communication style interrupting others

How often do I interrupt others while they’re speaking, and what can I do to improve my listening skills?

The Art of Listening: Breaking the Habit of Interrupting Others

As we navigate our personal and professional lives, effective communication is key to building strong relationships, achieving success, and fostering a sense of community. However, one common pitfall that can hinder our ability to communicate effectively is interrupting others while they’re speaking. In this article, we’ll explore the frequency of interrupting others, the negative impacts it can have, and most importantly, provide practical tips on how to improve your listening skills.

How Often Do We Interrupt Others?

Let’s face it – we’ve all been guilty of interrupting someone at some point or another. Whether it’s due to excitement, anxiety, or simply not being mindful of our conversational habits, interrupting others is a common phenomenon. Research suggests that people tend to interrupt each other every 17-20 seconds in conversations (1). Yes, you read that right – every 17-20 seconds!

The Negative Impacts of Interrupting Others

Interrupting others can have several negative consequences:

  • Lack of understanding: When we interrupt someone, we may miss crucial information or context, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunications.
  • Frustration and defensiveness: Being interrupted can make the speaker feel disrespected, unheard, and frustrated, leading to defensiveness and conflict.
  • Damaged relationships: Frequent interrupting can erode trust, create tension, and even damage relationships over time.

Improving Your Listening Skills: Practical Tips

So, how can we break the habit of interrupting others and improve our listening skills? Here are some practical tips to get you started:

  1. Practice active listening: Make a conscious effort to focus on the speaker, maintain eye contact, and avoid distractions like your phone or surroundings.
  2. Use non-verbal cues: Nod your head, use gestures, or make brief comments like “uh-huh” or “I see” to show you’re engaged without interrupting.
  3. Wait for pauses: Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts before responding. Wait for natural pauses in the conversation to ensure you don’t cut them off mid-sentence.
  4. Paraphrase and summarize: Repeat back what you’ve heard in your own words, ensuring you understand the speaker’s perspective. This also helps prevent miscommunications.
  5. Ask open-ended questions: Encourage the speaker to share more by asking open-ended questions that begin with “what,” “how,” or “why.”
  6. Set a goal to listen more than you speak: Aim to listen for at least 70% of the conversation, allowing the other person to share their thoughts and ideas.
  7. Practice mindfulness: Regular mindfulness exercises can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, making it easier to recognize when you’re about to interrupt someone.


Breaking the habit of interrupting others requires effort, self-awareness, and a willingness to adapt our communication style. By implementing these practical tips into your daily conversations, you’ll not only improve your listening skills but also foster more meaningful relationships, avoid misunderstandings, and become a more effective communicator. Remember, listening is a skill that can be developed with practice, patience, and persistence.


  1. Research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, UCLA

I hope this article helps you reflect on your communication style and provides valuable insights to improve your listening skills!

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