One of the annoyances that parents, members of a couple and even individuals may experience in their day-to-day interactions is constantly being interrupted by others. Frequent interruptions can make one feel as though their thoughts and needs are not important to the people around them. Over time, this frustration of not feeling heard and appreciated can wear on a person. If you find that this happens to you more than you'd like it to, you may be wondering why it's happening and what to do about it. There are number of reasons why people interrupt, all of which can be attributed to one's unique psychology and brain development. Some common reasons include:
1 | Normal child development
The part of the brain implicated in interrupting others is the prefrontal cortex, which is the most evolved part of the brain and takes up about 30% of the brain's total mass. This region of the brain is not fully developed until age 25 and only starts to show an ability to comprehend social consequences between ages 3 and 4. Some interrupting behavior you experience from your kids can be attributed to normal brain development.
2 | Autism
Several of the defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorders are a person's difficulty with engaging in social reciprocity, maintaining appropriate social norms, exercising inhibitory control, understanding the consequences of one's behavior and intuiting the feelings of others. These are all essential components required to prevent oneself from interrupting others. If you have a child with autism, keep in mind that their interruptions are not an intentional ploy to annoy you, but rather a symptom of their developmental difference.
3 | AD/HD
Kids (and adults, too) with AD/HD not only have insufficient blood flow to their prefrontal cortex at rest, but the activity in that area actually decreases when the person attempts to concentrate, making it even more difficult for the child to control their impulses. This means that if your child with AD/HD interrupts you more frequently, it could be due to their intention to focus on what you're saying.
4 | Narcissism
Some people genuinely believe that what they have to say is more important than what others have to share. Narcissism is a tricky issue because it's a condition that psychologists refer to as "ego-syntonic," meaning that those who have don't see it as a problem, thus infrequently seek help for it. If you think that someone in your life may have narcissistic traits or narcissistic personality disorder, I suggest you seek support from a professional or from others who have a similar lived experience. It can be incredibly challenging to assert oneself with a narcissistic individual.
5 | Lack of Awareness
For a relationship to thrive, both members must possess a certain level of interpersonal awareness. But sadly, many people remain unaware of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how their actions may affect others. Interrupting could be a sign that an individual lacks the personal awareness required to make a behavior change for the benefit of their relationships.
6 | Compensatory behavior
Interrupting can be a relic from someone's childhood. Let's say you grew up in a household where everyone in your family had a big personality, and if you didn't talk over people you wouldn't be able to get a word in edge wise. You may learn that this is the only way you have your voice heard and get your needs met. Fast forward into adulthood and one might hold onto this compensatory behavior, even though it's no longer needed.
7 | Cultural difference
We live in a diverse world and there are so many different cultures represented wherever we come into contact with others. Individuals from a cultural heritage other than yours may have completely distinct ideas about what constitutes appropriate social interaction, and those social norms could include interruption.
What to do...
Set appropriate limits with your child around allowing others to speak before they share their piece. This might require consistent reminders on your part. Remember to be patient with your child, validate their feelings and support their ability to become more reflective of their behavior and impact on other. You can say "I know it's so hard to wait your turn when you feel really excited about what you want to share. But you don't like it when you're interrupted, so you need to make sure you don't do it either. We will all have a chance to talk if we take turns."
Stand your ground. One of the reasons you may be getting railroaded is that you're likely sending subtle messages to the people around you that's it's okay to interrupt you. Make sure to call people out (in a respectful way) and say "you know, I didn't finish my point there yet. I'd like to still add that..." to get your word in. The more you can set and maintain boundaries with those around you (although it can be awkward at first) the more others will begin to respect those limits without you having to enforce them all the time. Whether or not you realize it, you set the tone for how you're treated and others follow suit.
I hope you found this post helpful in understanding the irritating behavior that many of us deal with. Now I want to hear from you:
- Do you have a child or adult in your life you interrupts you to no end?
- Did any of the explanations above resonate with you?
- How do you manage your responses to that person who interrupts you?
- Would you find any of the aforementioned recommendations helpful?
Please share in the comments below. Thank you for reading and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.