The 7 reasons people talk over the top of others

Rant alert! I hate fighting for airtime in conversations. (Who’s with me??) It’s exhausting when people insist on cutting you off mid sentence, talking over the top of you and generally dominating the airtime.

A good conversation is like a game of tennis. You take turns. The pace might speed up or slow down but you still take turns. Your partner on the court doesn't serve seven tennis balls in a row and expect you to keep them all in play. They don't return your serve and then serve another ball when the previous ball is still in play. It’s one ball, one at a time, back and forth. Just like a good conversation.

As someone obsessed with investigating, understanding and learning about good communication, I have many theories for why people don't make room for equal air time. Here are some of them.

7 reasons why people cut others off during conversation:

  • It’s what they learned in childhood

  • It’s a cultural thing (family, relationships, geography)

  • It’s a narcissistic thing

  • It’s an insecurity thing

  • It’s an excitement thing

  • It’s a power play

  • It’s a lack of awareness

Now it’s only fair to confess at this point, that as much as I hate it in others, I of course have been known to talk over the top of people as well. (Gasp! I know, I know. No-one’s perfect, right?) What I do pride myself on though is realising when I’m doing it and noticing the impact it’s having on the other person. Sometimes it’s part of the fun and excitement, sometimes they don't notice or don't care and sometimes it’s just obnoxious and annoying. So noticing the response in others is very important. If it’s not welcome, then I apologise for cutting them off and invite them to finish… and then SHUT UP while they finish.

But what if it’s someone else doing the cutting off? How do you handle this? Well that depends on how important the person is to you or how important it is for you to be heard. If they are not important, let it go and move on with your life, however if both these things are important then it’s helpful to bring this behaviour to their attention and let them know how you’re being impacted.

Celeste can we just stop for a second? I’ve noticed that I haven’t been able to finish my last three sentences. I’m feeling very frustrated right now. Can I please just take a moment to finish what I want to tell you?

The response you get to this example will vary of course depending on whom you’re talking to. But regardless of how you might need to tweak the expression, the intention to share your feelings is an honest and authentic way to start a real dialogue.

So to recap. Conversation back and forth is good. Conversation one way is bad. If it’s your fault stop it. If it’s someone else’s fault ask them to stop it. Right. Rant over. Carry on.