Business Etiquette / Inter-Generations / Loyalty Matters / Sell Yourself / Selling Skills


In 2016, @ETIQhour will concentrate on the top 15 Business Etiquette Essentials every future leader will want to know. Each fortnight a new Essential has been released: Essential #4: Don’t Interrupt. You can find out more information about this topic here.

Sometimes it’s essential to interrupt someone or a group of people. But the timing and the ‘know how’ is important to your etiquette success.

Here are some of my tips on how to interrupt someone’s conversation:

  1. Have a specific purpose. Whether you are jumping into other people’s conversation or you’re stopping someone’s monologue, it’s essential that you have a reason for doing it and the ability to relay that to the person talking. State the purpose as briefly as possible.
  2. Use proper timing. It’s best to wait until the person speaking stops to catch a breath before speaking up.
  3. Be as polite as possible. Always speak politely and start the conversation with a polite introduction to your interruption. Some things you might say include, “Excuse me,” “I need to say something here,” “Do you mind if I interrupt?” I have an idea that relates to what you just said,” “I’d like to add something to that,” or “I beg your pardon, but I need to say something.”
  4. Use a gesture. If your interruption isn’t acknowledged, lift a hand or use eye contact to get the person’s attention. Never hover. When you make your gesture, you can say, “Excuse me for a sec. I’ll keep this brief.” Then say what you need to say as quickly as possible so they can get back to their conversation.
  5. Clear your throat. This is likely to have heads turning in your direction. Take advantage of it to say whatever you need to say.
  6. Keep a noticeable distance when interrupting someone else’s conversation. If you walk right up to whoever is chatting, it may appear that you want to simply listen. Stand back a bit as you make eye contact to show that being part of their conversation isn’t what you want.
  7. Get clarification. When you are in a business or committee meeting, and the discussion is heading in a direction that you and perhaps others don’t understand, it is okay to interrupt to get an explanation. You may be surprised by how many will thank you later. Chances are if you don’t understand others don’t either.
  8. Thank the others for allowing you to interrupt. After you say what’s on your mind, show your gratitude for the others allowing you to speak.