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I have a good friend that has a knack for interrupting. She is constantly cutting me off while I'm telling a story, often interjecting her own thoughts or opinions into it while she's doing it — or even worse, trying to guess the next part of the story ("OMG, she didn't do THIS next, did she?"). I've realized that it's not just me, she interrupts EVERYONE.
Often, she will interrupt with something completely unrelated like a comment about a server, which will remind her of another story or a thought that just occurred to her about a work situation that she has to tell us about now. It gets to the point that a story that should have taken 5 minutes to tell turns into a 30 minute affair, and, by the end of my story, everyone is completely disinterested, including me! She jokes about how she interrupts all the time but I don't think she realizes how it makes me feel. She has told me in the past that she has struggled with ADHD, but I know she doesn't act this way at work. She is able to control this when she's in meetings or just talking in a work setting, but she doesn't extend that respect to me or our other shared friends. It's gotten to the point that after a night of hanging out with her, I'm just so irritated that I become very annoyed with her and it colors the way I end up feeling about her. I think interrupting, especially when you know you have a tendency to do it, is rude. I've tried everything to curb this: letting her interrupt me and then trying to get the conversation back to what I was talking about (she just does it again), letting her interrupt and just dropping what I was saying (she doesn't seem to notice), asking other friends to finish their thought when she interrupts them (again, she doesn't seem to notice). It seems rude to say "Hey Friend, can you please try to not interrupt us as much, I'd really like to hear what Other Friend has to say," but isn't her interrupting equally if not more rude?? I don't want to spend less time with this friend, but every time we hang out I leave feeling disrespected, not cared about, and just annoyed. Help!
Dear Girl Interrupted,
Look at it like this: if you, one of her good friends, can barely stand to be around her, then this habit is most likely damaging her other relationships and interactions much more. Speaking up about it in a caring way will be doing her a HUGE favor.
It sounds like what you've tried so far is too subtle. Your pointed attempts to shame her for interrupting haven't worked because she is not really listening to you when you speak. She's waiting for her next opportunity to talk, and if it doesn't come fast enough, she just takes it anyway.
The fact that she is aware that she does this, but that hasn't stopped her is troubling. My guess that she can control it at work because she knows her job would be at risk were she to constantly interrupt her boss. She probably feels comfortable around you and unconditionally loved, which is great but not if she takes advantage of you.
Addressing the problem head-on is not rude; it's completely necessary BUT don't do it in front of a group of people and don't embarrass her. Pull her aside or just meet with her separately and tell her that when she interrupts you, it makes you feel like she doesn't care about your thoughts and feelings and you don't like it. Tell her that you leave your interactions exhausted and angry and that makes you sad because it's not how you're supposed to feel after spending time with a friend. Say you remember she struggled with ADHD and how is that going? Has she taken the steps to get it under control or seen a doctor?
The trick is to express your concern but also make it clear that being disrespected is not okay with you. You need to stand up for yourself if you want to have this person in your life because it sounds like your friendship is, understandably, on the rocks.
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