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Once upon a time

Never Interrupt a Story

I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend and her two male ex-housemates.

One of the housemates, an excitable Australian, had many amusing stories to tell.

After rattling off several at length, speaking for the first 20 minutes I arrived, I began to tire of his voice.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a lovely guy.

But he wasn’t projecting his voice, and I struggled to hear him above the din of the wooden clad restaurant in which we sat. As a result I was forced to nod politely along with the ebbs and flows of the narrative, despite only catching a few words here and there.

Not only that, but if he had stopped to [read the body language] of his dining companions he would have recognised eyes beginning to glaze over, and a boredom spreading in the group.

Eventually his stories ended, leaving a silence hanging over the table.

It was quickly filled by my friend, eager to finally make a point and sure one of her own tales.

She started.

My friend: “That reminds me of the time I was stalked on the Internet…”

No sooner had she got the first half of a sentence out of her mouth did the Australian pipe up again, cutting her off instantly, and taking over her conversational thread.

Australian: “Yeah did you know on Facebook you can do this think to find hidden people? So here’s how it works…”

And off he went into another 20 minute monologue.

Eventually that too came to an end.

My friend tried again.

My friend: “That reminds me of an stalking story that happened to me when I was in Scotland…”

Once again, she was rudely cut off within a few seconds.

Australian: “Scotland’s amazing isn’t it! There was this one time I was there and this funny thing happened to me.”

They won’t want to talk to you

I watched my friend as this continually happened to her throughout the night. Although she couldn’t openly display her frustration it was clear she felt it.

Fortunately she was good friends with the Australian, and they had built enough rapport over the years to not let it affect the relationship.

But imagine they had just met in a social situation, be it on a date, in a business meeting, or at a party.

What does his constant interrupting tell her about him? How is she going to feel about talking to him, dating him, or doing business with him?

She won’t want to.

He is telling her:

  • He is more important than her
  • He won’t listen to her when she really needs to be heard
  • He will bore her eventually
  • He isn’t socially savvy, meaning he isn’t as successful in life as he has the capacity to be

Make others feel good

The fastest way to become amazing socially is to make others feel good about themselves. By interrupting a story, or banging on about yourself you cannot do this.

It is acceptable, even encourages, to tell a funny anacdote to make people laugh. That is making others feel good. But if you keep doing it again, and again, and again, people quickly realise you aren’t speaking for their benefit, but yours. You are acting out of pure self-interest, and doing so only to make yourself look good, and to pump yourself up.

It all comes back to the two ears, one mouth rule and being aware when you are talking to a group.

Let others be heard.

A group conversation is about bouncing off each other and letting everyone have their turn. Only take your turn when you are sure the other person has finished, and never interrupt someone as they start speaking.

Done correctly, speaking in a group will make everyone like and respect you, because you allowed them to feel good about themselves as well as offering an interesting point of view.

Done incorrectly, it breaks rapport, and people will take an instant dislike to you. You come across as rude and self-centered, certainly not someone they would be all that keen to see again.

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