The art of interrupting is a paradox. A paradox is a statement that causes us to hold two opposing and contradictory statements as both true. Because of this challenge, a paradox can help us learn something new and/or think differently.
For example, when my friend says he wants to “spend money to save money,” I must stop and ask him exactly what he means. That dialogue will give me new insights into him and his actions.
In George Orwell’s book Animal Farm he states, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” This statement causes us to pause and ask more questions.
Interruptions are paradoxical – they are non-intuitive, thought of as rude, you never want to interrupt. So, this blog title, “The Art of Interrupting,” ideally causes you to stop and ask more questions. The first truth is interruptions are most often rude, irritating and, at worst, damage a relationship. They can stop a conversation and therefore prevent effective and necessary communication.
If all this is true, then, why would we want to know the art of interruption? It is because we need to know how to interrupt when it is necessary. When someone is wasting your time, wasting their time, preventing you to resolving a problem, and or preventing positive actions, it is our obligation to interrupt. This is especially true with emotionally-charged customers who need service and are being a barrier to receive that service you can provide.
When is it appropriate and how to do it in a way that minimizes the irritation and protects the relationship? A “rambler” is someone who repeats themselves or wanders off the main subject matter. A rambler is wasting your time, wasting their time, and preventing you from helping solve their issue. They are also distracting you from helping other customers.
The art of interrupting method is one of the key skills of MAGIC of Customer Relations, Communico’s “flag ship” customer experience training program.
Here is the artful and respectful method:
First, use the person’s name (or say “excuse me”) with the proper volume and a respectful tone to get their attention. Repeat this salutation if necessary until you get their attention.
Second, immediately apologize for interrupting and immediately thereafter express empathy, “I can certainly hear your concern (frustration or anger etc.) about not receiving the information you expected when you expected it. That must be so frustrating and I’m happy to help you right now. May I please ask you some questions so we can get to the solution immediately?”
Notice how this artful method can be repeated if necessary, depending upon the level of emotional level in the person.
It is an art to interrupt and maintain the trust. You can do it if you follow these simple steps. Be a leader and act when you need to interrupt. The customer will thank you later and you will be happier and more productive.
Dr. Wally Hauck is a senior vice president and co-owner of Communico. He is the author of Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement, Stop the Leadership Malpractice: How to Replace the Typical Performance Appraisal, Unleash Employee Engagement: 7 Initial Conditions for Outstanding Results