We’ve all done it… interrupted someone when they’re trying to tell us something.

Have you ever wondered why conversational interruptions are so common?

Fun fact: The average human being speaks at 125-150 words per minute. The typical human brain processes 600 words per minute.

In short, when we’re listening to others, our brains are being underutilized, and our minds begin to wander. One of a few outcomes is possible in this situation. Our minds can begin to drift into our own thoughts… “What am I going to have for lunch?” “Did I send that email?” “Don’t forget to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned…” Conversely, we may try to stay involved in the present conversation. In order to keep our own random thought at bay, we start to think ahead of the speaker. We interrupt to add a comment or suggestion.

If this is a problem for you (as it has been for me in the past) you could try:

1. Keeping your finger held over your lips while listening to others (as a cue to you to hold your interruption).

2. Count 5 seconds before you speak after the other person has finished. This polite pause can signal it’s your turn to talk.

3. Write down your ideas (take notes) when someone is talking so you can catch your wandering thoughts before it escapes your brain.

4. Ask a friend to help you by pointing out when they see you interrupt. That kind of input can go a long way toward changing your behavior.

What we need to remember is that verbal communication skills are more than just our ability to clearly convey a message; they also include our ability to receive messages and process the information. This includes all the “non-verbal communication” a speaker is transmitting as well. When you stop yourself from interrupting another person you improve the quality of information you’re receiving, regardless of whether it’s in business or personal communication.

Interested in designing a program to help your employees become better leaders

through better listening skills?