As managers, we talk. Not only do we talk, but we happen to talk a lot. Where this starts to get interesting is that it turns out that how we talk matters. It matters a lot. There are two primary types of conversation styles and we need to know which one we are using. It turns out that the people that we are talking to may view interruptions differently and that’s why it matters so much.
It’s All About Interruptions
You would think that if someone is interrupted seems like it should be simple to figure out. We know that this is happening if one person cuts another off mid-sentence. We call that an interruption. On the other hand, if they waited their turn to speak then there would be no interruption. However, science shows real-life conversations turn out to be a lot more complicated than that. Researchers recorded male and female actors reading the exact same script and then asked others to assess whether the people they heard in the recordings were interrupting. People judged women far more harshly for their interjections, while men were more often perceived to be simply enthusiastic about the discussion. What this means for managers is that what counts as a rude interruption isn’t cut-and-dried.
Welcome to the modern world. Now online discussions have added another complication to the question. People with different cultural backgrounds also have different styles when it comes to interruptions. Managers have to ask themselves if they are a cooperative overlapper or a turn-taker? Some managers discover that thy have a tendency to cut others off near the end of what they’re saying to interject excitedly with their own take on what they’re saying. That conversation style is called “cooperative overlapping” and it’s common in particular groups, such as some Mediterranean and South Asian cultures and among New Yorkers.
The good news about the intent of “cooperative overlap” isn’t to silence or disrespect your conversation partner. Rather it’s to signal your enthusiasm and interest in what they’re saying. This can work great when you’re talking to someone who shares this conversational style. However, when an overlapper meets a person more accustomed to viewing any interruption as rude, misunderstandings often arise. Managers need to understand that well-intentioned enthusiasm can be misinterpreted as pushiness. This style of speaking can be an incredibly difficult pattern to change because it’s literally how a manager may have grown up communicating enthusiasm and support
Managers Need To Talk To Their Teams About Conversational Styles
Just knowing that these two conversation styles exist can help a manager tune their way of speaking to an audience. If a manager notices that someone has been silent, they might count to ten before beginning to speak again, or invite them to speak. If a manager has been waiting in vain for a pause, they might push themselves to jump in. Managers can take things a step further and actively discuss this issue with their teams to help avoid unnecessary conflict. There’s not as easy a way to accommodate both overlappers and turn-takers on the same team. The best way for managers to address this tension is probably by making explicit that both forms of communication are valuable and that each is the default for different people.
By doing this it should not only make for smoother, more productive conversations, but should also make a manager’s team more welcoming to the broadest possible range of talent. Inclusion efforts need to move past platitudes and obvious stumbling blocks. Once you do that, much of the harder, trickier, less straightforward work of team-building is going to be in finding ways to talk about, and support, these causes of stress or tension. The key for a manager to reap the most benefit from understanding different conversational styles is accepting that neither style is right or better. If “Don’t interrupt me” is sometimes a reasonable request, managers need to also accept “Don’t just sit there! Please overlap — cooperatively!”
What All Of This Means For You
As managers we spend a great deal of time talking with other people. We all have a conversational style that we prefer. What we tend to overlook or don’t realize is that everyone else may have their own conversational style also. This means that when we are interacting with other people, we may run into problems when our conversational styles clash. As managers we need to know how to deal with problems like this.
One key aspect of any conversational style has to do with interruptions. You would think that understanding when someone is being interrupted would be easy to do. It turns out that it’s not. Some people have the habit of cutting off other people as they get done talking simply because they are so excited about what they want to say. There is no problem when this type of person is talking to someone who does the same thing. The problems start to show up when someone who overlapps starts to talk with someone who does not. Managers need to understand that the different styles of communication exist. They also have to be willing to talk with their teams and let them know that different people communicate differently.
Good communication is at the heart of every well performing team. As managers it’s up to us to make sure that our team can operate smoothly. Part of making this happen is understanding that different people have different ways of communicating. If we can find ways to effectively communicate with people who communicate differently than us, then we will have done a good job. We also have to take the time to work with our team and make sure that everyone can communicate with each other.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: How do you think that a non-interruptor can ask an interruptor to stop interrupting them?>
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
One of the biggest challenges that every manager is facing is where to find new employees to join their team. We’ve tried all of the standard places and it seems like it is getting harder and harder to find the kind of talent that we want. Perhaps now is the time for us to start to do some new thinking. That TicTok application seems to be all the rage right now. Do you think that we could use it to find the people that we would want to join our team?