“Excuse Me, I’m Speaking”. These five simple words are now on T-shirts, coffee mugs, books and rampant memes. They are also tactic number one for how to speak up when you are being aggressively interrupted.
Excuse Me, I’m Speaking” became buzz-worthy after the 2021 Vice Presidential debates. These five words are how Vice President Kalama Harris reclaimed her voice, re-centered the attention and took back the mike during a very high stakes debate. And these five words will forever go down in history.
You’ll notice when watching the brief recap here that during interruption number three, Vice President Harris asserts herself with a big, beautiful smile on her face while at the same time completely shutting down her opponent. This tactic was executed flawlessly and now you can do the same when this happens to you. Just follow these three simple steps:
1. Start with a smile.
A big, wide and genuine smile is your best offense. A smile instantly disarms people and situations. You are viewed as friendly, upbeat and non-confrontational. Vice President Harris was well coached here and her approach served her well. You can substitute your own words here such as “one moment, or “just a second” or “insert your favorite term here”. The words are not as important here as the action.Stand firm. Polite, but firm.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, take it personally.
Research shows that most people do not even realize they’re interrupting and, in many cases, they can’t help themselves. They are either excited or agitated and sometimes even in agreement. They want to be heard. They may need to make a point. They may want to sound smart. They might need to prove something to themselves or to others in the room. Maybe they were just raised this way. Notice anything here? Their behavior is about THEM. Not you.If you take it personally, you make the situation about you and shift the focus to how you’re behaving rather than what you’re saying.
3. Finally, you can politely pause.
Once. I’ll be honest here; this is my least favorite tactic even though I use this frequently myself. If I have the floor and someone keeps talking over me, I politely pause and let them go on. Sometimes I will close my mouth and take a step back. And I’ll wait. It’s unsettling for everyone. If you want to really make it awkward for the interrupter, sit down. Regardless of how you pause, the people in the room will notice what’s happening. They will in many cases ask you to “go on” or “keep going” and in essence take the floor back for you. The first time this happens you can just politely let the person speak. No harm here. If it happens again? Refer to tip #1 or #2!
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