Watch Your Mouth!

I found a copy of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. While thumbing through it, I came across this topic, Don’t Interrupt Others or Finish Their Sentences. Before reading it, I thought I would take a stab at providing my thoughts on the subject. I’m basically cutting him off to explain my point of view. The irony of that is not lost on me, but let’s move on.

If there’s any place to practice mindfulness, it’s during conversations with others. I like to think I am a good communicator and that I don’t need to be concerned, but let’s look closely. I cut people off more often than I want to admit. Conversations are a lot like driving a vehicle onto a freeway, you increase speed, find a hole in traffic, and steer your car into it. Unfortunately, sometimes, my behavior when I converse is not like that. I don’t find an available space, I just start talking, when I think of something I want to say. I talk over. I talk simultaneously. I burst right in there. Getting on the freeway is one thing. Having a conversation is another.

Bear in mind, I’m a psychotherapist. I talk and listen for a living. Somehow, that makes my behavior much more cringeworthy. Most of the time, I’m good at observing the rules of the road, in conversations, so when I make a "California stop" or a unsignaled lane change, people notice. I notice.

There is nothing more nasal-flaring, for me than someone cutting me off and finishing my sentences. Especially when they finish them with endings that don’t match what I was going to say. Not only did they cut me off, but they were not even tracking what I was talking about. I begin to check out.

I know some cultures and some families talk over each other, and that they don’t mean anything by it. It can be a sign that you are into the conversation and have something to say. That’s not what I’m talking about here. This is about not listening and just waiting for a chance to talk. What I’m talking about is the person who waits for you to start talking and uses it as a cue for them to begin talking, with no conversational awareness that they just cut you off. Having someone talk over you can tire you out.

When I’m at my best I share the conversation. I don’t feel rushed and enjoy exchanging ideas. I’m relaxed and leave room for my partner to enter and exit the conversation smoothly. I provide them with plenty of room to express themselves fully. To stay in that zone more often, I need to be more mindful of my anxiety and stress levels. When I feel harried I'm most inclined to fall into bad habits during conversations. Keeping my eyes on the road and paying attention to my feelings helps me avoid cutting others off and finishing their sentences. Now let me read what Richard Carlson has to say.