No Interruptions
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No Interruptions
Mom with a View

No Interruptions

Can you have a conversation without interrupting?

by

We all know that ego, focus on the self, gets in the way of our relationships. It's hard to really care about someone else, to really listen and empathize if we are preoccupied with our own needs and desires. It's also hard, if not impossible, under these circumstances to have a relationship with God.

There are many different tools for acquiring humility and focusing outside ourselves. Most of these strategies involve diminishing the "I". In fact, just trying to have a conversation without the word "I" brings a heightened -- and frequently frightening -- awareness of the issue. Try it for an hour; I dare you.

Another useful tool is to avoid interrupting others in conversation. "Avoid interrupting?" asked a shocked friend of mine when I made this suggestion. "But I'm from New York; that's not rude, it's just normal conversation."

In an effort to demonstrate the error of her ways I pointed to the line in Ethics of Our Fathers (5:7): [The wise man] does not interrupt the speech of his friend.

Interrupting is all ego. It suggests that what I have to say is more valuable and important than what you have to say.

Interrupting is all ego. It suggests that what I have to say is more valuable and important than what you have to say. Not only does it inappropriately elevate the interrupter, it devalues both the speaker and what he was saying. It wasn't worth hearing to the end. He or she doesn't matter enough to me. Even if that isn't true, that is what we are communicating. My needs, my ideas, my thoughts dominate and leave little room for you.

Someone suggested to me that perhaps it wasn't ego that was the culprit but rather impatience. I certainly don't wish to encourage a competition over which negative character trait it is preferable to have. But I would also suggest that the root of impatience is ego. It goes back to our original proposition. My time and what I have to say are more valuable and trump your time and anything you may wish to impart.

The beauty of using the tool of not interrupting is that we are given constant opportunities to work on it. We engage in conversations all day long. We can grow (or not) hourly.

It's also an easy and effective way to gain perspective on our egos. We can watch ourselves and catch ourselves.

It's very difficult. It seems so simple yet it's such a challenge. It's a great opportunity to laugh at ourselves as we engage in this battle to bite our tongues. But the benefits of just this small change are enormous. All of our relationships will improve. Those we care about will feel heard. Our own ability to care and our amount of caring will deepen.

And when we truly move ourselves out of the way, there will also be room for the Almighty to enter.

Published: June 21, 2008


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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Christopher, March 23, 2009 11:13 AM

Correct Reaction?

So how should a person deal with a person who is constantly interrupting. My stepmother is always interrupting everyone and I can't help but feel angry when it happens. What's the best method of dealing with it?

(10) Anonymous, July 20, 2008 8:20 PM

totally true

it is so true. we don't even realize that when we talk, we are constantly thinking about ourselves. we gotta change this

(9) Anonymous, June 27, 2008 12:55 AM

LISTEN to the other person

I agree with gl. We should try to clear our own thoughts and REALLY listen to whoever's talking to us!

(8) Anonymous, June 25, 2008 10:51 PM

wow

Thank you for this article! Just what I needed...it's a very practical suggestion of how to improve one's self...thanks again!

(7) David Komer, June 25, 2008 6:24 AM

questions

I couldn't find the quote from "Ethics of our Fathers." Maybe I misunderstood the citation... what I looked up was the 7th mishna in the 5th chapter of Pirkei Avot.

Secondly, I disagree with the author's stance because it is too general. Let's consider the following:

One person speaking is trying to convey a particular idea to another person. The speaker is also humble enough that they would gladly welcome interruption the moment that the listener grasped the point (after all, we learn in Pirkei Avot that silence is a pretty good thing, 1:17). In this case, it would be a mark of improper "ego" on the side of the speaker to insist that interruption is evil. Do they just want to hear themselves speak?

Now- I'm not saying that interrruption is always good either. I believe that one person should be attentive to the other. Sometimes people just need to be listened to, and sometimes they need to communicate a thought. The right approach should vary accordingly (the idea behind this particular paragraph thought is something I learned from Reb Simcha Weinberg).

To show another example, let's say your the wise King or Queen of a great country, and your time is mamash precious and powerful. Someone comes up to you and starts explaining their idea for fixing the economy. And you get it right away- but they haven't finished explaining all the details. Should you interrupt them and tell them to go away? Could you do more important things with that time? Hopefully the person who came up to the King has the psychological health to accept cheefully that the answer to those questions is "yes."

When interrupting is the right choice, it should be done with tact, sensitivity, and intelligence, however.

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