Many women have had the frustrating experience of trying to make a point in the workplace or a social situation and being interrupted by a man. So, how do deal when you're interrupted by those with a higher status than you? Since they're not always even aware they're doing it, getting them to stop can be tricky.
"Manterrupting" is a real, scientifically documented phenomenon. Women are more likely to be interrupted by both men and women, according to a 2014 George Washington University study. On average, women in the study interrupted women 2.9 times over the course of a three-minute conversation, and men interrupted women 2.1 times, while interrupting other men 1.8 times. Another 1975 study from the University of California-Santa Barbara found that 47 out of 48 interruptions in mixed-gender conversations consisted of men interrupting women.
So, what do we do about this? Most importantly, companies can offer training to teach men — particularly white, straight, cisgender men — and other privileged people to give women, people of color, and other marginalized folks the floor. In fact, given the findings that women interrupt women disproportionately, too, women also need to be conscious of how they speak with other women. In essence, this is the same argument we're constantly making about so many things: Instead of teaching people not to be interrupted, teach people not to interrupt others in the first place.
But in the meantime, a recent Harvard Business Review article by Harvard Business School psychologist Francesca Gino offers some very useful tips on how to deal with manterrupting. Here are a few ways she and other sources have offered to reduce the chances that you'll be interrupted.
1State What You Want To Get To Beforehand
If somebody knows what points you plan to make, they're less likely to assume you're done before you are, says Gino. They'll also look rude for interrupting when you're clearly not finished.
2Issue A General Anti-Interruption PSA
If you're in a group setting, like an office, tell the whole group that you'd like the chance to express your opinion without being interrupted, or that you've noticed people interrupting and would like them think about their communication styles, Gino suggests. You could even point out that women are more likely to be interrupted, so people should be extra conscious of that.
Follow through on this one, too, calling out interrupting and bringing the conversation back around when necessary.
LeanIn.org suggests enlisting a workplace ally to stick up for you when you're interrupted, spoken over, unfairly criticized, or otherwise treated differently in the workplace due to your gender. They can, for example, say they'd like to hear the rest of your point or ask you a follow-up question.
4Have A Private Conversation
If interruption is a recurring problem with a particular person, consider talking about it outside the conversation they're interrupting, says Gino. If it's a coworker, you could mention it during a one-on-one meeting with them. If it's a friend or significant other, you could bring it up with them and then offer to point out exactly when they're interrupting you in the future so they're aware of it
I know — women's language is already policed too much. But if you're looking to be interrupted less often, speaking too quickly for someone to jump in and assertively enough to show you believe you're worth listening to can deter people from cutting you off, Claire Cohen writes in The Telegraph.
6Avoid Eye Contact
"Interrupters thrive on opportunity," Cohen explains. When you look at someone, they feel permitted to speak. Avoiding eye contact may be difficult in a one-to-one conversation, but if you're in a group, you could look at the people who are less likely to interrupt.
7Show Assertive Body Language
Women aren't penalized for showing non-verbal assertiveness the same way they are for behaving assertively, according to a 2016 Emory University study. So, standing up tall or sitting with your legs apart could convey the message that what you have to say is important. Yes, it sucks that we have to do these things to establish ourselves, but since that is the way things are, we'd might as well use it to our advantage.