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How to keep people from interrupting you


If you're interrupted a lot, it can be annoying. You may have settled in to tell a long story, only to find that someone says, "Wow, I can't believe you have a dachshund... my aunt has a dachshund that once chased a cat..." and you either have to just forge ahead, ignoring the other person's story, and maybe raising your voice a bit, or you have to let it go. But don't give up. I think I can help.

The reason that people are interrupting you is that they probably don't want to sit there, as a passive audience, and listen to your story. This isn't a criticism of your story-telling ability, it's just the way that people in conversation work. A conversation is a sharing of things that couldn't possibly be done if the information was presented in a video, or a book, or from a podium. Conversation allows people to ask questions, to clarify. If someone is sitting at lunch with you, listening to a long story without interruptions, they're probably not even listening, and just being polite, and waiting until they can tell their story.

This back-and-forth storytelling without anyone really listening seems an awful shame. So for my storytelling friends I recommend that they change the venue. Conversation is for give and take, not storytelling. Storytelling deserves its own place. So I recommend that people write a blog (that's how I try to get my storytelling out of my system), or make a video, or go do a talk somewhere.

Speaking uninterrupted is a wonderful thing. As I teacher I got to do a lot of it. I would organize what I was going to say and I would be able to speak to an audience. I also did the same thing in my training sessions. I would have notes to refer to, but mostly I would speak something that I had practiced in my mind. And I can hear people who have practiced a story in their mind - if they're getting to "the best part" and they're interrupted, they can be flustered.

If you're saying "Whoa! I would never do public speaking!" then I would politely ask you to stop telling stories. Because that's what telling stories is all about - creating interesting content for an audience, using your voice well, knowing when to hesitate, when to lower your voice, when to speak louder. Public speakers practice in the mirror, they practice in their mind. When the audience assembles, they're ready. And it's wonderful both for the speaker and the audience. And I've known some wonderful storytellers who are just wasting their talents by becoming conversational bores.

People in a conversation can't be interrupted. Conversations are short bursts of words, like playing tennis. People who are telling stories, when they should be in conversation, are interrupted a lot. Find the right place, and there will be no interruptions, just applause.