29 October, 2020
Have you ever been interrupted mid-sentence by your kids? Colleagues? Partner? Friends? All of the above? We all have, and we’re all guilty of it too. But the consequences are worse than you think.
Interruption has a lot to answer for, a new book by author Nancy Kline argues. Polarisation in our societies comes not from disagreement, but from a disconnection that arises when we refuse to listen to anyone else’s point of view. The most powerful force of disconnection, Kline argues, is interruption. As humans, we need space to develop our thoughts and finish our sentences. Interrupting people inhibits this, and all our would-be ideas and breakthrough moments never see the light of day.
Pledging not to interrupt could have hugely positive impacts in our social lives, and also in our boardrooms and our politics. The simple introduction of a mute button in the final debate between Biden and Trump increased the quality of the discourse between the candidates. This made it easier for viewers to understand the ideas and policies of both candidates and, ultimately, played a role in supporting American democracy.
Listening to opposing views is what enables us to have meaningful conversations about shared problems. These conversations, based on respect, listening and building on each other’s ideas constructively, are necessary to help find creative solutions and open up new possibilities.
So, when you get on that Zoom call today, fight the urge to interject – you might just learn something!
By Marie Guérinet