“I interrupt” is a continuation of last week’s post about hissy fits, listening, and being heard. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have a lot of work to do around this.

Be a better listener.

On Friday, a conversation went unexpectedly south when I said, “I wasn’t finished; you interrupted me.”

The conversation was followed up by texts, and one message included “There is one thing if I may offer you. Be a better listener. I have wanted to tell you for some time that you interrupt people while they are trying to make a point, not just me.”


My initial reaction was, but I was the one interrupted! But I also know that, even though I’ve worked on listening better and well (which includes not interrupting), he wasn’t wrong. I still interrupt and caught myself doing it with my partner later that same day.

Mainly, I interrupt at home, with the people closest to me, the same people that interrupt me (or did I do it first?).

I sat with this and watched as my list of self-defenses scrolled through my head.

  • Sometimes I interrupt to say, “You already told me…”
  • Sometimes I interrupt because I perceive they haven’t heard or headed what I said.
  • Sometimes I interrupt to stifle a scream.

There are also happy interruptions.

  • Sometimes I interrupt because I’m so damn excited and don’t want to forget to include this tidbit.
  • Sometimes I interrupt because the joy bubbles up and can’t wait to come out.

His comment stung—… you interrupt people…—and I pushed back (I learned from you!) like the child I am, his child.

We often give the worst of ourselves to those we love the most.

Hi. My name is Pennie. I interrupt.

I have to look at this in myself. It’s not fun, but I know that I’ll never be heard if I can’t hear. I also know that listening is not about the information. It’s about the relationship.

I can’t control whether or not someone listens to me, interrupts me, or hears my words. But I can control my own behavior and responses. I can do this:

  • listen with patience, even to repeated messages
  • listen completely before responding (no cheating and cooking up the response while listening!)
  • listen even when I’m in disagreement or conflict

Will they listen and hear me on the end? Maybe, maybe not. But modeling the interaction I want is my best chance at being heard.

If you want magic…

Earlier this week in a session called “Healthy Relating — Communicating What Matters Most,” Rev. Michael Dowd talked about the scales and skills of good relating. One scale measures stingy to generous, and the other irresponsible to responsible.

He told the story of a time when he behaved at about a 4 on the stingy (1) to generous (10) scale, but the person with whom he was relating gave him credit for a 7. What happened? Rev. Dowd responded to his friend’s generosity and leveled up to the 7 or better.

Rev. Dowd also related a lesson given by a Landmark Forum speaker:

“If you want magic to occur in any relationship where there used to be closeness, there used to be affinity, there used to be love, and now there’s not for whatever reason… try this out: You take 100% responsibility for everything… that didn’t or doesn’t work in the relationship and you give them 100% credit for everything that did or does work and shut up and watch what happens.”

This is the ultimate pattern interrupt for relationships because it’s the opposite of what we mostly do.

Rev. Dowd points out that you have to be authentically on board with the generosity of this statement, that you must truly put yourself in their shoes.

What does that mean for me? My hope is that by taking 100% responsibility for interrupting and not listening and giving the other 100% credit for listening well (and meaning it), I will create a path toward being heard. Because this too is true: others rise (or sink) to our expectations of them.

And this notion is fun: I’ll use a pattern interrupt to interrupt my interrupting.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.