Cutting your partner off can make them shut down
Interrupting can be a bad habit. A bad habit that automatically shuts down lines of communication. Interrupting keeps both parties from feeling heard, respected, and valued. By improving your own communication habits, you'll improve your connection.
When you stop interrupting, your partner and you both start to feel heard! But it takes time and effort to break this bad habit. When we are eager and in hurry to get our point across, it is difficult to slow down and not interrupt the other person. When this is happening, we are focused on what we want to say, not thinking of our partner’s experience or point of view. The quick interjection and cutting off sends the message that your partner does not matter. When you are being cut off, you can feel as if you are invisible, what you have to say does not matter, and you’re not important. Even when there are good intentions behind the interruptions, it sends the opposite message.
In order to feel connected and heard, both parties need the space to express themselves and be responded to. Some times people interrupt because they know if you heard this one point it would change the conversation. (Which is very rarely true, but often believed.) Or they are so excited to show you that they hear you – but it leaves you feeling unheard, ignored, or unimportant. Sometimes people are interrupting because they don’t feel heard. Reminding yourself how to have effective communication can leave you feeling connected, even after a conflict conversation.
Here are a few quick tips on how to stop interrupting:
- Remember it’s Not Your Turn: Remind yourself that it is your partner’s turn to talk. Have your mind focused on your partner and what they are saying. It is their turn, so your job is to simply listen and try to understand what it is like to be in their shoes. Ask questions to clarify anything that isn’t clear. Summarize what your partner said before you respond. Or, if it is a lengthier comment, ask if you can summarize what you’ve heard so far to make sure you are on the same page. This will show your partner you are listening and help you focus on what they are saying
- Bite your Tongue: If you disagree or have something to say, bite your tongue and count to 10 in your head. “Biting your tongue” may be literal for you, or mean pinch your arm, tense your feet, or clench your hands. Take care not to hurt yourself. Take a deep breath before you respond. Slow down your response and help keep yourself grounded by biting your tongue.
- Breathe: Take a deep breath to calm down your reaction and remember that you want your partner to be active in the relationship. Sometimes just taking a breath will help slow down our reactions. Try breathing in for four seconds, hold for seven, and out for eight seconds. Slowing down your breath creates a physiological reaction that keeps you calm. Deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system – making you feel calm and safe.
- Take a Mental Note: If something comes to mind, take a mental note to share your point of view later. Your voice and your views matter, so take note of it and bring it up when it is your turn to talk.
- Active Listening: Put into practice the active listening tool. Your job at that moment is to show your partner that you are listening. Try to understand what your partner is saying, and stop thinking about what your next response will be. Active listening means eye contact, open body language, head nodding, and little words to show you are engaged (“uh-huh,” “okay,” etc.) Repeat back what you are hearing for clarification – if you can do it in an authentically curious way (not snarky, mocking, or irritably). Start active listening, stop talking, and stop the active interruptions.
- Value Your Partner: Successful communication makes your partner feel important, emotionally safe, and that they matter to you. When communicating, make it your personal goal to send the message that your partner is important and what they say matters. Remember that your partner has value. You want to hear what they have to say because you care about them and their experience. Communicate this to them.
- Take Turns: Create 20 minutes of uninterrupted discussions and take turns sharing your views, ideas, and thoughts. One person gets to be the talker and other person gets to be the listener. Take turns on each side. You can use a timer or a speaking stick if that works in your relationship. Be gracious, if your partner is in the middle of a point do not cut them off just because the allotted time is up.
Your partner is important to you. You value them and what they have to say. Let them know this by following our tips. Remember that breaking your interrupting habit will become easier over time. When you communicate effectively, you feel closer to your partner and safer in your relationship.
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About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653