Don’t interrupt

What does it feel like to talk without being interrupted? Can you remember the last time? For many, it doesn’t happen often, or ever. I hear from clients that interrupting is prevalent in their conversations and meetings. It’s become accepted behavior. But, a lot of good thinking is not being expressed because of it.
I was talking with a client who is in a career funk and doesn’t know what she wants to do next. Carol’s future is unclear because she doesn’t want to do what she’s educated and trained to do. Yet, she doesn’t want to disappoint others’ expectations. So, I asked her not to think of jobs, just tell me what she likes to do.
She rattled off a few things. I waited, silently, allowing her to think and know she could keep going. She continued, exploring her own thinking as she went. Then she paused and said, “I guess that’s it.”
I asked, “What more do you think, feel or want to say?”
She was silent, then more flowed out. She went deeper, further. She chuckled at one point, saying, “I’ve never told anyone I like doing that before, but hours can fly by when I’m doing it.”   
I asked again, “What more do you think, feel or want to say?” This question unlocked her thinking.
As we wrapped up our session, Carol was in a different state of mind. She was energized instead of muddled, had considered possibilities she hadn’t thought of before. She found it freeing to talk about things she never thought she would. She felt safe delving, not being  judged, redirected or hemmed in to focusing on what she’s always been expected to do.
As the listener, it takes effort (it’s hard!) to not comment, interject or ask a clarifying question while listening to someone talk about what they’re thinking. The outcome, though, can be surprising, even remarkable.

Try listening to someone this week. Ask what’s on their mind, what they’d like to talk about, and tell them you won’t interrupt. When they pause, and you’ve waited a moment to see what else flows, ask the question I asked. See what happens.
I learned about this approach, and this question, in a fascinating book by Nancy Kline, THE PROMISE THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING, I won’t interrupt you.
The title says it all.

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