In our coach training program we talk about four different techniques for direct communication: interrupting, advising, directing and messaging. Today let’s focus on interrupting, which I refer to as an art.
Most of us are masters at interrupting inappropriately, or in ways that are not helpful. I’m sure you’ve experienced being interrupted by others in ways that have not helped. Often when we interrupt it’s a misguided attempted to help other people bottom line and be more direct. Our intentions are good, but are methods could use some work.
It’s no wonder that the art of interruption doesn’t come naturally. Most clergy are trained for active listening, letting the other person express their thoughts and feelings until they’ve exhausted every possibility. Yet that’s not always the most helpful approach for the speaker or the listener.
In today’s ministry landscape, we can’t afford to get stalled instead of moving forward. If someone is talking in circles, we need to get them back on track to stay with what’s important.
During my initial coaching sessions with new coachees, part of our initial agreement is permission for me to interrupt them—when appropriate. Having this conversation on the front end of the coaching experience helps the coachee to expect the interruptions and see them in a positive light.
There are several ways that I may interrupt someone while coaching:
Say their name and ask for permission, e.g., “(Name), may I interrupt you?”
Break in with, “Let’s push the pause button for a moment,” or “I’d like to step in for a moment.”
Bottom line things for them, e.g., “(Name), here’s what I’m hearing…”
If you’re uncomfortable interrupting or if your usual methods don’t get good results, try practicing these phrases. It’s worth interrupting if you can help move someone along towards where they want to go.