Welcome to the 3rd installment in our exploration of how HSPs respond to being interrupted.
In “What to Do When People Interrupt You — Part 1” we looked at a common reason why Highly Sensitive Persons get interrupted and I shared reader responses to the question, “How do you feel when you’re talking and someone interrupts you?”
In “Why Being Interrupted is a Shock to Your HSP System” we discussed what often happens to your HSP brain and body when someone interrupts you, and I shared reader responses to the question, “What do you do when you’re talking and someone interrupts you?”
One reader expressed our conundrum so well:
I know deep inside that what I’m saying is valuable and deserves to be heard. But I just don’t know how to say it out loud without making a spectacle….
So let’s get super-duper practical.
Below, you’ll find 10 ideas — shared by other HSP Christian women just like you! — for becoming more intentional in how you respond (vs. re-act) to people who interrupt you.
But before you scroll down, a word of warning:
This is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
You have your own unique, God-wired constellation of sensitivities.
So what works for you will be different from what works for me.
Experiment to find what’s a good fit for you … and then practice, practice, practice!
Pause and Pray
Each of the 10 “creative ways” below begins with your choice to pause and pray. Prayer opens you to receive God’s guidance, while increasing the vital gap between stimulus and response.
1 — Keep talking
“I just continue talking until they stop interrupting.”
This idea floors me. The idea of continuing to talk through an interruption is almost unfathomable. Even after 30 years as a classroom teacher, I have a hard time continuing to lecture when a student starts whispering to a seat-mate.
I’m putting this idea out here because it feels so bold … and so reasonable.
2 — Leave
“I just look away, step away and excuse myself to talk to others around us.”
“I let it go and find another place to jump into the convo.”
I love the idea of having the quiet confidence to leave the interruptor. Not in an embarrassed or revengeful way. Simply a curious quest to find a new conversation.
3 — Cry
“I fight back tears.”
In our society, this is not always a practical way to respond in the moment.
But tears are a 100% normal response when there’s been a shock to your HSP system. Crying is your body’s natural response to discharging the stress brought on by overstimulation.
So when you can, let your tears flow. It’s called “having a good cry” for a reason. (Especially for those of us raised in families where the motto was, “Don’t let me see you crying or I’ll give you a real reason to cry.)
4 — Confront, in the moment
“The people close to me (like family and friends) I easily ‘shush’ them and tell them I wasn’t finished. These are the people I feel really comfortable around. “
“If a loved one interrupts me, I say, ‘Please don’t interrupt me’.”
“Sometimes I say, ‘Excuse me, I wasn’t done’.”
“I simply stop and turn to the person and say, ‘I am sorry you thought I was finished talking, here is what else I had to say on this subject’.”
Oooooh — these words take my breath away! I used to believe that women who could say things like this must come up with the perfect response “in the moment.” Whereas I can only think of the right thing to say minutes (or hours … or days) later when it’s “too late.”
Now I know that confidently saying things like these comes from lots of experimentation and practice.
And I also know that it’s never “too late” (see #5!)
5 — Confront, at another time
“It happens too much and I really don’t like being overlooked like that, yet don’t know how to come around to telling the people about it.”
“I finally became angry and courageous and told the person to ‘stop it’. I have also learned to not allow myself to be dismissed and I push back even if the other person becomes angry. I don’t have to please everyone all of the time.”
Because HSPs are deep processors, we often don’t think well “on our feet.” And while it might seem ideal to have a ready response to give to someone who interrupts you “in the moment,” it’s perfectly fine to wait until later to talk with them.
Of course, waiting for a better time may create the stress of bringing up an unpleasant topic and possibly “creating conflict” which most HSPs prefer to avoid. When we do it anyway, our confidence in the value of using our voice will grow.
6 — Wait quietly
“I stop and listen, then I finish what I was saying.”
“When the other person takes a breath, I’ll bring the conversation back to what I was talking about and finish my thoughts.”
“At some point, there is a break and I can re-enter the conversation and usually steer it back to where it belongs.”
“Sometimes I just finish what I was going to say in the normal ebb and flow of conversation.”
Sometimes, nuanced approaches like these allow us to really finesse a situation.
Other times, we may want — or need! — to be more direct:
7 — Wait, then say something
“I am trying to get better at waiting for them to stop talking … and then say something like, ‘I wasn’t quite done with my thought’ and then finish.”
“Sometimes after the interrupter stops talking I’ll say, ‘As I was saying…’ and continue on.”
“I wait for the next chance I have to break into the conversation and say, “Circling back to what we were saying earlier about…”
“Sometimes I bring the topic back and finish my story, etc. Sometimes I am a bit passive aggressive and say, ‘What I was saying before you interrupted me was…’ “
What I love about these examples is that they give us several options to experiment with.
You can practice some of these “scripts” in the mirror to see how you look and feel while saying them, and keep the one(s) that are a good fit.
8 — Use Humor
“I can be sort of ‘nicely snarky’ if someone is disrespecting me and being rude.”
I’m highlighting this one in bright yellow on my printed list because I need to remember how quickly humor can lighten a mood — especially mine! True humor is disarming and communicates safety.
(Note: Avoid using sarcasm or flippancy. They are damaging and communicate contempt.)
9 — Let it Go
“I try to let the person talk and then finish what I was saying. Sometimes, though, it isn’t worth it or the conversation takes a turn and it’s not worth finishing. “
One of my life goals is to become as “non-offendable” as possible. Often, this means letting things go. Not making mountains out of molehills. Not sweating the small stuff. (And a host of other cliches!)
Here’s a question I ask myself when I’ve been interrupted and I’m deciding whether to take a stand or let it go: “Is this a problem? Or is this a pattern?” For me, if it’s a one-time problem, it often serves everyone best for me to Let. It. Go.
10 — Give Grace
“I try to give some grace because that’s just how some people communicate. If you come from a large family or certain cultures, interruption may be the norm. I read something once that called it ‘collaborative overlap communication style’.”
I love this intentional choice to consider multiple perspectives. And the reminder that as Christians, we get to give others the same grace that we’ve received from God.
“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”