It is common when we are in conflict, that as our emotions escalate, many of us tend to interrupt more and listen less. We interrupt for a number of reasons, including that we perceive that whatever is being said or done undermines and challenges something important for us. Or, we find it difficult to hear the truth or falsehood of what the other person is saying, or we figure we know what the person is about to say and have limited patience or time. Other reasons for interrupting may include a need to be right that is shown by not giving the other person time and space to express his or her views and be heard, too. Interrupting is a habit for some people who listen to talk rather than to hear.

 

The tendency that we may have to interrupt may be accentuated during conflict. It helps in the quest for conflict mastery to do some reflection on what is happening for you if interrupting is something you are inclined to do or react to. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What is your definition of interrupting?
  • What are two words you would use to describe the impact on you when people interrupt you?
  • What is it about others interrupting you that results in the impact you described?
  • Under what circumstances are you more likely to interrupt the other person when you are in conflict with them?
  • When you interrupt him or her, what impact on the other person do you notice?
  • How does interrupting by either of you help the conflict conversation? Hinder it?
  • When people interrupt you when you are in conflict with them, what are you aware of that you may be doing or saying at those times (that seems to result in them interrupting you)?
  • What ways may you respond to the other person, at the time he or she interrupts you that may facilitate a more productive conversation?
  • What needs to happen for you to refrain from interrupting?
  • How may that happen?

 

What comments do you have about this topic? Or, what other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) about interrupting may work here?

Originally posted on www.cinergycoaching.com/blog/

Views: 203

Comment by John C. Turley on February 18, 2012 at 10:58pm

A co-mediator, a law student observer, and I recently facilitated a mediation session that involved a personal protection order(PPO).  The session was proceeding smoothly to the final stage of the process despite a few interruptions and emotional outbursts by both sides.  We maintained control and allowed a limited degree of venting since the issues were highly emotional. 

The mutually agreed upon solution called for the dismissal of the PPO then pending with the judge under specific conditions.  The disputants were ready to sign the agreement when suddenly the defendant threw a jaw dropping temper tantrum and refused to sign the document.  Everything came to a fault.  The defendant launched a verbal attack against the plaintiff that almost came to blows.  We physically separated the two.  The defendant revealed a new personality straight from The Three Faces of Eve  with a touch of The Exorcist for good measure.  The staff heard the noise and ruckus coming through the closed doors.  My calls for order reverberated throughout the mediation center

Once the interruption was brought under control, I asked the defendant why she changed her mind, as well as her reason for the outburst.  A very sweet and charming personality then explained that she was testing us to make sure that she received the best possible deal.  The agreement was signed with the disputants leaving our offices separately with a time stagger for everyone's safety including ours.

We debriefed with our Executive Director who deadpanned "Hmm.....seems to be some psychiatric issues in play."  We all laughed cathartically based on what we had just witnessed.  We were all saddened in the final analysis since the defendant needed help.   In this case the defendant used an interruption to try to control the session and to intimidate the plaintiff.  Perhaps she felt that she was losing control over the other person's life since the harrassment had been going on for years.  The discipline of the mediation process enabled us to stay on track and to complete the session.  This is one interruption that I will never forget.  The defendant's name was not Sybil.

 

JCT

Comment by Cinnie Noble on February 19, 2012 at 8:14am

What a story John! I am not so sure your amazing experience fits into this blog on interrupting; however, it makes for a great addition to a book, article or blog on 'Managing the Unexpected in Mediation'. Are you sure Sybil wasn't there ? :)

Comment by John C. Turley on February 19, 2012 at 12:01pm

Thanks for indulging me with my story.  As the facilitator, an interruption is necessary to adhere to the mediation process.  Disputants may introduce irrelevant details and repeat the same points and interests.  It is important to hear both sides;however, it is equally important to stay on point with respect for the process and the judge's schedule.  If points have been acknowledged by the other side and deemed as part of the solution, I interrupt if the other party rubs it in too deeply.  At some point, enough is enough if there is a potential derailment to consider.  Certainly, I do this politely and with deference to all. 

When I am interrupted by one of the disputants, I stop to consider the nature of their complaint.  Is it a challenge for control or is there a valid point to consider?  As the session proceeds, the interruption must be taken into context within the climate of the discussion.  The best words to describe my reaction are, "Listen closely."

I say this because listening is an art to reveal the interests and needs in play of all parties including mine.  Perhaps I am missing a key point that an interruption brings to the forefront.  If I am in conflict, an interruption focuses on what I perceive are the facts and the truth.  I expect the other party to respect my point as it contributes to the truth and the movement toward understanding each person's interests and needs.  The understanding is that the interruption is presented respectfully within the spirit of mutual cooperation.

When I am interrupted, I may be overbearing or too self righteous.  I consider the validity of the interruption.  Sometimes, I may interpret an interruption as a personal attack if the facts or allegations are inaccurate.  This is my flaw which requires me to maintain objectivity and to understand what the other side is really saying vis-a-vis their interests and needs.  Re framing is a great tool to use in the face of an interruption preceded by a deep breath or even 5 seconds of silence.  Objectivity and respect for the methodology are important points albeit difficult to maintain.  Why is the interruption happening?  What is the motivation behind the break?  What is the other party trying to communicate?  How do I process the interruption to contribute to the solution?  Is this interruption a break through point that may lead to the heart of the matter?

I value the benefits that an artful interruption may deliver to clarify a point or position or to add to the overall development of the solution.  It is important to use an interruption strategically within the process to move the parties toward a mutually acceptable solution.

JCT

Comment by Cinnie Noble on February 19, 2012 at 4:05pm

Thank you again John for your great comments and your perspectives  on interruptions as the practitioner within the mediation process and as a disputant. I so agree with you - like with many other acts within a conflict interaction, it is  important to listen to interruptions and not make assumptions about the rationale for them. For some people, interrupting can be a huge hot button and that of course, can lead to more reactions that are counterproductive. As a coach, I  regularly help clients on a one-on-one basis deconstruct their reactions to being interrupted OR their own self-identified tendencies to interrupt - to better prepare them to engage in a discussion (whether it is a mediation or self managed situation).

Comment by John C. Turley on February 21, 2012 at 4:23pm

Yesterday, I was on the receiving end of an interruption by a "master mediator" in a training session.  The group leader sentenced me to the "hot seat" for a review of my recent statements in a group exercise before 7 of my distinguished peers and fellow mediators.  The explanation for the existence of the hot seat was inadequate, and there was no logical segue from the expression of my interests to the critical review that was about to take place.  Actually, I was expressing empathy for a peer based on her involvement in a contentious and highly emotional personal mediation.  I did not crudely state that "I feel your pain;" however, the point of the exercise was to give feedback after each presentation.  I related her situation to my own professional experiences in the form of empathy and support.

What started out as professional criticism of me turned into a personal attack as his comments became more pointed, acerbic,intimate, and relentless.  I called a halt or rather my own interruption to his interruption.    

Cinnie, I agree with your observation about people who "listen to talk rather than to hear."  Things were said to me that I either did not say or were either out of context or simply not intended.  Once again, I quote from your post.   "We interrupt for a number of reasons, including that we perceive that whatever is being said or done undermines and challenges something important for us. Or, we find it difficult to hear the truth or falsehood of what the other person is saying, or we figure we know what the person is about to say and have limited patience or time. Other reasons for interrupting may include a need to be right that is shown by not giving the other person time and space to express his or her views and be heard, too. Interrupting is a habit for some people....."

The timing of your post and my experience is exquisite in terms of lessons learned and professional growth.  I learned more from your post and your above comments than the best efforts of the "master mediator."  His comments unwittingly validated your key points.  Thanks to your perspectives, I saw his comments for what they were, control points to aggrandize his position as the authority.

JCT

Comment by Cinnie Noble on February 21, 2012 at 4:52pm

Oh my - it sounds like you handled this very well under the circumstances!

Thank you for writing about this and sharing more perspectives.

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