I can write it down in the text channel, and if people are interested they can engage with it on their own time.
posted by value of information at 3:20 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I literally turn on my heel and walk away from interrupters while they're still talking at me.
posted by smcameron at 3:21 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


pracowity, the context of that quote was that every time I have been yelled at for interrupting, it has been when a person paused and I therefore assumed they were done, but they were not. It does not work to use pauses as a marker for turn-taking, and in conversations with more than one person it also does not work to wait a couple of seconds to confirm it's a turn-taking pause and not another kind of pause because then I literally do not ever get to speak, ever, because other people pick up on the turn-taking pauses faster than I do. And I'm not sure what people are picking up on that tells them it's a turn-taking pause, not a pause to gather thoughts or for emphasis or for whatever other reason.
posted by brook horse at 3:21 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


Yeah, that’s the thing. You folks who don’t like interruptions - how do you know when it’s “your turn”?

The speaker reaches a natural end, asks or implies a question, or indicates with body language. You can indicate a desire to jump in by body language or vocalization - or an infrequent interruption.

What's interesting to me is how both styles have a natural tendency to double down if they want to deescalate or be polite. So an interrupter might interrupt more to an obviously annoyed turn taker, and a turn taker might go slow and quiet to an interrupter who feels dismissed, all with the best of intentions.
posted by The Gaffer at 3:22 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


As seen in Jean-Paul Sartre vs. John Huston.
posted by Paragon at 3:23 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


What really frustrates me at work (I teach what Americans would call middleschoolers) is that somehow, it's always the boys who interrupt me, female teacher, and seem to listen better to male teachers.

Perhaps it isn't socialised misogyny, but that the boys are more easily reading the cues from the men about when they can talk. Or maybe it is- and I'm working hard to redirect interruptions and not just accept them.

There's definitely a youth component here- I take a breath and suddenly the conversation swells! (I am trying to cut down on 'teacher talk' in my lessons because hell that's boring, but sometimes it is an unfortunate necessity.)
posted by freethefeet at 3:25 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Jimbob, Re: not letting sentences finish - in a setting like metafilter or an online newspaper article, do you read every comment fully, or do you skim the long comments or skip the derails or not follow the links that people leave or not completely read every enumerated item in a list once you have the idea or not start thinking of composing your comment until you've read every last comment.... you get the idea :)

Also i think interrupting is less a binary and more a relational thing: i don't interrupt a boss or a police officer or an older family member, i do interrupt a younger sibling or when i had subordinant coworkers, i would. I think there is a danger in someone constantly interrupting women, minorities, outsiders, etc beause instead if conveying : "yes i hear you,keep going", they might get: "you don't matter, your input is disregarded." I guess the civility slow lane could solve that issue by eliminating filtering and feedback but that opens the speakers up to being spammed, having garbage dumped on them etc. DOS attacked on cable news, etc.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 3:29 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Native Californian here. Spent my four years on the east coast wondering why the hell everyone had the same character flaw, that they are just not fucking interested in listening. That’s way over simplifying it of course, I realized this is a cultural construction and *I* was the one out of place, but eventually it was my inability to have a meaningful dialogue with most people that made me realize I had to move back. Now I live in Seattle where Interrupting New Yorker is silently judged as an asshole but is allowed to talk on and on and on because we are passive aggressive as fuck. Plus, it’s kind of funny that Interrupting New Yorker who’s new in town has no idea we all agree they’re an asshole.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:32 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


i can safely tune out to think about what kind of jobs various dinosaurs would have in modern society.

Wait, hold on -- can we circle back to this?

I get together once a week with a small cluster of people for boardgames. There are five or six of us, and one is a devout CoI, who, once he hears a word that reminds him of a joke from Monty Python he has repeated to us all sixty times before, or a word that was in the title of a movie he saw last month, or maybe if he sees a bird or a squirrel outside, he has to bellow out what he wants to tell us. He considers himself a rare wit, and seemingly figures that because some humour contains wordplay, all wordplay is humorous (indeed, I alluded to him five years ago here).

He blames this on self-diagnosed ADD (seriously -- he saw a play once with a character who had ADD and decided that he did too). The rest of us tolerate this but occasionally call him on it; when we do he storms out and boycotts the get-togethers for a few weeks.

The last time it happened we pondered and analyzed the events after he slammed the door and drove away. One other player observed that everyone else had two to four siblings, but the CoI dude grew up an only child and has always been the centre of attention. Could be.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:33 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I'm so-so on the article, but think that it at least surfaces an interesting distinction. I guess I'm part of the (ugh) "Strong Civility" quadrant, but I don't mind interrupters conversationally. It gets on my nerves in professional settings, especially telecons or meetings, because I will wait for my turn to say something, and then sometimes lose the relevant opportunity, or have something important I want to discuss go by the wayside because of an interruption of an interruption that diverges the conversation. I suppose that the interrupter would say that I should take more active control over the conversation, but the very act of interrupting is mentally painful for me. I will say that whenever I describe my academic work, it is nearly always 100% men who interrupt me to (incorrectly) explain my work to me, which is probably the only social setting where interruption infuriates me. Don't fucking interrupt me to explain something I've spent the past 5 years of my life working on.

As a teacher, in the last semester, I had a student who was really smart - but maybe only about 80% as smart as he thought he was. He was both an interrupter and prone to monologues. It was a constant struggle in class discussions to not let him dominate, especially for our more shy students who would write brilliantly, but never seemed to contribute to discussion. I still feel that I failed at tamping him down while encouraging others, especially since he often had good points to contribute, but did so in a way that silenced all other discussion.
posted by codacorolla at 3:34 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


this is kind of exactly how my bff josher71 and i talk to each other and it's awesome and great and i wish i could talk to everyone that way. I love it when someone goes "YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!" at the end of my sentence. i do realize that not everyone is into that and try to be sensitive to it, but man i love it when i can loudly and gustily talk that way.
posted by capnsue at 3:39 PM on June 10 [14 favorites]


There is no one style of conversation, of course. Your protocol needs to adjust automatically to circumstances: priority of the message you are sending, importance (to you) of the other person, priority of your time (at the moment), your history with the other person, emotional noise at the moment, etc. You might start by smiling and nodding and politely waiting your turn and, as lunch approaches and progress does not, you might finish by yelling "Hang on a second! That's a load of shit..."
posted by pracowity at 3:41 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


My partner is definitely CoI and I am definitely not. It had caused some arguments. It's not that I find being interrupted rude, though I do; it's that I find it shattering to my mindstate. The brief pause at the end of a sentence where I am sensing whether you understood what I said (ALL of what I said) and then preparing to listen to you is critical.

This is less of a factor with my partner than with reading the responses on here, but: the idea that a lot of people's most critical criteria in face to face conversation is efficiency is totally astonishing to me.
posted by penduluum at 3:50 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


And if it doesn't, then you say it later. And accept also that the world doesn't need you to say the thing, probably.

This is exactly why I feel like I cannot possibly do this, even if it would endear me to some people, as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Men can do this and not have it bite them. If I spent my whole life waiting for other people to let me talk and assuming that what I had to say wasn't valuable if they weren't going to give me a chance to say it, I'd still be doing clerical work, I would have never even gotten the chance to TRY being a software developer. "Maybe nobody needs to hear your voice" is poison. Maybe people need to hear the voices of cishet white men much less than they currently do, but you know, I have gotten told my whole life that my interrupting is a problem and I need to wait for other people to let me talk, and yet somehow it's only the interrupting me who's ever actually gotten anywhere.

There are definitely people who do exist in the state of such privilege that they can and should do this, but it is really terrible broad-spectrum advice.
posted by Sequence at 3:52 PM on June 10 [68 favorites]


If someone is doing the “YES! I TOTALLY GET THAT!” kind of excited interrupting, I don’t think I even really notice or process that as an interruption. But if I need to say something and someone butts in to take the conversation down some tangent before I get a chance to get to the point, I’ll try maybe once more, but after that, they’ll just have to live their life without whatever I needed to tell them. I really think the main reason for this is that I’m kind of on the extreme side of introverted, and I just don’t have the energy to try to say the same thing three times. Conversation can be draining, even when enjoyable, and starting to speak is like 40% of my conversational energy expenditure. Make me do the high energy part again and I just run out of juice.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:57 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


I think the dichotomy, if there is one, is really more of baseball conversation vs. football conversation.

In baseball conversation, you have a speaker pitching conversation at a listener. It’s always a two-way conversation — the listener might even hit a grand slam home run! — but there’s always a pitcher and a batter, and their roles are very, very different. How does the batter know when to swing? Usually it’s pretty obvious. And after a while, they switch. Then they switch back. Over and over, back and forth, taking turns.

And then there’s football conversation, which I’m reliably told has rules, but looks to me like nothing more than an ass-backwards clusterfuck tug-of-war where either you constantly push back or you get steamrollered, and everyone ends up with a massive headache.

None of this takes into account constant droning blather. Constant droning blather is not any kind of conversation. It’s just noise. Tune that shit out.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:07 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


I have a dear friend who is an adherent if the Church of Interruption, and she will gladly interrupt to indicate she knows what I’m saying or getting at. The really frustrating part is that she is almost always mistaken about what I’m trying to say or get at.

A few months ago, I rode in a car for half an hour with a woman who is the High Priest of the Church of Interruption. She never let me finish a sentence, she never listened for more than a few seconds, and she was always completely wrong in trying to finish my thoughts. Even when I tried to assert myself --"please let me finish my thought"-- she'd jump in. Afterward, I found myself wondering how she saw me. She'd attributed so many motivations and ideas to me that weren't my own.
posted by Orlop at 4:09 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


I think maybe we need to differentiate between “wait, is that Steve from work or Steve from the gym" interrupting and "oh man, I need to tell you about this Steve I knew" interrupting. I really only do the first, 'related Steve stories' I always wait for them to finish and sometimes don't get to tell it because someone else comes in but ah well. "I thought you had finished" and "look at the dog!" seem different as well.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:10 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


Plus, it’s kind of funny that Interrupting New Yorker who’s new in town has no idea we all agree they’re an asshole.

What a charming way to welcome strangers to your unique cultural context. I'm so glad people like you exist, ready and able to embrace new lifeways into your community.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:12 PM on June 10 [24 favorites]


i am uncomfortable categorizing this as a new york jew thing because it is frank and unkind erasure of bay ridge italians who are even now gesturing emphatically in dismay
posted by poffin boffin at 4:16 PM on June 10 [67 favorites]


What a charming way to welcome strangers to your unique cultural context. I'm so glad people like you exist, ready and able to embrace new lifeways into your community.

“When in Rome, constantly interrupt the Romans.”
posted by Sys Rq at 4:18 PM on June 10 [24 favorites]


What a charming way to welcome strangers to your unique cultural context.

Far more charming than the years I spent being talked over by people who didn’t understand what I was saying. But seriously, there are really truly, for real people who can’t stand the PNW and move away because people are “too quiet” and don’t immediately say what they’re thinking. If you can’t deal with the idea that people are forming an opinion of you while you are the one doing 80% of the talking and not letting people finish, then your choices are to A. Not interrupt people so much or B. Surround yourself with people for whom that doesn’t matter.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:25 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


“When in Rome, constantly interrupt the Romans.”

This assumes the individual has picked up that they are violation a social norm. This is not as easy as those immersed in those norms believe, even for neurotypical people. If no effort has been made to explain that norms are being violated, those norms will continue to be violated, and it is primarily the fault of the person not doing the explaining*.

*obviously this does not apply to norms such as "don't murder people."
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:26 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


This assumes the individual has picked up that they are violation a social norm. This is not as easy as those immersed in those norms believe, even for neurotypical people. If no effort has been made to explain that norms are being violated, those norms will continue to be violated, and it is primarily the fault of the person not doing the explaining*.

*obviously this does not apply to norms such as "don't murder people."


This is heavily context dependent, and I don't think it's a stretch to prefer that someone lands on "people talk different here" instead of "everyone from this region is an oafish dipshit/insufferable asshole" without having their hand held.
posted by The Gaffer at 4:31 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


This is heavily context dependent, and I don't think it's a stretch to prefer that someone lands on "people talk different here" instead of "everyone from this region is an oafish dipshit/insufferable asshole" without having their hand held.

That's fair; laughing up your sleeve at this someone who doesn't know what they may not have been told or figured out - and again the ability to suss out these social cues varies widely even in neurotypicals - is not.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:33 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


it is primarily the fault of the person not doing the explaining

This would probably be more likey to happen if the prospective explainee would shut up for half a second so the explainers could have a chance to explain it to them...
posted by Sys Rq at 4:36 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


Talking is hard. Often people use too many words to say too little, and if left uninterrupted will repeat with minor variations.

There's another dichotomy here: between the repeaters and the “say things only once”ers, because I really spin my wheels when I'm with a repeater, and I literally have no idea how to say things 3 times with enough subtle variations that they won't take offence*.

*OK, I'm thinking of one specific person here, and on reflection, with other people (without (historically) workplace power over me), I can normally find a subtle change of emphasis that makes the discussion clearer and everyone happier about what they've agreed to.
posted by ambrosen at 4:36 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


What a charming way to welcome strangers to your unique cultural context. I'm so glad people like you exist, ready and able to embrace new lifeways into your community.

"Shit, the sarcasmeter just exploded!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:37 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


My in-laws are interrupters who always get what I mean wrong, and make up entire parallel realities fraught with meaning and complexity which in no way relates to what I'm trying to say. Much time is wasted in getting them to realize this, each time.
posted by signal at 4:43 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


it seems like nearly everyone here, when faced with a conversation style other than their own, instinctively assumes the worst.

certainly when I'm dealing with a turn-taker, on a very deep level I assume they are either angry or outright ignoring me, and have to work to convince myself otherwise.

of course sometimes it is malice, or arrogance, or gendered, but obviously not always.

is there anyone who's run into one of these mismatches and didn't assume the worst? i think it's weird that it feels like there's this instinctive pessimism about the other person. (road rage and social media are the only places where I've seen this, I would have thought any kind of face-to-face conversation would be immune.)
posted by vogon_poet at 4:45 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


After reading the thread and thinking about it, I want to say I owe the Church of Interruption an apology for opening the conversation by calling them assholes. I'm sorry. I think interruptions do have a role to play in conversations, and it's not always impolite to interrupt.

Also, it's been brought up that childhood and culture have something to do with how interruption is seen, and I agree. When I was a kid growing up you were never to interrupt adults, and especially your parents. it was considered talking back and was discouraged. This was different from how I was socialized with my friends, which was an environment full of interruptions and attempts at one-upping each other with quips, stories, and jokes. So, I have been navigating these two extremes all my life and I think finding out which kind of conversation I'm in (and to what level) has become part of my general process of familiarizing myself with other people.

Though, as I get older, I've noticed that what I have to say is not as smart, funny, incisive, or even well-reasoned as I think it is. And, of course, I've also realized that there's a gendered component to interrupting and dominating a conversation. So, it's because of these two factors that I've grown more comfortable with listening and thus interrupt much, much less. Sometimes, I even just sit at a table and just listen to coworkers or acquaintances talk and just nod. That's probably weird for those involved in the conversation, but I enjoy it.
posted by FJT at 4:56 PM on June 10 [20 favorites]


“Yes, yes, I know. The problem occurs when you imagine that everyone works the same way. If I hadn’t interrupted you just now, how long would you have kept talking about things we both know? If I don’t interrupt to show you I understand – if I don’t signal my understanding in the same way you do – you’ll just keep talking, imagining I don’t get it.”

I feel like this line gets at something really important - perhaps more important than the actual classification presented in the article - which is that there is a sort of "meta" classification at play in these interrupt/civil and ask/guess categorizations. I can't think of a catchy name for it, but it seems to me that there are people who assume the existence of shared norms for social interactions and thus any violation of those norms must be a deliberate transgression against them. On the other hand, there are people who don't assume any shared norms, so unless a person is being blatantly rude or selectively targeting them (i.e. a sexist man who goes out of his way to interrupt women), any violations of their personal norms are considered misunderstandings or personality/cultural differences.

So in this article, the author was an "assumer" - he didn't understand why some people were upset with him because he assumed that everyone shared his conversational style. On the other hand, the "wizard" had enough awareness that, regardless of his own personal preferences, he was able to recognize and understand different styles of communication so that he could adapt his communication accordingly.
posted by jv776 at 5:05 PM on June 10 [27 favorites]


I was noticing that about this thread too, vogon_poet. I actually don't think I've ever been bothered by a turn-taker, or felt they weren't engaging with me or were angry with me. But I am also really used to a lot of neurodivergent conversational styles, so I generally just assume they need a little more time to process and figure out their response, and I do try to provide breathing points for them to do so. I think being really involved in autistic advocacy and research has made me pretty aware of how wildly communication can vary and how culture dependent it is. So I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and if something is really not working for me I do try and speak up about it, though I admit I'm not sure what to do in situations with power differentials (e.g. professors snapping at me about interrupting). I think it also helps to say, "this action/behavior really frustrates me" rather than "makes this person an asshole," which is how I generally approach most interpersonal problems.
posted by brook horse at 5:06 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


My in-laws are interrupters who always get what I mean wrong, and make up entire parallel realities fraught with meaning and complexity which in no way relates to what I'm trying to say. Much time is wasted in getting them to realize this, each time.
posted by signal at 7:43 PM


I am assuming you married into the Noise family?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:07 PM on June 10 [39 favorites]


This would probably be more likely to happen if the prospective explainee would shut up for half a second so the explainers could have a chance to explain it to them...

Look, when someone isn't grokking a social issue, you have two choices. You can talk to them about it like adults, or you can gossip with your peers about what a weirdo they are.

I'm an autistic woman. I've gotten the second treatment more than I've gotten the first. In my experience, as vogon_poet observed, many neurotypical people assume bad faith at the first sign of anything they perceive as socially inappropriate without ever stopping to consider the existence of different cultural contexts, much less conditions like autism. This bad faith is then used to justify exclusion and bullying - which, I'm sorry, is what Slarty is describing. If you have one person who thinks everything is fine, and they're surrounded by people who know they're making an ass of themselves and find it amusing to watch them do it precisely because they don't know they're misbehaving, the person making an ass of themselves is not the asshole.

On preview, see also JV776's comment.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 5:07 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


I have autism. I am also not a jerk. Please don’t lump in all people who talk over people in neruodivergence. It’s really shitty and guess what! The majority of people who interrupt and talk over me aren’t autistic like I am- they’re just jerks.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:19 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


it’s kind of funny that Interrupting New Yorker who’s new in town has no idea we all agree they’re an asshole.

Oh no and I thought that meetup went so well.
posted by corb at 5:20 PM on June 10 [33 favorites]


FFFUUUUCCCKKK. This is not a place I was expecting things to get so personal so quickly. I can be an interrupter , I can be quiet and wait. It depends on the situation. As others here have discovered, as I've gotten older I've discovered less need to interrupt and more empathy towards other styles, and situations. I value my friendships more than having my opinions always heard, and to be honest, at work I value having a job. I haven't always been this way but time changes situations and what we care about. One good thing about this conversation, I think most of us see that different conversational styles aren't always some kind of power game, it's often just how we're raised or how our minds work.
posted by evilDoug at 5:22 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Seriously, how long is a typical conversational sentence? 5 seconds? 10 seconds? You can’t even hold on that long and wait for the full stop before replying? The dominance display is being unable to stop yourself from butting in for even 10 seconds.

Thanks to phones that display call length and a dark fascination with it, I have timed my mother at 41 minutes of monologue without ever pausing or asking me a question at all (she was on mute.) She also has some issues, but this is why I am an interrupter. Mostly the "gleeful with enthusiasm" kind. I have been working on it for the last decade and still find myself doing it, but at least then I say "I am so sorry, I just interrupted you."
posted by warriorqueen at 5:28 PM on June 10 [14 favorites]


I grew up as a child of interrupters, mum moreso than dad. It taught me that I wasn’t interesting and had nothing worthwhile to communicate. Dad has passed on and mum has dementia now, she’s still an interrupter so phone calls are basically her telling me the same things over and over and over again without pause with me begging her to shut the fuck up for a second so I can tell her I love her.
posted by um at 5:34 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


My solution is to not talk to anyone at all if I can possibly help it. Works a treat.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 5:35 PM on June 10 [28 favorites]


One thing I find interesting about this discussion is that I’m currently in the middle of a multi year project to teach someone about how conversations work. It’s surprisingly difficult to do. I’m very conscious of telling my almost-six frequently that it’s rude to interrupt, and she does it a lot, especially at school. Meanwhile, I interrupt her a ton because she is garrulous and will spend ten minutes telling a story about nothing to avoid putting on her shoes. I’m sorry to say other adults do this to her too - for years when we’ve had adults over she’s tried to be part of the grownup conversation and it’s so rare that anyone gives her the space to do that. So she is probably learning, correctly, that when you are lower status you might have to engage in asshole free-for-all behavior to get anyone to listen. Meanwhile I hate being interrupted, so this is basically the opposite of what I want her to learn. Or at least - I want her to know how not to do it socially. If she wants to work in tech or some other MMA-type profession, I want her to be as much of a brute as she has to be while at work.

I wonder how this aspect of parenting is handled in cultures that fancy themselves pro-interruption. It is very hard for me to imagine there is none of this politeness-education even in such families, because I assume interruptions have status relevance in all cultures, and it’s hard to imagine a culture where children are not lower status than adults.

I do think the class of interruptions matters. My mother interrupts in a way that tells you she wasn’t listening and doesn’t care what you had to say. My dad never interrupts and never listens either. Mr. eirias interrupts in a way that tells you he’s listening and is pretty sure what comes next, but is wrong often enough that it’s annoying. His parents never interrupt. This is all complicated.
posted by eirias at 5:46 PM on June 10 [20 favorites]


From the stories here, seems like the actual issue is often that "Interrupting" is co-morbid with Dominates Conversation And Never Stops Talking and Makes Weird Assumptions and Doesn't Actually listen. I think it's possible to interrupt AND leave room in the conversation for others, rather than just continue talking forever till someone stops you (god how exhausting). If someone is just always changing the subject to themselves and what they want to talk about then yes they're a jerk.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:46 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


The lesson I’m getting from this thread is that no matter who you are or how you behave, there’s at least one person out there who thinks you’re a total asshole. <3
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:50 PM on June 10 [66 favorites]


I was raised CoI and married into CoC and I can flex — and I use it to guide conversations. If I want to draw someone out or just not talk about myself, I will judo their style to get them to keep talking. On the other hand if I have information to relate I will take charge of the conversation however necessary.

It helps to that learning how other people are comfortable communicating is easy if you are actually interested in communicating with them. A lot of people seem to be happy just waiting for their turn to speak (or jumping in) without listening to anyone else. Those people, they suck, whether they interrupt or not.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:50 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


And as if on cue, in the background as I’m reading this thread, the almost-six accuses Mr. eirias: “You interrupted me! I didn’t get a chance to say what I was going to say!”
posted by eirias at 6:03 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I wonder how this aspect of parenting is handled in cultures that fancy themselves pro-interruption.

Well, when I was growing up, as a young child I was told never to interrupt adults and kids should be seen and not heard.

But I listened to and watched all the adults around me and how they talked, and being East Coast and a lot of East Coast Academic, in fact, there was a LOT of interrupting. (But I did also have some southern and Californian relatives so there's that.)

Then around 12 years old or so, when I was moved to the adult table (at large gatherings quite literally) and started to feel more confident I started joining the conversation. And eventually became one of the interrupting adults.

Except my mother but that's a whole different thing.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:07 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Despite my upbringing as a slow-talking full-sentence-completing small-quiet-family west coast person transplanted to the land where all words are edgewise, I'm usually fine with interruptions, if the interruption at least follows from what the interrupted person was saying. "Wow, look at that dog!" type interruptions are also fine -- it's time-limited, you have to say it then or it'll be gone. Even the "mistook a pause for a completed statement" is sort of okay, if what came before the pause in some way resembles a completed statement.

The interruptions that bother me are the ones where the person's attention seems to be mostly on anticipating their "turn" to talk, rather than on, you know, the content of the conversation. There are many forms of this: the "I'm bored with the pace of your statement, so I'm going to finish it for you;" the "You happened to use a word or phrase that reminds me of an unrelated anecdote which I will now regale you with;" the one-upper; the out-of-nowhere-subject-swerver; the interjected pop culture catchphrase -- basically if I get the sense that you're so much more interested in speaking than in listening that you're willing to literally talk over someone to get there, I'm going to think you're kind of a jerk.

But reading this thread I'm seeing the flip side of that, too -- the person who gleefully interrupts the monologuist is maybe acting from the same feeling as I am, except in that situation it's the interruptee, not the interrupter, who was treating the conversation as an opportunity to say all the words instead of as a form of communication.

TL;DR it's the Doesn't Actually Listen people who are the real problem here burn them burn them all
posted by ook at 6:12 PM on June 10 [24 favorites]


To me, this conversational dichotomy is similar to another one. I was raised (in New England) to believe asking personal questions of people was rude. If I asked “And where do your parents live now?” - what if their parents are dead and it makes them feel bad to think of it? What if they don’t want to share something like that because I could be a creepy stalker and now they have to awkwardly navigate away from it? So instead, I might volunteer, for example, where my family lives now, and let my conversational partner choose if they want to respond in kind.
Up until moving to California, and meeting someone adept at asking personal questions, I literally did not know that there were people for whom this was not their truth. And in fact, people who might view as rude my always talking about my own stuff and never asking about theirs. In retrospect, I’ve probably been a self-obsessed boor to many people in my life. I’ve tried very hard in recent years to get comfortable asking people personal questions. It is not easy.
posted by greermahoney at 6:12 PM on June 10 [50 favorites]


My wife is Cuban. I was raised by American Protestants of northen European distant ethnicity. We've fought over this for our entire thirty-year relationship, and show no sign of abandoning the conflict until one of us is dead. I suppose that means I have capitulated to Interruption, but the intent in conflict is not to demonstrate collegiality and understanding, but to demonstrate and describe the other person's inability to see or speak with clear accuracy. It sucks, actually.
posted by mwhybark at 6:28 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


greermahoney, I think my kryptonite is when I meet a question-asker who is also an interrupter, because they'll ask me a new question before I thought I was done answering the last one.
posted by RobotHero at 6:30 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I think we could change the moralistic framing around interrupters vs strong civility if we called in Conversational Democracy vs Conversational Ownership.... i hear a lot of owners in this comment section offended that they don't control the conversational space and get to choose who talks when and will take their toys and go home rather than accept that freedom of soeech isn't their personal property.... why are we interruptors pushing back on this? because from some of these remarks in the thread we can tell how much ill-will there is on behalf of those who don't see this as a conflict of two different styles but as a personal attack on them. Some things are just style: elbows on the table is rude in this culture and the reason for it, if it ever existed, is gone, leaving just the moral stricture.

Some things are functional instead of merely style: using a turn signal when driving, its not just a habit, it has serious consequences. Is interrupting just like elbows on the table? I am ready to be persuaded that because it interferres with meeks and civil types it could be a turnsignal type thing.Maybe i'll retrain myself.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 6:37 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


About the genderedness of interrupting - I learned this the hard way, when I realized that me thoughtlessly interrupting a female coworker was taken by her as a complete negation or dismissal of her value as a professional and a person. (Realized because she told me, for which I am grateful). From my point of view, that was not what was intended at all; but I've learned that that intent is not nearly so important as is the effects of one's actions. I struggle to be mindful not to do this, after that.
posted by thelonius at 6:50 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


If she wants to work in tech or some other MMA-type profession

Yeah she's got really good jiu-jitsu, and OK boxing, but don't engage her JavaScript, it's her best style.

(yeah i interrupt sometimes... i throw a mean exception too.)
posted by some loser at 6:54 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I try not to interrupt too much, but especially with people like my brother who tends to be over-thorough in going over every aspect of a topic and then repeats himself, sometimes I have to jump in just to get somewhere. We do have great conversations and he doesn't mind if I don't overdo the interruptions. My brother is also developing this method of saying something that I really disagree with and then quickly going on to something else so I can't respond, at which point I just have to say, hold on a moment. I find that many times people try to monopolize conversations in such a way that always make you seem like a jerk for jumping in, like every time they pause and you start, they then start again, kind of interrupting you.
posted by blue shadows at 7:05 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I am a hardcore interrupter from a culture where that is the default in a pretty gender-neutral way (I learned it from my mom). I’ve learned to stifle the impulse around people who take it as a deep affront with the understanding that my communication style isn’t for everybody, it takes all kinds, etc. Still, I’m never having more fun than when I’m in an emphatic conversation with another of my kind, and you know, to be honest, I still really chafe at the idea that interrupters are inherently the bad ones who need to reel themselves in to suit the wider world. That assymetry is on display here: interrupting is tarnished by virtue of how it also manifests in sexist power plays (totally true!), but there’s been no mention of how the culture of turn-taking is stifling and silencing for a lot of people raised in non-white (especially Western-European-derived white) cultures. I’d think with all the talk around here about how perniciously the notion of “civility” can be wielded that there’d be a bit less dogmatism on this point around here.
posted by invitapriore at 7:48 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


I confess I find the implied passive aggression of people who expect to make it to the end of every sentence a form of dominance display which brings out the worst in me.

People wanting to finish their sentences is not a dominance display what the hell?


I can really see both of these perspectives. As a woman, I get talked over all the time and called meek or nervous by my husband. But he's a classic barker who monologues, a Jewish man who grew up on the East Coast.

Yet the conversation style that's natural to me with peers and friends is church of interruption all the way, where my ideal is that we're totally on the same page and end up excitedly finishing each other's sentences about whatever ideas we're sharing.

Then there's the realization I had about the women in my mother's family about a year and a half ago over the holidays, which is that they don't listen to anyone, and sometimes I'm that way too. They're totally church of interruption, from an East Coast–via–Chicago Jewish family, but they just outright don't listen to other people a lot of the time. My father, on the other hand, doesn't listen to anyone and monologues, but it's out of that bullshit old-school mentality where he demands respect, but what respect means to him is this whole thing.

So you get some weird interactions there. On one hand, my husband and I just aren't on the same page a lot of the time, so sometimes I'll excitedly chime in and interrupt just the way he does and both our Jewish families do, and I'll think I've got it, but he bridles at that and gets annoyed that I interrupted him and didn't correctly guess what it was he was saying, and then the whole conversation dissolves in recriminations.

Then you get him in conversation with my mother when they're both having a good time, and the two of them can monologue at each other for a half hour straight, while I'm scarce able to get a word in, to the point that it sometimes actually kind of offends me that they're not letting me break in at all and not noticing me getting increasingly exasperated then increasingly quiet.

I just know my ideal is that conversational church of interruption flow state where everyone's excited and on the same page and sharing and chattering about ideas and zinging back and forth. But I also know that historically, that's been difficult for me to achieve with that many people, to the point that conversation with most people often feels like an exercise in sharing as little as possible about myself that's real or meaningful, because it probably won't get picked up in the conversation.

And that is likely one reason I'm a good reporter and writer, because I truly am a good listener, even if often it's out of that sense of resignation that yet again I'm not going to find a true conversational partner. Sometimes if I really don't want to talk to someone but have to, I slip back into reporter mode and see how long I can keep up the polite guise that I care about the subject of someone's monologue. And yeah, that's of course passive-aggressive, but sometimes polite detachment is all one has.
posted by limeonaire at 8:06 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


And invitapriore, ha, I think I can see why we totally get along with some of the same crowd, because when our brilliant shared acquaintances are on and the conversation is jumping, it's magical.
posted by limeonaire at 8:08 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


there’s been no mention of how the culture of turn-taking is stifling and silencing for a lot of people raised in non-white (especially Western-European-derived white) cultures.

What makes you think that interruption isn't gendered in your culture? Levels of aggression vary wildly between different societies, yet in all societies, men are (and are allowed to be) more aggressive than women. (*) If one assumes interruption is a form of mild aggression, it's almost a given that it will be gendered.

It's possible that you were raised to interject more than people in some other cultures yet that you are still allowed to inject more as a man than a woman is.

(*) This still means that women from one society may be more aggressive than men from another society -- and that women from one society might still interrupt more than men from another.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:21 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


it seems like nearly everyone here, when faced with a conversation style other than their own, instinctively assumes the worst.

one thing we interrupters can do, is actively give the conversation back to the interrupted--repeat their last phrase or sentence to them--"you were saying that..." i find that this helps them find their feet, and it makes for better conversation, since half the time people aren't listening to what they themselves say...
posted by eustatic at 8:31 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


Dominates Conversation And Never Stops Talking and Makes Weird Assumptions and Doesn't Actually listen.

These people I interrupt without hesitation or regret because otherwise we'll never get fucking anything done.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:36 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


It's possible that you were raised to interject more than people in some other cultures yet that you are still allowed to inject more as a man than a woman is.

It is possible, and I almost certainly was raised as such, and in recognizing that I take extra care to inhibit that impulse as a man when in conversation with women of any culture or background. That has little bearing on my point that cultural norms differ wildly on the notion of what is acceptable in that regard.
posted by invitapriore at 8:36 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


If one assumes interruption is a form of mild aggression, it's almost a given that it will be gendered.

That's a huge assumption. Rather, I'd like to put forward the idea that sexism is pervasive in both interrupting and non-interrupting people, and that interruption is used aggressively in a sexist way... but so is everything else. Whatever style someone prefers can be used offensively against marginalized people. Interruption is used against marginalized people. But turn-taking is also used to prevent marginalized people from getting turns. And more than that, people whose styles "expect" interruption will judge marginalized people more harshly for not speaking up... and people whose styles expect turn-taking will judge women more harshly for interrupting someone than they will men. (I have gotten called out for it from coworkers at many workplaces where men got away with it, for example, on the grounds that it reflected some kind of girlish impulse control problem that they definitely did not have.)

There isn't a conversational style here that terrible people can't be terrible in, but people do seem to be assuming that the style that isn't theirs is inherently going to be more terrible, and I don't think that's true.
posted by Sequence at 9:01 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


I’m a mostly turn-taking person, and also not terribly quick-thinking. Especially when I’m expected to answer a question usefully, any conversation with me will likely include a lot 3-5 second pauses while I consider my words.

My wife is an interrupter, likes fast-paced conversations, and also tries to watch people’s facial expressions to guess their answers and speed things up. With me, this results in a lot of exchanges that are both hilarious and frustrating:

Wife: (asks question)

Me: (pause a second to think)

Wife: So (x)?

Me: (looks puzzled, cocks head)

Wife: Oh, (y) instead?

Me: (stares thoughtfully into the middle distance)

Wife: Wait, is it (x) after all? What are you thinking? Dear God, have you decided to murder me?

Me: Um, actually (z).

Total elapsed time: 30 seconds.

Fortunately for our marriage, we know each other’s styles and mostly manage to divide things up in a manner that plays to our strengths and doesn’t drive us both nuts too often. :)
posted by fencerjimmy at 9:05 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


The one thing I cannot stand is when someone is attempting to explain something to me and they (1) include extraneous details because they don't understand they're extraneous or (2) keep on explaining after I've gone "uh huh" or nodded my understanding or (3) both. This happens to me a lot when someone non-technical (my boss) tries to explain either a thing they want to build or a procedure I invented (I'm a software developer). I am eventually compelled to interrupt by about the 2nd pointless sentence to urge them to move the fuck on toward their point already. I already understood what you're clumsily explaining.

Luckily my boss doesn't mind.
posted by axiom at 9:07 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I get that we've analyzed this to east coast/west coast plus some cultural backgrounds vs others, but, also, isn't this an introvert/extrovert thing? I happily babble at the same time as my extrovert friends with a lot of talking over each other and it's great and beautiful, but with introverted friends I consciously need to leave these (agonizingly long to me) pauses in the conversation to make sure they get a chance to speak. (This came out sounding negative towards introvert friends, introvert friends are great, the energy of the conversation is totally different through, less joyfully self-feeding high and more slow-paced and contemplative)
posted by Cozybee at 9:38 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Growing up in a family with many siblings, dinner ain't no intricate court ritual, you learn to eat what's within reach, and if you don't then someone else will. Got something to say? Spit it out and don't expect everyone else to breathlessly wait on your precious words (or agree with you). Someone interrupt you and get it wrong? Well duh, just interrupt them and tell them they're wrong.
posted by ovvl at 9:46 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I was raised (in New England) to believe asking personal questions of people was rude.

Oh my god THIS YES. I have finally after almost 40 years of existence come to reluctantly accept that people asking me personal questions might just be being what they believe is "polite" and do not have the ulterior motive of planning to steal my kidneys or, as is the norm in my family, saving up innocuous personal information to be aggressively used against me at a later date. I will, with extreme but hopefully well hidden distaste, answer as many personal questions as I can bear to before having to fake an asthma attack or something, but I still cannot bring myself to subject anyone else to a relentless social interrogation, because I am POLITE and DO NOT WANT TO TERRIFY THEM. But no, apparently this is rude, and the primary way I had of unquestionably proving that the reasoning behind my choice to behave this way is wholly sound, aka forcing people to meet my mother, is alas no longer available to me.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:54 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


I'm astonished at how many "it's not a church; those people are just assholes" comments there are in this thread, when comment after comment has made it really clear that there are multiple cultural, regional, gender-specific, and even religious differences in play. So much for Metafilter's touted tolerance and understanding that Not Everyone Grew Up Like You Did.

And then the doubling down on "nah, you're all assholes" just to score points and favorites? What the fuck, guys?
posted by tzikeh at 9:59 PM on June 10 [25 favorites]


Yep, axiom, that whole thing where someone doesn't know what's important to tell you so they're spending all their time, as it were describing what a car is, what a road is and where they were going, and all you need to know is whether they had the headlights switched on, I recognise that.

That's where you have to bring your best interrupting game, because if you get it wrong, you're going to get all the superfluous information (which, of course, is distracting and confusing, because it's being described to you by someone whose paradigm for travel is going by train, so they're describing at length how you don't buy a ticket, and if you ask for clarification at the wrong time, that's the thing they'll reiterate for you).
posted by ambrosen at 10:02 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I mean, Donald Trump is an asshole. People with different life experiences of how conversations are conducted are just that. Sure, it doesn't preclude some of them from being assholes for other reasons, but it doesn't mean they're assholes.
posted by tzikeh at 10:02 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I feel like there are a couple of types of interrupting that need to be thought of separately. The first is "interrupting" meaning suddenly changing the subject, or hijacking the conversation to bring the topic back around to something you're more interested in. I think this is potentially rude no matter what conversational style you use, though it's also justified if someone has been monologuing for the last 20 minutes or whatever. The second thing one might refer to as "interrupting" is more like finishing someone's sentence, i.e., rephrasing what you think the person is saying. I sometimes do this in order to make sure I'm understanding correctly, and to demonstrate that I'm paying attention and am interested (or at least, feigning interest). This is what I'm thinking of as CoI.

If I'm understanding the article right, this means you can be engaging in a CoI way while not actually being very conversationally assertive, or CoC while talking over people all the time -- e.g., if you always finish the sentence/paragraph you had planned to say, regardless of what external signals you get. (This is distinguishable from Barking, because people engaged in this conversational mode are never actually finished speaking.)

Also this taxonomy seems to be treating these styles as more fixed than contextual, which doesn't really seem right except in extreme cases.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:22 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


I'm also among those curious about how the interrupt/no-interrupt structure (which I have no strong opinions about and feel malleable) interacts with the personal question/no personal question structure (which I have very strong opinions about, as noted in this recent thread).
posted by Kwine at 10:23 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


How two conversational cultures collide very badly.

Never did an FPP summarize the ensuing thread so prophetically.
posted by sldownard at 10:42 PM on June 10 [13 favorites]


Yeah, tzikeh, I don't think we're as good as we'd like to be about neutrally acknowledging difference and meeting it from common ground as we like to think we are. The current political instability has left everyone with a lot less bandwidth on that front, I think.
posted by ambrosen at 10:45 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


And accept also that the world doesn't need you to say the thing, probably.

If my participation is not actually necessary in a given conversation, fine. But in that case, it would be more considerate to make it an e-mail or a blog post instead, probably.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:53 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Pater Aletheias: If someone is doing the “YES! I TOTALLY GET THAT!” kind of excited interrupting

You rang?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:33 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Ooh! Poffin Boffin! We should get together and not ask each other anything!

Got something to say? Spit it out and don't expect everyone else to breathlessly wait on your precious words (or agree with you). Someone interrupt you and get it wrong? Well duh, just interrupt them and tell them they're wrong.

Dad?? Is that you??

Actually, dad's favorite dad joke is when we're all talking over each other at the table, and he's done with dinner, he'll stand up and loudly exclaim, "I got an idea! Why doesn't everyone talk at once!" And leave to go hide in his office. Oh, he thinks he's hilarious.
posted by greermahoney at 11:37 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I don't think learning to read the damn room is the Herculean task some people are painting it as.

Sincerely, someone who is genuinely viewing you with disdain and anger as you talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and don't seem to notice that I am either responding with monosyllables or not responding at all.
posted by kyrademon at 11:59 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Eugh, this thread is kind of.... dispiriting. I am a capital t Talker with ADHD and a chronic wiseass. I love nothing more than the big, smart alecky, interrupty conversations I get into with my friends. I love it, I'm just in loutish hog heaven. But it is legitimately painful to keep those impulses in check outside of those situations. It is such an enormous cognitive load to suppress my urge to butt in or ask for clarification or add another point in other conversations. I am a monster, and I'm working on it, but I also kind of want to grab CoC people and shake them and shout 'USE YOUR GROWN UP VOICE.'
posted by nerdfish at 12:02 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Deborah Tannen has written some about this, specifically looking at the California/New York split discussed above (with some overlap with Ashkenazi NY Jewishness).

So, the Synagogue of Interruption?
posted by the_blizz at 12:08 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Adult ADHD here just to say... wow, not much discussion about how interrupting is a thing ADHD people struggle with :(
posted by danhon at 12:11 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


Learning to read the room is nontrivial! Not everyone is capable of doing it at all times: some people have difficulty all the time, almost everyone has difficulty with it at some point. If I'm excited about something technical, or passionate about something political, my sensitivity to social cues drops significantly - usually detrimentally! For that matter, I'm pretty anxious in social situations, so it might be that if I'm talking, I've figuratively decided to shut my eyes and go for it, because otherwise I'd be hovering silently. Fortunately business meetings and tech support calls tend to be boring enough that I can focus on conversing well.

It's not rocket science, it's basic vector calculus - not something you can assume of everyone you meet, and not something you should shame people for not knowing.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:16 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


The thing for me is, I was raised in the "Church of Interruption". That is my culture, not a foreign one. Here is what it got across to me as a child:

1) Everyone gets to interrupt me.
2) If I attempt to interrupt anyone else, they either ignore me entirely or stare at me briefly as if I had attempted to hand them a dead fish, then barrel on with whatever they had intended to say regardless of whatever it was I said.
3) This includes statements on my part like, "Yes, I understand", "Yes, I know what that is", or "You've already told me this before."
4) Because no one cares what I have to say, or whether or not I'm interested in the topic at hand, or even that I'm there, really.
5) I'm basically a prop for people to talk at.

So I don't have a lot of happy thoughts about the CoI. And I'm sorry if I get a bit emotional about it, but I can feel my blood pressure rising just from reading this thread. :/
posted by kyrademon at 12:23 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


For work, I like email. People never interrupt my email and I never interrupt theirs. (Unless there's a multi-party email storm going on, and then I still have better luck with email than I do with gabbing in a five-way contest for everyone's attention.)

If we're not working, have at it. I don't need to win the conversation. I don't even have to listen. The less time I spend talking, the more time I have to drink my beer and think about other things.
posted by pracowity at 12:37 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


1) Everyone gets to interrupt me.
2) If I attempt to interrupt anyone else, they either ignore me entirely or stare at me briefly as if I had attempted to hand them a dead fish, then barrel on with whatever they had intended to say regardless of whatever it was I said.


That sounds totally awful and I can see why you hate interruptions now. But number two shouldn't happen! That's what makes people jerks / assholes, when they don't actually care what you have to say and leave you no space. I've found I don't care what the social 'rules' are in any situation, I can follow them, but when they apply to me but not to you... That's really shitty and always makes me mad.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:12 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Also I was also thinking about the questions / no questions thing last night. I (interrupter naturally) hate being asked questions. If I think something is interesting / amusing I'll just volunteer it. “How was your holiday" is fine, it's a vague prompt, but "how was the food? Was it hot? How was the hotel" annoys me. So I don't do it with other people, and then sometimes they think I'm not interested.

I think conversational memory might play into it as well. I often remember conversations pretty word for word for word for a while afterwards, my husband only remembers the gist. So if I do interrupt I do that thing where I repeat his last sentence back to him so he knows where he was.

Plus, if you don't grow up with friendly interrupters, you probably don't learn how to listen whilst talking, or listen to two people at once. I don't know if you can pick that up as an adult, it only kicks in for me when I've been at home with the full family for a while (I noticed a couple years ago that I do this and it sort of blew my mind).
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:23 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


He considers himself a rare wit, and seemingly figures that because some humour contains wordplay, all wordplay is humorous

Oh god, one of those people. There should be some kind of third-strike law for them where after multiple offenses, they're stocked in the town square and beaten with things that kind of sound like other things, like a bat o' nine tails.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:39 AM on June 11 [12 favorites]


how to listen whilst talking, or listen to two people at once

Ummmm for how many minutes straight are you able to do this? You mean 2 or more people are talking at the same time without any real pauses, and you're still able to keep track of everybody's meanings, for like 5 to 10 or more minutes straight?

I dated a guy once whose family was like this. His sister said to me, months after the first family dinner I attended (everybody was really loud at all times, happily talked over each other, & I was trying to be my idea of polite, which was to listen whenever anybody talked, which was nonstop), "I kept wondering why you weren't joining in! I thought, Doesn't she like us?"

These days I sometimes experiment with interrupting white men, and keeping on talking as they keep talking, but 90% of the time they not only keep talking but get louder and louder and LOUDER the longer I keep it up. This is from nice, progressive, Trump-hatin' white men, too. If I know they respect me and the power dynamic is not too risky, I ask them if they know they're doing it. They say, sheepishly, "No!" If I can't afford to piss them off, I don't ask.

Maybe I'm supposed to raise my voice louder and louder LOUDER, in parallel with their volume? But then if they perceive that as me being uppity or bitchy, then I'm fucked.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:52 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]



Ummmm for how many minutes straight are you able to do this? You mean 2 or more people are talking at the same time without any real pauses, and you're still able to keep track of everybody's meanings, for like 5 to 10 or more minutes straight


Oh no, the limit is probably a sentence or two - its more about overlapping. But for example, last week my brother and I were talking to my dad and we both started a sentence at the same time. Usually people stop and then negotiate who goes first, but we both decided to just finish our statement. And although I was talking, I got what he said, and my dad clearly understood us both. And I can hear someone say "wow that sounds awful, what a total dick" without missing any of the story as the speaker carries on. I CAN listen to two conversations by two different people at once, but that's more rapid switching than actually "at once" and I will miss some stuff although I'll get the main point.

Also my family doesn't monologue much, the conservation does bounce around it just overlaps. Although my dad is one of those who can make the same point three different ways if you don't stop him.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:16 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


It's taken almost my entire life to realize that a couple of my relatives are exceptionally willing to specifically interrupt me for some fucking reason and behave in other dismissive ways towards me, so that they'll treat even complete strangers much more cordially. A particular way this has manifested over the years is at holidays and family get-togethers, where I'll be having a pleasant conversation with someone and they'll walk over and sit down and I basically never complete a sentence after that point.

In recent years I've taken to simply walking away from any conversation one of them is involved in but they seem to follow me. Reading this thread and thinking about the basic mechanics of interaction, I'm realizing that's exactly what's happening: if both one of these relatives and I are part of a three-way conversation and they effectively poach every opportunity I have to speak, that basically means they get to talk two-thirds of the time. So for someone whose primary interest in socializing is getting to hear themselves talk, it's actually a more attractive prospect to come butt into one of my conversations than to continue with any other one-on-one interaction.

(On a couple of occasions I've been speaking to someone—in a non-family context—and thought to myself, "This person is aggressively opinionated and readily interrupts others, yet I can have a normal, comfortable conversation with them because they still give and take rather than just monopolizing." And that's part of how I figured out what was going on in my family's environment.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:44 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


In both the interrupting and the civil quadrants, the author describes a conversation as consisting of taking turns understanding someone's point, communicating that the point was understood and then building on the point.
Doing this successfully depends hugely on how much shared context the two participants have.
- In a situation with a high level of shared context, the interrupty model works well because A easily understands B's point and B has a high level of trust that A understands it.... and vice versa.
- In a situation without a high level of shared context, A probably does not fully understand B's point and B knows this. So for A to use the interruption model here is tone deaf; it's asserting an understanding that's not yet present.

Guess what situations commonly have not only a lack of shared context, but an uneven awareness of the lack of shared context? Situations with a power imbalance, such as a man talking over a woman in a meeting.
posted by quacks like a duck at 3:01 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


That sounds totally awful and I can see why you hate interruptions now. But number two shouldn't happen! That's what makes people jerks / assholes, when they don't actually care what you have to say and leave you no space.

But the poster was talking about her upbringing, and we do this — or something like this — pretty routinely to children.

I was listening to a podcast the other day that had an aside on interruptions at the Supreme Court. It’s forbidden to interrupt a judge, but guess which kind of of judge gets interrupted more.

I get that sometimes thought-finisher interruptions are sometimes coming from a place of comity, but they can also come from a place of ownership of the idea, of wanting the privilege of being the one to articulate it. Like how the guy who funds the research always gets to be senior author, no matter whether he did any of the work, or even read the paper.
posted by eirias at 3:25 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I happily babble at the same time as my extrovert friends with a lot of talking over each other and it's great and beautiful, but with introverted friends I consciously need to leave these (agonizingly long to me) pauses in the conversation to make sure they get a chance to speak.

Being extroverted may increase the likelihood that one enjoys this conversational style, but I am most definitely not an extrovert and I enjoy situations where we're all talking excitedly at each other about ideas and the conversation just gels. That said, even positive exchanges if this sort probably take more energy out of me than they might take out of your average extrovert, and for me, when I don't have any shared context with someone, don't perceive any genuine interest in or affinity for my ideas or my side of the conversation, or just get talked over the whole time, yeah, that's well and truly exhausting.
posted by limeonaire at 3:31 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I also feel like goodwill and genuine interest beat shared context for creating pleasant and engaging conversational conditions. I love meeting people who are very different than I am and learning about their lives, and we don't have to have the same background or anything to connect if we can find points of commonality in our disparate experiences. Those conversations are perhaps even more powerful when everyone involved can be open and listen to each other and connect, even if the conversational style ends up being breathlessly excited church of interruption.
posted by limeonaire at 3:35 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I’m from Georgia and grew up acculturated to speak slowly, taking turns. I’m also more contemplative and introverted, which amplifies this effect. And I’ve honed it over decades as a professor explaining complex issues to students — many of whom are ESL — who benefit from slower communication and clear turn-taking.

My ex was from Chicago, and grew up acculturated to talking quickly and interrupting. He was an extrovert, amplifying the effect. And he was a physician, in which career he had honed the skill of rapid-fire reports and quick communication among other health care providers (including interrupting nurses when he felt he needed to do so).

In our first year together, it was almost impossible to have a conversation with him without some significant level of frustration involved. Talking with him on the phone was maddening. Over time, we both modulated, but the frustration never went away.

I recall one evening over dinner with his family, they had gone on a verbal jag about the university I went to as an undergrad, not realizing I was an alumnus. For over thirty minutes, I tried to interject, but there was literally no break in the conversation. At all. The family just transitioned from one speaker to another by interruption, with turn taking occurring via overlapping speakers.

It was like being shelled with artillery.

I spent half an hour giving all of the cues that I wanted to speak: the briefly uttered first sound of my sentence, the raised eyebrows and slightly open mouth, while slightly raising my index finger. These are cues that many Southerners would not normally need to use in conversation, but are reserved for boundary cases when dealing with someone who WON’T STOP TALKING.

Finally, the family seemed to exhaust their vitriol over said university and there was a pause in the bombardment for just long enough for me to say, “I went there.” The family exploded in embarrassed laughter and recriminations: “Why didn’t you say anything!?” I just shrugged.
posted by darkstar at 3:39 AM on June 11 [19 favorites]


It does not matter which conversational style you use.

What's important is that you are told that yours is the wrong one.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:52 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I'm very frustrated by the way the naming of these two churches declares that the slow-talking non-overlapping dialect people are the good guys.

Ask vs Guess has this wonderful quality where you can see that even the other side makes some sense and they're probably just good people who communicate differently. It's not really a judgmental dichotomy. Interruption vs "CIVILITY" is way more judgmental a framing!

And seriously, many people here have pointed out that New Yorkers and especially New York Jews tend to have an overlapping dialect and conversational patterns that bounce around quickly. This is my happy place. We have great energy, we're really engaged in the conversation, and being able to play along shows attention and caring in my world. It's not inherently the worse communication pattern, thankyouverymuch.

I find it very hard to deal with people who speak slowly and want to really finish driving their point into the ground, at length, interminably, repetitively, each syllable a work of art to be gloried and appreciated in its entirety before we move onto the next. But hey, when I encounter them, I try to be patient, because we're all different and it's still nice to try to get along, sure. And I hope that they in turn try to be patient with me, because going too long without responding feels rude to me, like I'm displaying boredom and lack of interest in their topic by not interrupting to move the conversation along.
posted by 168 at 5:08 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


Plus, it’s kind of funny that the Interrupting New Yorker who is new in town has no idea we all agree they’re an asshole.

Who is new in town is the operative phrase for some of us. Then, carpetbagger is a word that comes to mind. Which denotes the immigrants who created the Stranger as far as I am concerned.
posted by y2karl at 5:47 AM on June 11


168, I agree with you that people are different and one communication style isn’t more right than another.

I was also struck by the way you characterize folks who don’t follow your style as those who “want to really finish driving their point into the ground, at length, interminably, repetitively, each syllable a work of art to be gloried and appreciated in its entirety before we move onto the next.” That sounds like a negative characterization.

Which, honestly, is something I do. I find it exhausting and frustrating to speak with people who differ greatly with my communication style. As I noted above, being in a group of interrupters feels like being under siege. And that leads to negative connotations, despite the fact that intellectually I acknowledge that one style is not inherently better than the other.

I’m much more comfortable writing, and love being able to communicate by text online. No one is going to interrupt this sentence before I finish it, and folks can read it as fast or as slowly as they want, or even skip it, if they aren’t interested in the glorious art of each, interminable syllable. :)
posted by darkstar at 6:10 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


I'm a Meek, I guess. But I was always taught that to be polite in conversation don't interrupt unless there is a very good reason, like the person is about ti make a really bad error or there is a life-threatening emergency.

Years ago, I almost quit a TTRPG group due to a Barker. People would be RPing and he'd jump in, or someone would finish a sentence and he would almost invariably not let anyone else start anything (like, say, a sentence) and jump in with his commentary.

Then I slammed closed my laptop, grabbed my bag, stuffed it in and stood up.

He asked what my problem was and I waited ten seconds then said, "Apparently you can handle it without me, so I'm going home." (I don't drive. I'd have to take a cab or two buses to do this.) It got the point across.
posted by mephron at 6:23 AM on June 11


Well, here when we're typing things out, we routinely get to complete our thoughts. Imagine if on Metafilter people would delete the end of other people's comments that they deemed unnecessary.
posted by RobotHero at 6:24 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


darkstar: <3 for your every syllable. That was me getting defensive about all the negative characterizations I've been reading about my style, and trying to show how it can feel from the other side. You have great syllables! And in writing, I can read them at any speed I want =D
posted by 168 at 6:30 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Ask vs Guess has this wonderful quality where you can see that even the other side makes some sense and they're probably just good people who communicate differently. It's not really a judgmental dichotomy. Interruption vs "CIVILITY" is way more judgmental a framing!


As a programmer I can't help but think of the dichotomy as "pre-emptive" versus "cooperative", as in types of multitasking. (Which I guess still sounds kind of judgy, but it's not something that should really be thought of as one being strictly better than another; there are tradeoffs).

Pre-emptive multitasking means you get interrupted whenever; there's no telling and if you're on a multi-core system you can have things executing literally at the same time. Cooperative multitasking means each task explicitly yields the floor when they've finished a usable chunk of work.
posted by Jpfed at 6:33 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I'm astonished at how many "it's not a church; those people are just assholes" comments there are in this thread

Go back and reread the old Ask vs Guess thread -- lots of the same thing there; even the descriptors are similar: Askers are rude! Guessers are passive aggressive! etc.

I'm not at all surprised by it, and I don't agree that people expressing their frustration are just trolling for favorites. This is a fraught subject, it plays right into a lot of people's childhood experiences of being ignored or disdained or not listened to. It's "just" a difference in conversational style, okay, but its effects are really lopsided in favor of the interrupter; so, yeah, not a shock the interruptee might build up some resentment.

After I made my little joke way upthread about not having been able to finish telling a story for the past couple decades, I had to close the laptop and go be by myself for a little while because I'd unexpectedly given myself the sads. Because, seriously, I have relatives I've known for decades who know basically nothing about me, because they're seemingly incapable of sitting through a half-sentence before wrenching the subject around to something else. And that, y'know, kind of sucks. I'm sure they think I'm dull as dishwater, but from my point of view that's because they won't shut the fuck up long enough to find out otherwise. I'm not a monologuist -- in verbal communication I'm terse to a fault -- but it takes me some time to translate thought into syllables; it's literally not possible for me to keep up with their conversational pace. Believe me, I've tried.

This is my happy place. We have great energy, we're really engaged in the conversation, and being able to play along shows attention and caring in my world. It's not inherently the worse communication pattern, thankyouverymuch.

I have a lot of time at holiday dinners to quietly observe my in-laws' freewheeling, energetic, new york jewish conversations. (I glossed over the jewish part earlier, because I didn't think it was relevant, but apparently it's relevant.) I've watched them spend ten minutes talking over each other so much that they never realized they were each speaking on completely different subjects. Like, repeatedly. That doesn't look like "attention and caring" to me. I mean, that sort of conversation fills the hours, and I'm glad you enjoy it -- and I get that information exchange isn't the sole purpose of conversation. But looking at it just as a tool for information exchange, it kind of does look inherently worse from here. Finishing somebody's sentence for them doesn't feel like "moving the conversation along", it feels like attempted mind reading and robbing that person of agency. Choosing to ignore obvious "I'd like to speak now" cues as in darkstar's story above is very difficult for me to see as anything but plain rudeness. And interpreting a pause for thought as "every syllable a work of art to be gloried and appreciated in its entirety before we move onto the next"... well, that's an image that's certain to haunt me next time I consider trying to participate, so thankyouverymuch for that.
posted by ook at 6:40 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]


So, yeah, I guess I have Strong Feelings on this issue. Sorry about that. FWIW I've evolved from "interruptions are inherently rude" to "certain types of interruption are inherently rude," but, yeah, that's as far as I'll go on that one.
posted by ook at 6:49 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


East Coast half-Jewish woman, recovering interrupter, extreme introvert, if anyone's doing tallies here. It's been a challenge in recent years, as a loved one has had some significant medical challenges that interfered with their cognitive abilities, rewriting the rhythms of our conversations. I flat-out can't talk with this person the way I used to anymore; they need time and space for slower processing and their pauses for thought read to me as pauses in the conversational flow. It's been difficult to adjust to but ultimately probably it's good for me to learn to slow the hell down and make room for other ways of conversing in my life. I'm pretty sure I would still read as a monster in California but I'm trying, damn it.

That said, even before this cognitive shift, they had long since told me they would probably never actually participate in a conversation among me, my mother, and my sister, because when we're together we inadvertently go Full Gilmore Girls and leave basically no breathing room for anyone else to jump into the conversation. So I started paying attention to that and yup, I see it now. The pace that the three of us find on our own still feels natural and comfortable and loving and like family to me, but I work harder now to make sure I invite others into those conversations and do what I can to make spaces for them to participate.
posted by Stacey at 6:54 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I am a member in good standing of the Church Of Interruption. I have had to learn how to communicate with non-believers - it's hard work to wait patiently for someone to finish their conversation, especially if this heretic is someone who tends to repeat themselves and otherwise be slow to get to the point already, for crying out loud. But non-members of my church find it intolerably rude if someone interrupts them before they have finished, even if they are communicating slowly; I have learned this the hard way.

This is a subset of a more general problem: different people have different ways of understanding information, processing information, and understanding the world in general. I've sometimes found it difficult to understand people who are significantly different from me, though I've gotten better at it over time. (The concept of Myers-Briggs personality types, though an oversimplification, has helped me grasp this.)

The Golden Rule ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you") is not sufficient - we need the Platinum Rule ("do unto others as they would prefer to be done unto").
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:01 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


One of the most life changing books I read as a young adult was Black and White Styles in Conflict.

It has a lot to say about differing communication styles between white and African American people, and it opened my brain to thinking broadly about how we all are taught to communicate, what our styles accidentally mean to each other.

I couldn't find too many quotes from the book online and unfortunately I don't have it, but one thing it argues is that interrupting has a vastly different meaning in black culture and white culture (at least in the specific communities studied for this book). In brief, white culture values turn taking more, where black culture values the most important statement more. If you have something important to say, that trumps the value of turn taking.

Realizing that these things are culture-bound values, not just universal truths, really was a valuable insight to life.
posted by latkes at 7:03 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


ook, I think we can meet in the middle here. I absolutely agree that certain types of interruptions are rude, and if your in-laws are talking past each other to that level, that's different from the interrupting-but-paying-attention conversations I love so much. I'm sorry you have to go through that and that it's been so hard for you!

I also want to make one other point, though. It really jumped out at me that people are often identifying this as a New York Jew thing. It's true, we have what linguists have described as a "cooperative overlapping" dialect. And I'm really uncomfortable with this big thread of people telling me that my dialect is bad. It feels othering, it feels anti-semitic, and it's bugging the hell outta me.
posted by 168 at 7:08 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


My mother is COI. This is an average daily conversation:
Me: Hey Ma, how was your day?
Mom: Good, everything was so lovely. How was yours?
Me: Not bad, had a good discussion with coworker about...
Mom: Addie (her dog) met a new Lab down the street and they just played and played. She's such a good dog every always says so. She's is the best dog in the whole wide world.
Me: Cool, we took Lola (our dog) to the dog...
Mom: And the neighbor kids came over and they played with the dog and she is just so nice to them and they are great kids.
Me:...
Mom: (continued narration of her day.)
Me:...
Mom: So anyway, I feel like you never talk to me. Seriously, what was up with your day?
Me: ... Oh! Um, work stuff? Happened?
Mom: When I was working, I always had such blah blah blah.


She finishes sentences, talks over you, and randomly changes the subject at any given moment. It is the primary reason why I detest talking to my mother. Every conversation feels like an act of aggression and exhaustion.
posted by teleri025 at 7:11 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


She finishes sentences, talks over you, and randomly changes the subject at any given moment. It is the primary reason why I detest talking to my mother. Every conversation feels like an act of aggression and exhaustion.

I think that's just plain self-absorption, not CoI behaviour. A more polite member of the CoI would listen intently to what you were saying, and then interrupt to add to it, instead of interrupting to start an entirely new conversational thread. But even this is considered rude by many people; it depends on what conversational style is considered normal.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:17 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I think we can all agree that the Church of Never Actually Listens is the worst, and interrupting people just to talk about yourself instead is rude. I don't think that sort of blatantly self-absorbed behaviour is what people mean at all when they talk about cultural interrupting.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:21 AM on June 11 [19 favorites]


One confounding factor here, I think, is that there is a frequent comorbidity with each of the communication styles.

Interrupting is often comorbid with self-absorption and disrespect by not allowing the interlocutor to speak, via shutting them down prematurely.

NOT interrupting is often comorbid with self-absorption and disrespect by not allowing the interlocutor to speak, via requiring them to remain politely silent while you ramble on.

Neither interrupting nor not-interrupting are inherently bad. Both can be modes of showing mutual respect and engagement. But because they both are often misused by people to disrespect their interlocutors, they have these negative associations with them. So that whichever way you are acculturated to communicate, the other way is easy to demonize, when it may simply just feel uncomfortably counter-cultural.
posted by darkstar at 7:26 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


It really jumped out at me that people are often identifying this as a New York Jew thing

Especially because it really is a New York thing. And a New Jersey thing. Really, it’s a New Amsterdam thing, and I think is explained by the same forces that shape Ask vs Guess culture — with large, diverse populations, and with large extended immigrant families in small spaces and many of those families in dense neighborhoods, it is absolutely more efficient to check to see that you’re understanding each other frequently, because then you catch errors sooner. I’m pretty sure we here in New Amsterdam have more in common with other coastal commerce-based mega cities across the world than we do with people in Ohio. Different environments breed different communication styles, and that’s fine.

But Jesus Christ stop calling it Jewish. And maybe think about why you’re characterizing it that way, especially if you’ve ever seen a large Irish-American or Italian-American from New Amsterdam interact. Like, even on TV. Come on.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:30 AM on June 11 [8 favorites]


But the poster was talking about her upbringing, and we do this — or something like this — pretty routinely to children.

This is what I meant about how these things impact people without power: Interrupters will interrupt those they perceive as lower-ranking more. But switching to enforced turn-taking does not stop there being negative consequences if you participate in conversation more than the other party thinks you should be participating. "Children should be seen but not heard" is essentially this problem's opposite number, where in a more oppressive setting, a strong-civility conversational structure will just plain punish some people for talking at all. But it isn't inherently oppressive, either. It just depends on who's in the position of power more than it depends on how they talk.
posted by Sequence at 7:32 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I'm really uncomfortable with this big thread of people telling me that my dialect is bad. It feels othering, it feels anti-semitic, and it's bugging the hell outta me.

I totally hear you and share that discomfort; it's exactly why I left the "jewish" part out of my description at first, and I probably shouldn't have brought it up at all. Mea culpa.

Family dinners are where I find this most problematic, because it's where I'm most often exposed to this sort of thing -- but I do run into it a lot, especially ever since I moved east. I don't think it's because my in-laws are uniquely bad at communicating, and I certainly don't think it's specifically because they're Jewish; if I had to rank the factors that lead to it it'd probably go something like "big family" > "east coast" > "city dwellers" > [many other factors] > NYC > any specific culture/religion.

I really like jpfed's preemptive vs cooperative multitasking analogy as a way to differentiate between the "bad" kind of interrupting and the merely "difficult for outsiders to cope with" kind.
posted by ook at 7:34 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I think CoI is supposed to be more like:
A: so we took our dog Lola to the dog park...
B: oh, Lola! Did the vet say it was ok with her stitches?
A: yeah they've been taken out, she has the all clear
B: so you went to the dog park?
B yeah we went to the dog park, and there was this little chihuaua that Lola just hates for some reason...
A: ha! You and me both Lola
B: ...so she completely refused to go in and we had to go to that tiny park instead...
A: the one by the bakery?
B: no the one near the river, so...
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:36 AM on June 11 [52 favorites]


COI here. German, if that matters. My conversation attempts with native Californians make so much more sense now...i have had to stock up on vaguely positive/affirming interjections (‘oh, interesting!’ - ‘really!’ - ‘that’s awesome!’) so they don’t feel like they’re being aggressively interrupted, while I keep my sanity. I just cannot listen, mouth shut, for minutes, without my mind trailing off.

I relish conversations with fellow interrupters and experience being interrupted as positive attention, for the most part. Even from men.
posted by The Toad at 7:45 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


This also reminds me of the differences between queuing and non-queuing cultures.

As a cultural queuer, when I lived overseas in a non-queuing country, it was maddeningly frustrating that my “turn” to be served was interrupted by a new arrival, and I often felt disrespected in those early years, until I just learned to be more assertive and push my way to the counter for service.

But I can well imagine that for someone acculturated as a non-queuer to then visit a queuing context, the social opprobrium for jumping a queue and not waiting for their “turn” would feel similarly frustrating and disrespecting.

Ah, culture!
posted by darkstar at 7:48 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


One thing I was thinking of is that in both styles there are some really delicate nuances that often aren't understood. So for example, in CoI, what I will call the "double interruption" is key - it signals 'this is important, I need more time'.

So how I would interpret something like this is:
Me: Hey Ma, how was your day? [neutral question to start conversation]

Mom: Good, everything was so lovely. How was yours? [neutral return question to start conversation]

Me: Not bad, had a good discussion with coworker about... [starting conversation with a gambit]

Mom: Addie (her dog) met a new Lab down the street and they just played and played. She's such a good dog every always says so. She's is the best dog in the whole wide world. [Wants to talk about her dog]

Me: Cool, we took Lola (our dog) to the dog... [Okay, we're talking about dogs now]

Mom: And the neighbor kids came over and they played with the dog and she is just so nice to them and they are great kids. [No, I really want to talk about how great my dog is. I'm still feeling strongly about my dog, the last person I talked to said my dog sucked. Kid changed subject so clearly her thing isn't Important to her]

Me:... [oh god is this how it's going to be fine fuck this]

Mom: (continued narration of her day.) [whew, now I've gotten the dog thing out. Chat chat, better fill up the space, Kid isn't talking much.]

Me:... [god fuck this]

Mom: So anyway, I feel like you never talk to me. Seriously, what was up with your day? [I have been holding this conversation afloat for half an hour, didn't you care about anything?]
One of the main problems when these conversational styles switch is that people aren't really native in it, so they think 'okay, I can interrupt, I'll try this', but they're not understanding when a subject is Strong Importance and when it is Weak Importance, because the nature of the interruptions themselves is key to how the person feels about it. Returning to your own thing and basically not following the tangent of the interruption is saying essentially 'no, this is really important to me' - going with the interruption is essentially saying 'we're just chatting here'. And so someone who isn't used to Interruption will be interrupting on things related to the first person's statements, rather than interjecting their own threads into the conversation, and will get frustrated because they think they're never getting a chance to contribute. But meanwhile the other person will think they just are spitballing.
posted by corb at 8:01 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


I mean, interrupting is a more accepted and common communication style in Jewish cultures than in non Jewish cultures. Do all Jewish people interrupt? Obviously no. But we, speaking broadly, are more comfortable with interrupting, over talking and finishing each other's sentences. That's only an anti Semitic idea if we think interrupting is wrong or bad.
posted by latkes at 8:05 AM on June 11


> "I think CoI is supposed to be more like:"

Oddly enough, non-CoI is ideally supposed to more like:

A: So, we took our dog Lola to the dog park.
B: Oh, Lola! Did the vet say it was ok with her stitches?
A: Yeah, they've been taken out, she has the all clear.
B: So you went to the dog park?
A: Yeah, we went to the dog park, and there was this little chihuaua that Lola just hates for some reason.
B: Ha! You and me both Lola.
A: So she completely refused to go in and we had to go to that tiny park instead.
B: The one by the bakery?
A: No, the one near the river.

Note that the only difference between yours and this one is periods vs. ellipses.

The failure mode of both conversational styles seems to be one person talking interminably while the other one glares in frustration.

So ... maybe people should just make sure that isn't happening?
posted by kyrademon at 8:08 AM on June 11 [8 favorites]


I read an article years ago about methods of teaching reading to kids from different cultures. Asking individual kids to read aloud by themselves apparently does not work well in some cultures that are more cooperative than competitive and teachers in the former should instead allow for the so-called "interruptors" to join in. The interruptions are a form of sharing.
posted by mareli at 8:13 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Well this has gone a long way to help me put a finger on one of the reasons that this Seattle native felt instantly at home in New York in a way she never had on the West coast.

Fighting the interrupting bug is hard. Even when I've really, really tried - using techniques like jotting down a would-be interjection rather than sharing it - I've gotten feedback like "it seems like you're not listening, you're waiting to speak." And I'm not proud of it, but sometimes, that's true. And yet I have a lot of interest in what other people have to say, I promise, and I get a lot out of what they share. I find it very hard to explain and very hard to combat.
posted by mosst at 8:13 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I specifically mentioned that my family and my husband's family are Jewish and have these communication styles because it goes along with what Deborah Tannen had covered in her research, and I thought that was interesting. Because while I'm technically Jewish but wasn't raised Jewish, nor were my mother and her sisters, and while we all live in the Midwest now, far from the family's origins in New York and Chicago, we all have these culturally Jewish and cosmopolitan communication styles that probably partly explain why talking to my husband felt familiar somehow when we met. But then I can code-switch into more Southern turn-taking, church of civility–style, 'cause St. Louis. So I mean, I'm Jewish enough to have had a Jewish wedding, and I'm claiming the identity and the communication style for myself as much as I'm pointing at anyone else, but I think I can discuss it in an abstract manner. We should all probably be careful how we phrase this stuff, though.
posted by limeonaire at 8:18 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


kyrademon, I know from my perspective that if non-interrupting people want me to take turns, that switching after a sentence or so would be substantially easier, but I don't think that's really very standard. It's more like a paragraph and then I'm supposed to guess where in there the pause means "your turn but I'm going to continue if you don't say something here" and where it is just the end of a sentence. I definitely think that inter-style conversations benefit a lot from an increased level of expected back-and-forth.
posted by Sequence at 8:24 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I’d say there’s a difference between an interjection and an interruption. If you’re vocally adding color commentary to what another person is saying, that is an interjection but you’re not taking the other person off their point. If you interject with an entirely new topic, or change the subject from what the other person is talking about to what you want to talk about, even if it’s related, that’s an interruption. If someone is talking about taking their dog to the dog park and you say, “The one by the bakery?” you’re not taking them off their point. If you break in to tell a story about your dog, you’re taking them off their point.

Don’t break into someone’s story to tell your own story. That’s rude, whether you’re CoI or not. Wait until they finish their story and then tell your story. If you must, interject with, “I have a funny story about my dog after you tell me your story,” and then everyone knows that there will be another story coming up and that someone is waiting to speak.

And yes, I think that everyone, be they Jewish or from New York or from Seattle or ADD, can figure out that if they’ve been talking for 5 minutes straight (or 10, or 20) that it’s someone else’s turn to talk now and let someone else have the floor. People need to get better at recognizing and controlling their own impulses.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:28 AM on June 11 [12 favorites]


> "Mom: (continued narration of her day.) [whew, now I've gotten the dog thing out. Chat chat, better fill up the space, Kid isn't talking much.]"

This is where I lose sympathy with your mom.
posted by kyrademon at 8:31 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


> "I'm supposed to guess where in there the pause means 'your turn but I'm going to continue if you don't say something here'"

That is the failure mode of non-CoI, yes.

The failure mode of CoI is ... pretty much the exact same thing, in every functional way.

I hate it, too, in both cases.
posted by kyrademon at 8:34 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


And yes, I think that everyone, be they Jewish or from New York or from Seattle or ADD, can figure out that if they’ve been talking for 5 minutes straight (or 10, or 20) that it’s someone else’s turn to talk now and let someone else have the floor. People need to get better at recognizing and controlling their own impulses.

People seem to be ascribing this to CoI, but I've experienced the same thing from CoC people who just talk over people who are attempting to join the conversation. It's not a conversational style thing as much as it's just disrespectful.

(Also I was pretty much with you until the end, but let's maybe not tell people with ADHD that if they really cared they would be better at inhibiting their impulses.)
posted by en forme de poire at 9:07 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Who the hell called it 'Church of Civility' and not WASP Waits?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:11 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


@ssmith

Your talking stick reminded me of a conversation I overheard once while working as a temp for Perot Systems. A manager was instructing an (ESL) employee, and there was clearly growing frustration in her voice. The back and forth was just not getting anywhere.

Finally, she said:
Stop. Rewind. Record.
posted by xtian at 9:17 AM on June 11


I love you all for interpreting my conversations with my mom.

Me:... [oh god is this how it's going to be fine fuck this]

You are not wrong at all.
posted by teleri025 at 9:38 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


darkstar: I spent half an hour giving all of the cues that I wanted to speak: the briefly uttered first sound of my sentence, the raised eyebrows and slightly open mouth, while slightly raising my index finger.

And ha, yes, this is exactly me. I mentioned about raising my hand, it's basically finding something harder to ignore. Though it feels formal in a way that makes sense at work but wouldn't in a social context. I also end up doing a lot of, "So you mentioned such and such ..." because so much time has elapsed since the thing I wanted to comment on I need to remind them what I'm commenting to.
posted by RobotHero at 9:40 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


COI here. NYC Jew, and only child. Spouse same. We're so ridiculous that our conversations sometimes devolve into the absurdity of one of us performing an entire conversation alone in front of the other one, dropping in the other person's responses because we're so sure what they will be. And we're right!
posted by millipede at 9:42 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I can't say one is better than the other, and I certainly interrupt from time to time, but in my experience interrupters and barkers rarely include this One Weird Trick in any of their sentences: a question mark.
posted by rhizome at 10:19 AM on June 11


So my partner and I just had an interaction that highlighted to me the issue of finishing other people's sentences.

Partner: I accidentally let a bunch of crickets loose in the work room.
Me: Oh no! What happened?
Partner: Well, I have to get crickets into all the animals' cages [pause]
Me: But they're very jumpy?
Partner: [nodding] They're very jumpy.

To someone from the CoC, my interruption was intolerably rude as I was taking over the conversation and denying my partner agency. The pause I jumped in at was clearly just a comma, and there was more to come that I robbed my partner of saying, and even if I my guess was correct, it was still rude take over like that. But to my partner and I, who are both CoI, the pause was either a comma, or an invitation to jump in. If I didn't jump in, they would have continued the sentence. But jumping in showed that I was engaged in the conversation way more than waiting until the end of the sentence, because it means I am listening and thinking about what they were saying intently enough to follow the sentence to its logical conclusion. To someone from the CoI this shows much more engagement than an "Oh, I see!" or "That must have been a mess!" at the end of the sentence (not that those are bad responses, just not as high a level as engagement, to an interrupter).

This is actually dependent on really concentrated listening and observation, which is why I tend to mostly do this with people I'm close to and share a lot of contexts with, since I am likely to have enough information to correctly discern the end of their sentence. My partner does this as well, and the majority of our conversations go this way! Sometimes we are incorrect, but at that point the original speaker says, "No, actually..." and the other person then lets them finish. But often even if the original attempt was incorrect, it brings something interesting to the discussion and we'll often go back to that point later.

For example, in telling my partner about this article, I was saying, "I was reading this article about how some people are interrupters and others feel every sentence needs to be finished, but--" and they tried to finish with "There's actually studies showing it's heavily dependent on culture and geographic location?" because they had read some scientific articles about that before. I said, "Well no, this was an opinion piece..." and continued to describe it, but then came back to the studies later because that was interesting, and they then talked about that.

That is usually how our interjections go--either it is correct and we continue with it, or it is incorrect and we say "no, actually..." and then finish our original thought, before going back to the interjections later. In situations where we aren't finishing each other's sentences, but interrupting with something related, it's the same way: either we both agree we don't need to say more on the topic at hand and go down that tangent, or one of us says "yeah, but about x..." and finishes our thought, before later returning to the interruption. I think this gets at the non-linear style of conversation we have: rather than going topic by topic one at a time, we pop up topics as soon as we think of them but don't always continue them immediately; often we'll just note the new topic but finish the new one, and then switch to the new one later. I think there a couple social rules at play here that make it work, but that people who aren't used to this conversational style aren't familiar with and are therefore frustrated by this style:

1) It is always acceptable to break off an interruption with "no, actually..." and then you can finish your original thought without being interrupted again.
2) An interruption is not signaling that you need to switch to this new topic, merely a potential new topic that we can come to later in the discussion.
3) If you don't want to switch to the new topic, interrupt the interruption to return to the new one. This is where I think a lot of people have trouble; their instinct (understandably so!) is to just stop talking and assume the other person doesn't want to hear what they have to say. When in reality the person may be expecting you to interrupt them right back.

I don't know if this is necessarily true for the CoI as a whole, but it's definitely a dynamic I've seen play out in conversations with other people with ADHD in particular. Which makes absolute sense in the context of how an ADHD brain works, but I'm not sure if it applies to neurotypical interrupters? And obviously anyone can break these social rules, and people who want to dominate the conversation absolutely will, whether they're interrupters or not. I've kind of lost my train of thought... quick, someone interrupt me with a new topic!
posted by brook horse at 10:35 AM on June 11 [20 favorites]


rhizome, I consider a question mark to be essential to finishing sentences. I can definitely see how finishing a sentence with unbridled confidence that you're correct (whether you are or not) could be very frustrating.
posted by brook horse at 10:36 AM on June 11


you are treating this cricket situation far more casually than i would be but i celebrate our differences
posted by poffin boffin at 10:42 AM on June 11 [19 favorites]


in my experience interrupters and barkers rarely include this One Weird Trick in any of their sentences: a question mark.

I've definitely encountered this sort of thing which is kind of tiring and rude but ostensibly Showing Interest By Asking Questions:

A: so we were walking our dog and ...
B: Oh, wow! What kind of dog is it?
A: Well, we don't have a pedigree or anything but ...
B: Where did you get her?
A: We got her from this no-kill shelter on ...
B: Wow, that's great! What do you do when you go on vacation?
A: Well we haven't been on a ...
B: Oh, when's the last time you were on vacation?
posted by RobotHero at 10:46 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


To stick with the religious metaphor & parallels, in African-American churches, I suspect if the congregation isn't regularly 'interrupting' with "Amen" the pastor thinks they aren't really listening to or appreciating the sermon...
posted by PhineasGage at 11:04 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Interrupting is one thing but automatically refuting every statement is another. I used to see a brother only on Christmas dinner with the parents who automatically said "I am sure you are wrong..." to any statement I made. No matter how mild and innocuous, it was.

Until I finally blew up on a ferry ride back from Bremerton and just screamed at him "I am always wrong !!! I am so fucking tired of this refute everything I say shit you pull -- just how sick are you to do this every time I say anything ? What kind of robot are you ?... etc" -- oh, I was on a tear.

He, of course, went into this "Oh, I am so ashamed that I wish I was dead..." routine that made it instantly all about him. Which I let slide because what are you going to do ? It is family shit.

So, he stopped. And the folks moved to Colorado, so I ended up going to his house for Christmas. And his wife took over the refutorizing ! To the point that he would actually say, "No, he is right..." now and then.

As for interrupting, they wouldn't let me finish a sentence much of the time. If not that, then straight to the non sequitur as if I had never said a word. But like I said, that's family shit. My folks did the same thing. And I know plenty of people who got and get the same treatment from their kin.

And when they moved out of town, I spent Christmas with my cat. Which was wonderful. One friend or another would try to invite me over for the holidays when they saw their folks but I always took a pass.

But I would go bowling with them at Imperial Lanes after they came home. Christmas and New Year's Days were the best times to bowl.

Until Imperial Lanes closed, that is.
posted by y2karl at 11:23 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


In other words, plain old interrupting is nothing to me. I always finish what I say, anyway.
posted by y2karl at 11:26 AM on June 11


I liked this explanation of conversational differences in part because I could immediately see my husband and myself in them. We're both introverted Seattleites, but I'm CoI and he's CoC. When it's just the two of us, we're pretty good. He's learned to jump in a little more and I leave a little more space for him to answer, but it gets difficult when more family is around. The worst is when our daughter and my mom are both there, because we all get excited and jump in even faster. And if I try to manage some pauses for him to jump in, someone else takes it first. If I can tell he really wants to say something, I'll actually say something formally turning the floor over to him, like, "Matt, you were trying to say..."

My mom is a white Quaker from Michigan, so I'm not sure how we ended up with this culturally.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:35 AM on June 11


Partner: I accidentally let a bunch of crickets loose in the work room.
Me: Oh no! What happened?
Partner: Well, I have to get crickets into all the animals' cages [pause]
Me: But they're very jumpy?
Partner: [nodding] They're very jumpy.


This is a perfect example of what not to do to a non-interrupter. You literally stole the climax, the punchline, the point of the whole story. And passive-aggressively called him an idiot, to boot. Dear lord, the unforgivable transgressions!

That said, there is actually no interruption here. “I accidentally let a bunch of crickets loose in the work room” is the answer to the question that followed. “Oh no! What happened?” He literally just told you. That’s another thing that bothers me about interrupters. Not everything has to be a drawn out conversation, y’know? Sometimes people are just conveying information.

That is usually how our interjections go--either it is correct and we continue with it, or it is incorrect and we say "no, actually..." and then finish our original thought, before going back to the interjections later.

But... Let’s break this down logically. If the interjection is correct, it’s either redundant (they were just about to say it themselves) or irrelevant (they weren’t going to say it because it doesn’t matter). If it’s incorrect, it’s just a waste of everyone’s time. Either way, you’re just throwing down obstacles that must be jumped over every two seconds, and for what? Even in an interrupting culture, that’s got to be exhausting. I really don’t know how y’all can even.

(Also, every description of ADHD in this thread is completely off-base IME. Could you interrupting ADHD folks maybe find an excuse that doesn’t stigmatize the rest of us? The cultural one seems perfectly adequate. FWIW, my ADHD prefers conversation that is direct and to the point, because the less said, the less there is to have to struggle to focus on. Having my train of thought deliberately derailed over and over and over again is the worst.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:35 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


This is a perfect example of what not to do to a non-interrupter. You literally stole the climax, the punchline, the point of the whole story.

This is the weirdest part about the CoC thing to me. It’s like viewing conversations as competitive performances, where the point is to be awesome or funny or whatever on your own and be appreciated by your audience.

The CoI interpretation of this is that it’s way more fun to collaborate and get there together — you share the stage, and everyone gets to join in building something great.

Conversations where you don’t do that just feel like weird alternating performances were no one actually connects. They feel hugely alienating and isolating.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:40 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


And also, most people just aren’t that entertaining or interesting on their own. Like writers rooms are a thing for a reason. The vast majority of the time a group of people working together comes up with something better. So those turn taking conversations... like you want me to a do a golf clap after you’ve had the spotlight on your own for however long, boring everybody else?

It just seems so high maintenance. Get in there and work with other people. You come up with better material that way.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:44 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


If this turns into an improv vs. sketch fight I'm going to have to switch sides.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:49 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


So those turn taking conversations... like you want me to a do a golf clap after you’ve had the spotlight on your own for however long, boring everybody else?

Wait literally just fifteen seconds before jumping in. Like, for example, the fifteen seconds it would have taken you to read a few more sentences of my comment, to the parts where I said things that don’t need to be drawn out shouldn’t, and that being brief and to the point is a good thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:50 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


CoC conversations aren't at all like horrible poetry jams, though? Like, people who more often* take turns talking don't shun genuine human connection and collaboration. We in fact build a shared vocabulary and context, just like you! One might feel it's like pulling teeth to let someone say three clauses in a row, but that doesn't mean it's at all adversarial.

*most people aren't 100% on one side or the other, context, code switching, etc.
posted by The Gaffer at 11:50 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


It’s almost like you stopped reading my comment two sentences in.

No, I read the whole thing, including the part where it seems like most of your opinions on this stem from how it affects your particular manifestation of ADHD. Which I actually relate too, quite a bit, in my own way (auditory and sensory processing issues fucking suck), but which is also why I find it kind of self-absorbed.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:53 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Yes, I agree. It's been pointed out before, but the framing of the article presenting this as if it's a 100% thing that is immutable in the individual and not subject to context is really, really bad. It may seem like a small nuance when the rest of the article generally describes conversational styles well, but that small nuance is where a lot of friction comes in, so it's important to present it accurately instead of pretending like it doesn't exist.
posted by codacorolla at 11:53 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Sorry for linking this to Jewishness. I didn't mean to imply that it's only a Jewish thing. But I mean, my family is NY Jew, so -

I'll interrupt my own sentence to point out that I also sort of expect people to finish my sentences a lot of the time, because sometimes the thought ends before the conclusion of the clause. it's like...

People who talk like me, have you ever noticed that some people get really confused when you keep trailing off all the time? I just realized that it's probably because of all these cultural/dialectical differences, which is sort of hilarious to think about. The other person is left standing there waiting for me to finish my sentence, while I'm suddenly thrown for a loop when they don't say anything.

Conversation that would probably be very natural for me:
Me: Well it's not just about getting enough vegetables, there's also...
You: Right, but you can't say they're not important.
Me: Of course they are! It's just...
You: Yeah, but I think you're understating how important diet is.

Conversation that would make me seem like a space cadet:
Me: Well it's not just about getting enough vegetables, there's also...
You: [waits]
You: There's also what?
Me: Uhhh...

Now that I've typed this out, I'm looking forward to reading something along the lines of "well, if you can't be bothered to finish your thoughts..." I feel like we're making a lot of this more personal, and with much higher stakes, than it really needs to be. The important thing is that in a totally text-based format where interruptions don't really happen, we still manage to keep talking past each other.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:56 AM on June 11 [14 favorites]


(Also I was pretty much with you until the end, but let's maybe not tell people with ADHD that if they really cared they would be better at inhibiting their impulses.)

I was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago, and therefore I feel quite comfortable in saying that yes, even people with ADHD need to work on controlling their impulses. It’s not just casual conversation where the inability to let someone speak and the need to metaphorically fly around the room has a pretty significant impact on one’s ability to keep a job and other important and necessary aspects of adult life, and therefore it behooves one with ADHD to emphasize working on those things, not excuse themselves from the necesssity.

Generally speaking I’m getting pretty fucking tired of seeing people use both ADHD and introversion as justification for being rude to other people. Interrupting people, being significantly late to things when someone is waiting, flaking out on plans with no notice...figure out your shit and handle it. Nobody expects perfection, but it’s selfish to just expect people to tolerate it without working on yourself, especially when the detriment inevitably falls on them and not on you.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:58 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I find it kind of self-absorbed.

You don’t seem to understand that getting to talk (briefly!) without interruption comes hand-in-hand with the part where we shut the fuck up and listen, giving someone else the opportunity to do so. Kinda like there’s a mutual respect, rather than a narcissistic need to hear our own voice every two seconds?

It’s telling that a CoI would focus only on the talking side. Apparently that’s all interrupters care about. That, I think, is far more self-absorbed.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


It’s like viewing conversations as competitive performances, where the point is to be awesome or funny or whatever on your own and be appreciated by your audience.

The CoI interpretation of this is that it’s way more fun to collaborate and get there together — you share the stage, and everyone gets to join in building something great.


The worst interrupter I know (from New York, unsurprisingly) gets upset when I accidentally spoil the punchline of an anecdote by jumping in to complete a sentence.

Speaking as an autistic, introverted Californian, I deeply resent it when the person I'm talking to tries to be "more efficient" by guessing how I'm going to finish my sentence. If they get it wrong, I have to take the time to correct them and then try to get my train of thought back on the rails. If they get it right, why should I bother speaking since they clearly already know what I'm going to say?

The idea that those of us who think it's good to allow the other person to finish their thought without speaking over them are somehow engaging in "competitive performances" blows my mind.
posted by Lexica at 12:10 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


This is a perfect example of what not to do to a non-interrupter. You literally stole the climax, the punchline, the point of the whole story. And passive-aggressively called him an idiot, to boot. Dear lord, the unforgivable transgressions!

Well, since they are also CoI, and not a non-interrupter, it was not considered stealing the climax, or passively-aggressively calling them an idiot (??? where does that idea even COME from?); it was a collaborative conversation. I know because we talked about it afterward, in reference to this thread. Also, I remembered incorrectly, and all I said was "Oh no!" and then they continued speaking without me inviting more, and it was clear from their tone that there was more to the sentence. So it was actually an interruption, but a welcome one. I generally try to only do this with people that I know also interact in this way, but most of my family and friend are CoI so it's usually not a problem.

If the interjection is correct, it’s either redundant (they were just about to say it themselves) or irrelevant (they weren’t going to say it because it doesn’t matter).

The point is not to convey more information, it's to express engagement. If you're correct, you've expressed that you have been intently listening and processing what the person is saying, and you are invested in the conversation. It's a form of social signaling. Obviously, to some people it signals something different, and I do my best to determine who views it as a positive social signal and who views it as a negative one, but most of the people in my life view it as a positive.

On the topic of ADHD: completing people's sentences is literally one of the symptoms in the DSM, so it's not off base to talk about it as a symptom of ADHD. I don't think anyone is saying that ADHD is an excuse to be rude, but that it is the natural mode of communication for many (not all!) people with ADHD--and that it's not inherently bad. Both my partner and I have ADHD, and this is our natural method of communication, and when we talk to each other it works beautifully and no one is hurt or offended. We have to adapt our communication styles to people who don't communicate this way, but it's not inherently bad or wrong. Just different.

The whole point is that it shouldn't be stigmatizing that some people naturally communicate this way. It's only a problem when you interact with someone else who does not communicate in that way, and you don't realize that, and therefore don't change your behavior accordingly. Interrupting itself is not inherently rude or bad, it's just refusing to adapt or accommodate to people that don't communicate that way that is the problem. I know people who don't like to communicate this way, and I do my best to adapt my conversation to them. But I am annoyed at people calling the way I interact with my partner, which is very positive and engaging for the both of us, bad and wrong and terrible because other people don't like to be interrupted. Okay, I will try not to interrupt you if you don't like it! But if I slip up and do so, it's not because I don't care about what you're trying to say, it's because this is how I engage with most conversations, because most of the people I talk to (most of whom have ADHD or some other neurodivergence) communicate like this.
posted by brook horse at 12:21 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


I feel like we could dial it back with the accusations of selfishness and stuff. That doesn't really help the conversation. The framing of the article makes it sound like you can be on one of two teams, when of course there's really a huge variety of behaviors and preferences out there. Most of us probably have much more in common than not, even if we might self-identify with one team or the other. Even if we accept that there are two teams, seeing them both accuse each other of being inconsiderate jerks makes it look like maybe the problem is not actually that.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:36 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


[Couple things removed. In a thread about conflicting styles of conversation and the friction that comes from that, I'm gonna ask everybody to try and sort of keep in mind the inevitability that friction and conflict at the meta level are likely as well and aim more to walk away and let things lay if you've commented a bunch. If you're several comments deep and that's coming to loggerheads, let's just not let it go there.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


“I accidentally let a bunch of crickets loose in the work room” is the answer to the question that followed. “Oh no! What happened?” He literally just told you.

saying "oh no! what happened?" is a direct and pretty non-confusing request for further information on the statement that was just made, something people say to show that they care about what just happened to the other person, an invitation to commiserate about misfortune. diagnosing it as a waste of time or an obstacle to normal human interaction is... idk. suboptimal.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:37 PM on June 11 [15 favorites]


Like in general I think a bunch of CoI people have been pretty patient while a bunch of CoC people have called them assholes or worse, up to and including critiquing their own personal interactions. This is mean. And feels an awful lot like people releasing years of resentments on an otherwise potentially interesting discussion.

Honestly this stuff isn’t that hard. I have a close friend from Texas who is clearly CoC. We accommodate each other, which includes checking in with each other. It works because we’ve talked about conversational styles and what we like and what stuff means. We each took responsibility for our own styles and for making sure our friend feels good about the conversation. And this is not the first CoC person I’ve done this with! It’s obviously possible.

But it requires a lot more good faith than I see in this thread.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:38 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


like if a friend came up to me and said "dude i accidentally filled my home with insects!" and i just stood there staring at them silently in response, that would be. uh. extremely weird.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:41 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


Like in general I think a bunch of CoI people have been pretty patient while a bunch of CoC people have called them assholes or worse, up to and including critiquing their own personal interactions. This is mean. And feels an awful lot like people releasing years of resentments on an otherwise potentially interesting discussion.

I would agree though I see it the other way also. Not to pick on a comment in particular, but

And also, most people just aren’t that entertaining or interesting on their own. Like writers rooms are a thing for a reason. The vast majority of the time a group of people working together comes up with something better. So those turn taking conversations... like you want me to a do a golf clap after you’ve had the spotlight on your own for however long, boring everybody else?

seems to be missing the point that CoC people have their own ways of engaging that do involve turn-taking and that they aren't inherently boring.

I sit at the intersection of a CoC family and a CoI family and it's awkward, but honestly, unless there's large amount of alcohol involved we pretty much figure it out. It feels like commenters are taking out years of frustration on people who aren't actually the source of their frustration and that's not How MetaFilter Does Conversation.
posted by thegears at 12:45 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


idiot (??? where does that idea even COME from?)

Just to explain where that came from: When Person A says they made a dumb mistake, and Person B immediately points out the exact thing about the mistake that made it dumb, Person B could be perceived to be backhandedly calling Person A dumb.

(Mostly I was playing on the passive-aggression of it, which was obviously unintentional and unmalicious on your part, or you wouldn’t have quoted yourself that way. Passive-aggression is more of a CoC culture thing, I think, so, I dunno...I just got a kick out of it. Sorry!)

(Also I didn’t mean the way you interact with your partner is wrong for you or other CoI-CoI communications; I just thought the illustration, taken out of its original context, made a useful counter-illustration of What Not To Do in a CoC-CoI situation. Nothing personal was intended, but in retrospect...yuck. Sorry.)

(Seriously: Sorry.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:46 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: It feels like commenters are taking out years of frustration on people who aren't actually the source of their frustration
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:47 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


You don’t seem to understand that getting to talk (briefly!) without interruption comes hand-in-hand with the part where we shut the fuck up and listen, giving someone else the opportunity to do so. Kinda like there’s a mutual respect, rather than a narcissistic need to hear our own voice every two seconds?

It’s telling that a CoI would focus only on the talking side. Apparently that’s all interrupters care about. That, I think, is far more self-absorbed.


Like I said I'm happy to try to adapt but this comment kind of shows the gap in understanding so let me give it a whirl.

When I am talking to a CoC person by their rules, I experience the conversation kind of like we're talking facing away from each other. We are definitely having a conversation and I wish they could see (i.e. experience) my responses (which would normally be in some form of a 'accompaniment track' to their discourse.) Not because I think I'm brilliant, but because that's how I show I'm responding.

Instead, I feel like I am metaphorically being artificially far from them and unresponsive.

I was just musing on this in a meeting with a CoC person today. I am aware that person doesn't want interruptions and won't interrupt me. So, I don't interrupt and I pause to ask 'what do you think of that?" And I don't mind, but the feeling I get from it is like I am having to go stand on the other side of the room, listen, walk back, say something, walk away again, etc. It feels very very flat to me. I feel like I am not giving them my best even though I also know I'm valuing what they are saying and that in their need/culture I am expressing that through silence.

I know all that, but that really is how I feel about it, to the extent that afterwards I often need to ask like three or four times if they think they've gotten the response they need from me. (I try to curb it.)
posted by warriorqueen at 12:51 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq, I accept your apology. My partner and I are both kinda space cadets who do very dumb things a lot, so for us pointing out the thing about a mistake that makes it dumb is totally natural and not at all insulting cause usually what we mean by that is "I would have made exactly the same mistake for the same reason!" so it was really hard for me to see where the passive-aggressiveness comes from. Thanks for clarifying; I don't think I usually do that to other people (mostly because other people are usually less dumb than me) but I'll keep an eye out to see if I may be doing this in interactions with others and unintentionally offending them!

On a lighter note, I would just like to reassure everyone who is concerned about the cricket situation that:

1) This was the workroom of a nature center, where they are used to such things, and not our home, which would be a much more distressing situation.
2) Partner says, "It was only like three crickets, and there's usually crickets loose in the workroom, along with snakes, and toads, and lizards, and birds..."
posted by brook horse at 12:53 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


seems to be missing the point that CoC people have their own ways of engaging that do involve turn-taking and that they aren't inherently boring

I keep coming back to the emphasis on exchanging information vs engagement and connection. Like it seems like there’s a difference in what people think a conversation is for: imparting information or connecting and strengthening social ties.

Obviously those aren’t mutually exclusive, but to the extent that the emphasis is on one or the other...idk.

How do CoC people feel connected in conversation? Because I’ll echo warriorqueen (and I think I said this upthread), but to me CoC style feels incredibly alienating. Like yes that is how you talk if you need to impart vital information about troop locations or something, but not how you engage if you want to feel close to someone else.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:57 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I think I am COI with family and people I know well. But if I am not comfortable I am reserved and much more COC.

I try to stop with the interrupting and enthusiastic commentary with people who are not fellow congregants. The place the divide tends to be most obvious is this conversation:

Me: [asks question]
Them: [pause]
Me: I mean, [rephrases question]
Them: Yes, I'm thinking!

If I get no visual or verbal acknowledgement of what I said, it's not clear to me that they are going to respond. Meanwhile the COC person is irritated that I have interrupted their thought process.
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:08 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


2) Partner says, "It was only like three crickets, and there's usually crickets loose in the workroom, along with snakes, and toads, and lizards, and birds..."

Sounds like the cricket situation will solve itself, and come winter so will the gorilla imbroglio.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:09 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


How do CoC people feel connected in conversation?

Speaking for myself, through understanding.

How do CoI people explore topics in depth?
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on June 11


How do CoI people explore topics in depth?

I've been observing myself since reading this so here's a bit of a (FAKE) sample:

A: "I don't know, I found Solo to be a bit bleak, not like Rogue One but more of a..."
B: "[interrupting] A gangster movie, like Rogue One was a war movie?"
A: "That's it! But also, I felt like the characters didn't have much room to be more than ciphers
B: "...[interrupting, sort of going off topic/circling back] but the guy who played Han was pretty go-
A: "...[interrupting] Well sure, he did a good job but still, going back to my point about the ciphers..."
B: "Remember when a Star Wars movie was like, so essential, that you didn't even consider whether it was good or bad?"
A: Because we were /12/"
B: "Oh true, well going back to the ciphers, didn't you think that Qi'ra could have..."

It's like that, where there's interrupting on both sides and you can spiral down deeply. Because no one actually gives up. There are sometimes, I find, basically two conversations at once, like one person might be reminiscing and the other explicating, but both conversations are getting tracked and in a lot of cases, both people in the conversation are taking responsibility for going back to interrupted points, even if they weren't their own.

That's obviously a healthy one but I really noticed how in the interrupting conversations I had this weekend, people still read each other's non-verbal cues and go back to things that might've gotten dropped, which is another way of staying connected. And even if there's interrupting, things do get more in depth. At least in my experience.

It's funny; I think I can do CoC in part because there are lots of examples where I have had to be quiet in the face of authorities like teachers, so at least I have a sense of it - but it does feel incomplete to me regardless.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:55 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


If I said, "I accidentally let a bunch of crickets loose" someone asking "What happened?" wouldn't register as an interruption to me. Of course people will wonder how these crickets got loose.

But if I ever say something like, "Well it's not just about getting enough vegetables, there's also..." believe me I am planning to follow that "also." And if someone else said it to me, I would sit there waiting to see what they were going to say after that "also."
posted by RobotHero at 1:57 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


To clarify, the interruption was me finishing the sentence with "but they're very jumpy," not the "what happened?"; the previous bit was just context as to what we were talking about. It was a sentence that clearly had more to it (at least determined by the tone) but I interrupted and finished their sentence, for the reasons outlined above.
posted by brook horse at 2:04 PM on June 11


Have the feeling many of y’all would go looney if you asked my partner or I an important or complex question. We have kind of a standing thing where some questions don’t automatically or necessarily get answers, at least not right away.

There may be a gap of seconds or minutes. Some other topic may come up and be discussed. At some point there might be an answer to a question from some time ago. It can be difficult at times to not get an answer when you ask but some questions just can’t be fully answered off the cuff.

I guess we sometimes talk as if we were emailing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:12 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Having read through 250+ comments on this, I have come to the following (obviously personal) conclusion:

I do not care if people are CoI or CoC or whatever. I care if people are talking with me, rather than at me. If they are talking with me, both (or other) conversational styles are fine. If they are talking at me, I am usually in a deep personal hell.

The most common sign that I might be being talked at is if the other person is saying a lot and I am saying almost nothing. Please do check in if this is happening.

I will try to do the same.
posted by kyrademon at 2:13 PM on June 11 [16 favorites]


There are sometimes, I find, basically two conversations at once, like one person might be reminiscing and the other explicating, but both conversations are getting tracked and in a lot of cases, both people in the conversation are taking responsibility for going back to interrupted points, even if they weren't their own.

The cognitive load involved in doing this well is nontrivial!

Here is a hypothesis. What if the data we all think we’ve been collecting about these two conversational styles, and our place in the space defined by them, is biased? What if what we’re fighting about really is the subset of people on both sides whose conversational patterns are inept or boorish?

Anecdatapoint one: I claimed above that my FiL never interrupts. When I brought up this thread to Mr. eirias (um, eliding my own contributions) and described the case of people who like to finish your thought for you, he chimed in, unprompted, “My dad does that ALL THE TIME.” I had never noticed because FiL listens well, and therefore does it well, and has never been wrong about where I was going. Meanwhile I am not sure Mr. eirias recognized it as something he has had a pattern of doing (it was not the moment to bring it up, and anyway it’s been much less pronounced in recent years).

Anecdatapoint two: this morning Mr. eirias and I were discussing something in earshot of Little eirias, and she managed to interrupt Mr. eirias with a thought-completion that was both well-timed and correct (even I hadn’t guessed where he was going). Instead of being irritated or compelled to remind her not to interrupt, we were like, dang, we give her too little credit sometimes.

tl;dr We probably all have enormous selection bias in our memories about these sorts of interactions and we may well be storing only the bad ones. Let’s keep that in mind.
posted by eirias at 2:47 PM on June 11 [20 favorites]


How do CoC people feel connected in conversation?

By listening deeply and being listened deeply to. If someone interrupts a lot that doesn't tell me they want to connect; it tells me they want to be the center of attention. They want to be looked at, not connected with.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:08 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago, and therefore I feel quite comfortable in saying that yes, even people with ADHD need to work on controlling their impulses. ... Generally speaking I’m getting pretty fucking tired of seeing people use both ADHD and introversion as justification for being rude to other people. Interrupting people, being significantly late to things when someone is waiting, flaking out on plans with no notice...figure out your shit and handle it. Nobody expects perfection, but it’s selfish to just expect people to tolerate it without working on yourself, especially when the detriment inevitably falls on them and not on you.

I agree with that last sentence, of course, and, just because you observe that a person with ADHD has hijacked a conversation or been late it does not follow that they are not actually "working on [themselves]" or that they are not trying to "figure out [their] shit and handle it," advice they've probably been given for years if not decades. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive and you're talking about something a lot more specific than I think you are. But as I'm sure you're aware, even with treatment, many people with ADHD will still have some executive function deficits, meaning that no matter how hard they try and how much treatment they seek, they will still sometimes, e.g., be late or suddenly change the subject. To some extent, therefore, unless we expect everyone with ADHD to match an unrealistic neurotypical standard of conscientiousness, I think some amount of additional tolerance is a reasonable thing to ask. Of course people don't get infinite chances or an infinite amount of leeway, but assuming that we are talking about voluntary interactions, people with ADHD also have a right to set the terms and boundaries of their relationships.

Along these lines, bringing up ADHD is also not necessarily a "justification": it can also allow people to set more realistic expectations about what they can expect from you, as well as offering an alternative explanation for one's behavior rather than pure selfishness. This last point of course doesn't eliminate the behavior's consequences, but what it can do is keep people from assuming that a given action was borne out of passive-aggression, malice, or disrespect. This is helpful because automatically interpreting a mistake as having ill intent, or as resulting from literally not caring, can exacerbate the harm it causes.

Anyway, in this thread most people have talked about ADHD in the context of being more likely to be CoI, one of two equally valid approaches to conversation described in the article, and not in the context of monologuing or otherwise redirecting the conversation back to themselves. So mostly this is irrelevant anyway.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:46 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Speaking as an autistic, introverted Californian, I deeply resent it when the person I'm talking to tries to be "more efficient" by guessing how I'm going to finish my sentence. If they get it wrong, I have to take the time to correct them and then try to get my train of thought back on the rails. If they get it right, why should I bother speaking since they clearly already know what I'm going to say?

To give the other perspective on this: they may just be trying to demonstrate that they are paying attention and to make sure they are understanding you properly. If someone is able to complete your sentence correctly, it means that they must have been following what you were saying pretty well. If they do it incorrectly, it calls extra attention to the part that they misunderstood and makes that part more likely to stick. Plus, correcting errors in understanding as they happen can save you from having to re-explain something when someone finds themselves lost four or five sentences later. Of course, if you find it disorienting/annoying to be interrupted then people should be able to pick up on that and engage differently! I just want to offer the perspective that completing a sentence does not have to reflect self-absorption, and can actually come from the opposite place, i.e., that someone is making a special effort to focus on what you're saying.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:13 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


I hope no COI/barkers ever try to learn and converse in Japanese, or boy will they have a bad time. Not only are they very COC/meek culturally but the grammatical structure of Japanese sentences are in such a way that every sentence is left "open" for a continuation or modification. Eg instead of "I didn't go shopping" the structure would be "shopping I went not" and if you interrupted after "went" then you just received the opposite message.
posted by picklenickle at 7:42 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Another sort of philosophical difference I’ve noted between interrupters and non-interrupters, and again I want to preface this statement with the assertion that I believe neither approach is the superior one, but: the non-interrupters I know see conversation as something that orbits around a particular topic, and they want to get through what they have to say about that topic before moving onto something else. And that’s reasonable! It’s why we’ve reified the notion in communities like this as “derailing,” where a conversation on a particular matter loses its focus on that matter and becomes about something else to the detriment of the discourse. Interrupters, in my experience, have less attachment to the development of any particular topic, and instead revel in the breadth of a conversation that ranges across a lot of different topics in a pretty ad hoc fashion. There are trade-offs to both, as far as I can tell. Really honing in on a particular topic for a solid duration lets the interlocutors in question get at subtle distinctions that the interrupters may never end up surfacing. On the other hand, traversing a wide range of topics intuitively gives the interrupters in question an excellent feeling for how their conversational partner makes associations and reveals broad swaths of their thinking and their personality. I suppose this really does come down to time and place, as has been mentioned: the one approach is much more appropriate in some circumstances than the other given some particular emotional goal. I wish both parties could recognize that.
posted by invitapriore at 8:44 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Really, I kind of hate this particular type of "two kinds of people" categorizing, and this has also soured me on "Ask/Guess" when at first I thought it was brilliant, because of how they're coded.

There's "Church of Interruption," and then there's the "Church of Strong Civility." Look at how that's weighted. "There's these assholes, and then there are the nice, polite people." Same with Ask/Guess -- "There's people who just ASK for things, and then there are the POLITE people who would never DREAM of putting you out like that."

It's bullshit and it's wrong, and it shows a complete refusal on the part of the "nice" brigades to show willingness to spend 30 seconds attempting to understand that those RUDE people over THERE are actually just members of a different societal compact. It's smug and unattractive.
posted by tzikeh at 8:54 PM on June 11 [13 favorites]


I think paragon's comment linking to Sarte vs John Hudston was super duper relevant and worthy of highlighting again. The comments section in that link went more England vs France than West Coast vs East Coast.

Some generalizations:

CoI goes hand in hand with cultures that value effusiveness. To a culture that values effusiveness, "restraint" isn't seen as "polite" as much as it's seen as cold, unconnected, and uncaring. See also "an english goodbye".

---

Also want to say that given how this thread has gone, I'm interested in seeing how an "asking personal questions vs sharing personal information" thread would go..
posted by Cozybee at 8:56 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


There's "Church of Interruption," and then there's the "Church of Strong Civility." Look at how that's weighted. "There's these assholes, and then there are the nice, polite people." Same with Ask/Guess -- "There's people who just ASK for things, and then there are the POLITE people who would never DREAM of putting you out like that."

This is about 180 degrees off from my impression of the Ask/Guess discussion, which IME tends to be more about how Ask culture is straightforward and honest and Guess culture is passive-aggressive and inconvenient. (Note: that's a characterization of the discussion, not expressing a position.)
posted by Lexica at 9:03 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


It's not a conversation unless there are recognised signals of acknowledgement. Otherwise it's just a set of disjointed monologues existing in relative proximity.
posted by allium cepa at 9:56 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I feel like a good Interrupter should be able to have their interjections stick to a topic and not go derailing the conversation, particularly if someone has a very in-depth and contextual thing they'd like to say, but this is likely really difficult to pull off. There are also bad Strong Civilities who, even if they wait their turn, will then use their turn to prattle on and on and on and not let you get a word in. Personally, as someone who is 100% Meek, finding a non-derailing Interrupter or a non-monologuing Strong Civility-er is hard as heck.
posted by picklenickle at 10:31 PM on June 11


Metafilter: disjointed monologues existing in relative proximity

OK OK sorry, I’ll stop.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:45 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


I feel like a good Interrupter should be able to have their interjections stick to a topic and not go derailing the conversation

See, as a diehard interruptor, I would say a good interruptor is capable of keeping a strong sense of the conversational stack, so they can rewind back to previous points as smaller tributaries are explored. I've had some solid chats where we can go back five, six, seven detours ago. *chef's kiss*
posted by dame at 3:30 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


I'm imagining a cinematic scene where a daring and intrepid interruptor grips their despairing interlocutor by the shoulder and says fiercely, No! I'm not leaving you behind!
posted by XMLicious at 5:01 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Hardcore CoI here, and I want to endorse everyone who said that someone finishing my sentences for me feels like they’re demonstrating polite, engaged attentiveness. If you’re following me so closely that you can predict my destination, we’re really communicating.

I hadn’t thought of it in these terms, but I have a teenage son and I semi-explicitly teach/train/expect him to be able to do that as what I think of as being a functionally attentive and communicating adult. Some conversation will be happening where he’s either doing something misguided that I need to be parentally corrective about, or there’s some irritating but obvious joke I’m going to make to tease him, and I’ll say the bare minimum that he should need to predict my point and leave it there inviting an interruption. When he gets it, I know he’s been paying attention all along and thinking about what my input would probably be, so it doesn’t take much prompting to get there.

This only works well when both sides are sensitive about it and have a good sense of where the other person is going, but it’s a very pleasant, connected way to talk with a competent partner.

(I think I don’t annoy the CoC people too badly. I can’t keep from interrupting other than in super-formal settings, but I hand the conversation back to them briskly.)
posted by LizardBreath at 5:05 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Really, I kind of hate this particular type of "two kinds of people" categorizing,

I dislike it because I don't think there really are "two kinds of people." We all change our conversational styles depending on the context: the formality of the situation, the subject matter, who we're with. No one is purely an interrupter or purely a wait-and-take-your-turn-er.

Like, maybe it's helpful because it gives a name to different behaviors and that helps us to talk about them - but it always seems to end up with a stark, simplistic categorization of people into two types: CoC vs CoI, extrovert versus introvert, ask vs guess, male vs female...

... with people identifying as - or identifying others as members of one group - and using that to explain the whole of their behavior even when the reality is usually a lot more complicated.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:20 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


For me, I will intellectually know that someone means well, but I'm not well practiced at the mental juggling of having my sentences finished for me. I have to stop the sentence I was in the middle of, mentally join the two sentence fragments together in my head, decide whether the resulting sentence is close enough in meaning to what I intended, and either agree or correct.

To me, it's like people are saying, "How can you feel connected to someone you're walking with unless you're literally connected like a three-legged race? You're not really walking together, you're just walking in relative proximity."
posted by RobotHero at 9:54 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


It's not a conversation unless there are recognised signals of acknowledgement. Otherwise it's just a set of disjointed monologues existing in relative proximity.

If each ‘monologue’ is a response to the previous one, that would seem to signal ‘acknowledgement’ quite sufficiently, no? If acknowledgement must be signalled constantly, perhaps this could be done nonverbally? Does your neck work? Can you tilt your head up and down with it? Does your hand reach your chin? Can your eyes be directed toward those of the speaker?

It ain’t exactly rocket science.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:19 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


If acknowledgement must be signalled constantly, perhaps this could be done nonverbally? Does your neck work? Can you tilt your head up and down with it? Does your hand reach your chin? Can your eyes be directed toward those of the speaker?

Jumping in....sure. Really I kind of concur with the growing consensus that this is both a spectrum of relating and that it's probably not quite as fraught at it seems in most circumstances (most of the learning I've done around this has related to working with/managing/teaching people from multiple cultures, where we all know we have a gap to cover.)

But for a CoI-type, when all the feedback is essentially non-verbal or non-committal it's like there's a whole layer of interaction missing. That's the feeling. So again, for me if I'm just giving non-verbal cues, that sort of feelings like I'm signalling that I'm half-listening, even when I am fully listening. It's sort of like staying on the phone and only ever making one sound. (Although who knows, maybe that is de rigeur for CoC, must investigate. :))

Like...imagine you're told you can participate in a conversation but you can't use your eyes, only your hands. It can feel like that. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes not much.

I hope that you can understand that for someone where it feels like that it's not about "rocket science," it's that it just doesn't feel natural without some work and practice, and in moments of what a CoI will experience as great connection, enthusiasm, or joy, interruptions probably go up (at least they do for me.)

I have to admit that last night I was musing on people who are both CoC and Guess Culture, which I actually would guess describes whole swaths of cultures, just not really mine, and how much more aware of "rudeness" they must be than I am. Then I saw the comment above about cognitive load and I thought well, maybe I actually don't have the cognitive bandwidth to be engaged in a CoI conversation /and/ be rating the rudeness unless it's fairly extreme?

I dunno but it's all fascinating.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:19 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I hope people aren't going to keep using these designations outside the bounds of this discussion, expecting others to accept them as defining of something. The article was framed by someone who placed themselves with "interrupters" and was presented as a method of seeing "the other side" as method of improvement. That's fine for the author as a a tool to alter their behavior as they might wish, but the framing creates its own set of problems.

The labeling the two claimed sides could have been just as sensibly called something like the Church of Regimentation and the Church of Fluidity, leaving the balance feeling quite different from the outset. Placing the emphasis on the role and feelings of the speaker likewise distorts the conversational dynamic as it minimizes the feelings of the listener. This is telling in the decision to label the more rigid side as "civil" in regards to their feelings about speaking turns. To the listener, speaking turns may not be more polite than interrupted speech if the speaker is conveying false, overly familiar, tedious, or otherwise unwanted information/speech. What may be polite from the side of the speaker may not be so polite from the perspective of the listener.

If, at a business meeting, Suzy is providing her analysis of a situation and is interrupted by Bob, because Bob is a dick, interrupting Bob to give the floor back to Suzy is not only the civil thing to do, it should be the demand. In a similar manner, if Jim, being more "civil" minded waits until Suzy's done speaking then launches into a mischaracterization of her position, one shouldn't feel compelled to wait him out before speaking, he should be interrupted to correct the mistake before it is passed over. If Lisa launches into a soliloquy about the how the discussion reminds her of an episode of Grey's Anatomy she once saw and starts providing a detailed synopsis, she should be interrupted to prevent the waste of time and depletion of energy from the group. Tim relaying information that everyone already knows likewise can be cut off as repetition without specific purpose is empty speech. The polite thing in those instances is to think of the effect on the larger group, not the wants of the speaker.

In a more casual context, fluidity can have more directly positive effects. Some group dynamics don't necessarily entail whole audience participation in each separate speech event, but a series of smaller concurrent speech acts that one can enter and leave without threatening the overall dynamic of continuous enjoyment for the group.

Pub conversations, for example, are often like this for many groups, where multiple conversations are going on, none specifically aimed at the whole of the group, just some smaller segment of it, but which can be joined or left by others as they choose, with the conversations often shifting rapidly as different members of the group join in or leave. Some conversations within that dynamic may become more directed between segments of the group particularly interested in that subject, so a one on one argument over Asimov's Laws of Robotics between two people might be occurring simultaneously with some larger group discussion of automated cars, which splits off to driving stories among another part of that group and so on. The pleasure, in those instances, is in the continuing flow of different conversations. A demand for alternating speakers to hold the floor would subtract significant pleasure from the larger group and dramatically change the dynamic of the event as a whole. The carnival atmosphere can be the whole point of a social gathering even as that same atmosphere wouldn't make sense in some other settings.

In other contexts, of course, fluid conversation isn't going to be as desired. A heartfelt discussion of some issue of great importance, for example, is not a time for rapid shifts in conversation, and all but a few people are going to recognize that. If interruptions happen in such a context they will generally be in offer of support or questions of clarification. Attempts to change the subject or take over the main speaking role would be seen as violations by most with good reason.

Other one to one or small group conversations will have varying parameters around speaking and listening roles depending on the situation and relationships of the people involved. They may not always be satisfactory for everyone, but the closer the bonds between the individuals the more open they should be for negotiation to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. That might mean more regimentation in some instances and more fluidity in others. Speech acts don't all have to come in just one flavor, they can be enjoyed in a variety of forms. Regimentation/Civility or Fluidity/Interruption aren't character classes, they can be, and for most are, used in context to suit the needs of the conversational dynamic. Some of us may not be as good at or appreciate some types of conversations, but that doesn't mean they don't serve a useful purpose.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:50 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


If each ‘monologue’ is a response to the previous one, that would seem to signal ‘acknowledgement’ quite sufficiently, no?

This was left intentionally unspecified.

If acknowledgement must be signalled constantly, perhaps this could be done nonverbally? Does your neck work? Can you tilt your head up and down with it? Does your hand reach your chin? Can your eyes be directed toward those of the speaker?

Did I write "constantly"?

It ain’t exactly rocket science.

Astounding how universal and effective the signals are, and how they invariably serve both speaker and listener in any circumstance.

Why are we having this discussion anyways?
posted by allium cepa at 2:47 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


gusottertrout makes sensible points. I would add that managing participation at business meetings is the role of a chair, and is why we have parliamentary procedure for city government meetings. The more people, and/or the less mutual trust and understanding is present, the more formality matters in ensuring that all participants are treated fairly.

Perhaps if we want better descriptors of what’s going on, formality versus informality is a better dichotomy than the value-laden ones we’ve been using.
posted by eirias at 2:56 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Came to this discussion far too late, but here are some thoughts I had while reading:
- the dichotomy could be phrased more neutrally as Wait /Go, in terms of one's default response (as listener) or expectation (as speaker) for what happens at what they understand to be a pause
- the useful part of the article, for me, is in trying to understand how a single behavior can be interpreted in completely divergent ways. If you find yourself incredulous that people you interact with never pick up the verbal and nonverbal cues that would inform them of how to talk with you, it may be that those cues have completely different meanings in their conversational culture than in yours, rather than that they aren't paying attention (there are tons of people, of all stripes, who dont pay attention; conversational style just isn't as good of an indicator of this as most of us are accustomed to thinking it is)
- the chapter on interrupting in Tannen's You Just Don't Understand is a fascinating read, and y'all would probably really enjoy it. A few of the subheadings in that chapter:
--Interruption without overlap
--Overlap without interruption
--Successful cooperative overlapping
--Unsuccessful cooperative overlapping
--Uncooperative overlapping
Tannen also cites research by Reiko Hayashi finding "far more simultaneous speech among Japanese speakers in casual conversation than among Americans."
posted by mabelstreet at 12:15 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


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