How to Interrupt Without Pissing People Off

There’s Interrupting and Then There’s Friendterrupting

Eliza VanCort
5 min readMar 29, 2021

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Many of the men I know, whether friends or colleagues, have been tiptoeing around me ever since I began writing a book about women claiming space. Those who know I wrote a chapter on interruptions have become hypersensitive (read — fully freaked out) about cutting me off mid-sentence.

Yesterday I got this text from a man who had interrupted me, big time, but not as much as I had been interrupting him! We are also good friends, and he works hard not rock his privilege.

“After we got off the phone, I realized I interrupted you during our last conversation. I just wanted to say that if I did I’m sorry. REALLY sorry.”

Uh — oh.

Ok, there are good interruptions, and there are bad interruptions, and some interruptions are necessary for community building, fruitful collaboration, and fun with friends! Bottom line, this extroverted, dramatic, Italian with ADHD and a penchant for interrupting during boisterous conversation is a bit worried.

Have I created a monster which kill all lively conversation!?

In order to avert a very bland world where we all wait in total silence for others to fully complete their perfectly crafted sentences, please allow me to explain…

There are many flavors of interruptions. They fall under two meta categories: vertical and horizontal.

Horizontal interruptions (the good kind): interrupting when people of equal power are talking.

Vertical interruptions (the not-so-good kind): interrupting when the interruptor has more power or privilege than the person being interrupted.

To help folks learn when to interrupt, and when not to, I’ve created a handy guide which outlines the four most common flavors of interruptions. One is horizontal, and three are vertical. I’ve also created a quiz to help you identify what kind of interruptor you are, so you can figure out what steps to take to interrupt with confidence!

Four Flavors of Interruptions

Horizontal:

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