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Adele_L comments on Wait vs Interrupt Culture - Less Wrong

72 Post author: Benquo 27 November 2013 03:38PM

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Comment author: Adele_L 23 November 2013 09:10:03PM 15 points [-]

I grew up in a wait culture, and it's really hard for me to talk when interruption is the norm. I've had to deliberately force myself to interrupt people, which is really uncomfortable. If I'm not feeling comfortable already, I just won't really say anything unless asked a question directly. I would really like to experience a wait culture again. I should probably try to improve my skill at talking and making myself heard in an interrupt culture though. Any advice for this?

Comment author: Benquo 23 November 2013 09:36:26PM *  15 points [-]

I haven't experimented with these ideas on other people, but here's what I get from introspection.

Metaconversational interruptions can be easier than regular ones. Examples of these are:

  • Belaying someone else's interruption of you: "Hold on, let me just finish that thought."

  • Pre-interrupting someone else: "I have a question about that, but go on."

  • Helping someone else talk: "I think so-and-so had something to say."

  • Asking people to pause to let you think: "Can you hold on a moment? I want to think that through and see if I understand that." (This works best in conversations involving very few people.)

The more you think about propensity to interrupt as a local norm, the easier it is to switch modes. Practice noticing when and how often people interrupt you and each other, and try to mentally tag it as "interesting" rather than "wrong" when they do.

It can be easier to be confident in a question than in a declaration. Practice interrupting with clarifying questions.

Comment author: Adele_L 23 November 2013 09:53:32PM 5 points [-]

Those things are easier, but the main thing I have a problem with is when I have my own thought that I want to introduce to the conversation.

I'll try adjusting my attitude also, and see if that helps.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 November 2013 10:31:15PM 7 points [-]

My usual advice is to go ahead and introduce the thought, even if there doesn't seem to be a natural "hook" for it to hang on in the conversation. That might very well come off as abrupt, out of the blue, or even rude... but if your norm is to stay quiet for lack of such a hook, it's unlikely that reasonable people will be too offended by it. (Unless, of course, they are the sort who are offended when anyone else behaves like their conversational peer, but that's a bigger issue.)

Comment author: Benquo 23 November 2013 11:03:26PM 3 points [-]

I meant that practicing by doing more of the easy thing might be a good way to work up to doing any of the hard thing.

There's also asking a friend explicitly if they mind if you interrupt them, if you have people you're comfortable enough with to do that. That could be another way to practice first in a low-stakes interaction.

Comment author: aletheianink 28 November 2013 03:40:53AM 3 points [-]

This isn't absolutely relevant, and may not be helpful, but my mother is the type of person who will talk at length - easily an hour - if you don't stop. And you can't just say "Um, I was thinking - " or "yeah, I agree", because she'll just talk over the top of you and not listen. My strategy is to wait for a pause (usually a very short one, because she doesn't leave long pauses) and then try to quickly cram a sentence in to divert the top. This may work for you, as you're not technically interrupting - you're just jumping in quickly with your idea - and you may find this is enough to divert the conversation so that you can more easily put your view across (or be asked more).

Comment author: Benquo 23 November 2013 11:49:51PM 1 point [-]

Also, per MathieuRoy's comment, a "Wait" gesture can also be a stepping stone to interrupting when appropriate.