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10 Easy-to-learn Tips On Handling Interruptions

Imagine this, a co-worker enters your office and says:"Cathy, could I talk with you for a minute? I'm having areal problem with...." You glance at your watch and think ofthe report thatís due in an hour. What do you do?

What would happen if you were Cathyís supervisor?

Letís continue. You're cooking dinner, starting todestress, the food preparation timing is coming together--for once--and your mother calls: "Could we talk? Itísimportant. I need someone to talk to?" What do you say?

What we would like to say and what we end up doing isusually two different things. Good news, tactfully sayingno is a learned skill. It requires know-how and practice.Letís talk about ten how-tos and alternatives that can helpyou practice.

Tip 1: There are three parts to meshing a "no, but not no"response. The first part acknowledges and empathizes. Thesecond part gives a situation statement. In the third, andlast, part is an action statement.

An example of an empathy or acknowledgment statement:"Sam, I'm sure this problem is important."

Next, add the second part, a situation statement. Forinstance: "I'm working on a report that I promised to havecompleted within the next hour."

The third part, an action statement, needs to describe whatyou will do or offer as an alternative: "Letís get togetherafter I've completed my report. How about 2 PM thisafternoon in your office?"

Instead of saying no directly, you have said no withoutsaying no.

Tip 2: What if itís your supervisor interrupting you? Whatdo you do? Hereís how to mesh the three parts into a no,without any further interruption, and into a win for both.

Sandy, your supervisor enters, "Lisa, I hate to interruptyou, but we have a real problem in the field, I need to talkwith you right away. Could I see you in my office?"

First, the acknowledgment statement: "Sandy, I'm sure thisis an important problem." Second, the situation segment:"I'm working on that report you requested by noon." Third,adding the action: "Would you like me to defer the reportuntil 3 PM [its imperative to offer an exact time] so we canmeet now? Or would you like me to complete this and thencome to your office?" This response allows your supervisorto see your perspective and situation and to make adecision.

Tip 3: Discouraging professional interrupters. Theseprofessionals make a career out of interrupting. They starttalking and don't stop. They go on and on and when theyfinally stop to catch a breath, and you get to saysomething, they interrupt a few minutes later. How do youhandle these?

Movement is the key. If cornered behind your desk, standup, and move. If you are already standing up, begin walkingout. If sitting down, stand up. You can also changemomentum by dropping something or turning sideways. Reachfor something that has nothing to do with the conversationor excuse yourself to the restroom.

Interrupt in the same manner they use with you. Itís okay,they do it because it appears normal to them even if itfeels brash to you. Here are a few template statements:"Where is this leading?" "Whatís your point, I've gottenlost in what I think is the trivia?" "You have jumpedaround so much on topics, I don't know which one toaddress."

Itís important to practice patience throughout this process.Professional interrupters don't usually hear you the firstfew times you ask your question. If need be, become abroken record. Continue to ask again until they do hearyou. Identify what is it about their communication style orinterruption process that annoys you. Provide this feedbackand communicate your preferred style of being interrupted ina positive manner.

Tip 4: What about the few that don't get your hints orlisten to what you are saying? Sometimes they even followyou down the hall or talk "at" you instead of "with" you?This is a rude interrupter. Be firm, direct, and abrupt.If they appear to be bruised, don't let it bother you. Theywill not take what you said personally even if they say so.Their "taken-aback" expression is just for show. Actually,it is a form of manipulation. Don't play and don'tapologize.

If they persist go ahead and give them an ultimatum: "Yourudely interrupt me. I've tolerated this in the past;however, it has to stop NOW." When they finally realize youare not playing their game, they will stop. They will eithertotally avoid you in the future or return with respect.Generally, they will return with a new awareness aboutthemselves. When they do, accept their apology. But don'tcount on it. And if they don't return, you haven't lostanything.

Tip 5: If you can, keep doing what you are doing. Look up,smile, point to a notepad and pen, and then return to whatyou were doing.

Tip 6: Sometimes the position of your furniture invitesinterruptions. Especially if your office is beautifullydesigned, or contains natural ingredients, like plants.Others want to be around this energy. Itís attractive.Itís renewing to them as much as it is to you. Thereís onlyone suggestion when this occurs. Suggest that they changetheir office to reflect a similar energy. Afterwards, theywill not want to leave their office as easily.

Tip 7: If you frequently get trapped behind your desk.Plan and practice various escape routes and methods. Again,consider rearranging the furniture to allow for escaperoutes.

Tip 8: Discourage squatters. If your interruptions are dueto people consistently coming in and just sitting andtalking, remove any empty chairs. Place them outside youroffice so they are available when needed but not too closeto the door that they can easily be dragged in when someoneenters.

Tip 9: Do people wait for you to get off a phone call?Place a sign on the desk: "If I'm on a phone call, pleaseleave me a note. I'll check back with you as soon as I'moff the phone."

An alternative: Train others in a silent hand code. Useyour fingers to indicate how long you are going to be. Oneindex finger explains that you will be off the phone in aminute or two, please stay. Full hand with a wave says, "Idon't know how long and I'll get back to you." This silentcode allows you to continue your focus, acknowledges them,and also allows them to make a decision on their time.

Tip 10: Many of these ways for handling interruptions atwork can also apply at home. Here is one that transferswell.

Name a "personal spot." An area you can call your own. Itcan be a den, sewing room, shed, or an extra bedroom. Thismeans this spot makes you off limits to interruptions. Ifyou have children, explain to them what interruption means,why you need some personal space, and give them the sameopportunity and courtesy.

Purchase a clock sign at the office supply store -- the sametype retailerís use on their front doors -- to indicate whattime you will be available again. Or you could add a whiteboard so they can write their note. Like college studentsuse on their dorm room doors. A magnetic board would workwell for younger or smaller children. Create magnets foreach family member that they can move to a spot alreadywritten: "Bobby wants you."

The Other Side Of The Coin

The other side of this perspective is using interruptions toboost productivity. People sometimes use interruptions topush themselves into overdrive. This helps some peoplewhile it disrupts others. This habit gets them to move pasttheir own procrastination habits to complete their tasks.This need can also be an addictive behavior sometimesdisguised as "workaholicism."

(c) Copyright, Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.

Submitted by:

Catherine Franz

Catherine Franz, a eight-year Certified Professional Coach,Graduate of Coach University, Mastery University, editor ofthree ezines, columnist, author of thousands of articleswebsite: http://www.abundancecenter.comblog: http://abundance.blogs.com




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