Portrait of young businessman aiming with toy gun at desk

I just lost my train of thought. I hate that. And it happens all of the time. You know why? Because people interrupt me, ALL DAY LONG.

Sitting at the computer writing and someone barges in and just starts talking. Trying to present a new concept to an entire boardroom of people and someone interjects their novel idea. Building a new business plan and someone abruptly changes direction on me.

It’s all about interruptions. From email, to texts, Facebook Messenger, and phone calls. I know that you’ve been here. The constant toll that all of this input takes on our brains is devastating.

I think that one thing that we’ve all experienced is a co-worker that just won’t ever listen. They always have to put their two cents in before you can even finish a thought.

Well, today is our day people, to take back control and chime down the interrupter.

Here are a few methods that you can try:

The Pavlov’s Dog Method: So clearly you have a real problem on your hands. You can’t get in a word edgewise. Think about it like this, it’s like training a puppy. I’ve worked with some real winners in my day and to be honest the sound of a barking dog is better than some of the crap I’ve heard people spew out when they interrupt me in meetings. So what do you do when a puppy barks? You fill up a squirt gun and spray them whenever you want to modify their behavior. This will work with a co-worker that’s buggin’ too.

I guess you can’t really use a water assault at work, but what you can do is make it VERY obvious that the interruption is very unprofessional. Changing someone’s behavior is nearly impossible, but you can control your own. Body language says a lot. So don’t make eye contact with the offender or turn your chair the other way. If that doesn’t work, keep talking right over them, or just blatantly say, “Excuse me, I haven’t finished my thought.” Don’t let someone bulldog your conversation.

Look Right Through Them: Not trying to compare co-workers to five or 10-year olds, but what the heck, I will anyway. Some coworkers behave like children (for attention, of course) and the more you give in, the more you give heed, the more this annoyance will continue. I’m telling you, I’ve become great at ignoring my kids. I mean it’s not like I get pissed and toss them in the closet with a 6-pack of Coors and a pack of smokes or anything, by my ignoring them eventually stops their behavior.

You gotta remember, the more you give into the behavior, the more the person thinks it’s ok to step on your every word. So ignore it and you might find it will stop and you will probably notice others in the room doing the same. I’m telling you, you look right through someone or even get up and leave the room enough, and they will get it and knock it off.

Time-Out for Tantrums: Last I checked, we don’t have a time-out chair in our conference room. But I wish we did. Dealing with peers or co-workers that constantly have to insert their opinion the minute you start talking can be so frustrating. To be honest, it really ticks me off. It’s kinda like dealing with a classroom full of kindergartners. They keep pushing and pushing until the teacher finally losses it and snaps. You can’t let it get to that point because it weakens your position as a leader.

So, if you’re in this situation you can do two things: 1) take a minute and re-orient yourself. By calming down, you can actually regain control of the room and the situation. 2) If the interruption continues, I think it’s fair to take the person aside and politely confront them and let them know about your concerns. Seriously, some people are so self-unaware that they don’t even realize that they can’t listen for two seconds. You would actually be doing this person a favor, cause he’s pissing the rest of the office off too. Or maybe offer him or her a couple Adderall (well, at least 40 mgs) so that they can focus—man I’m killing myself tonight.

Set the Course: If it’s your meeting, then you set the expectations. If you’re wanting to present an idea, review an important project, or maybe give your team some basic business updates, tell the crew that you want to lay it all out on the table first and then you will open it up for discussion. This is reasonable, right? And your expectations need to be respected. The minute you are interrupted, graciously remind the room that you will open up discussion after you are finished. Easy peasy.

The Almighty Circle of Trust: I hope that you have one. If you don’t, get on it. You need to have peers that are part of your circle of trust. You can bring them into the “vault” and believe that they won’t betray you in anyway. Why is the circle of trust important? Cause these are your people man! They are the ones that you can confide in and get professional advice from. And they can intimately understand your frustration. I can guarantee that the main offender is interrupting the people in your circle too.

So grab your gang and all try some of these methods together. The impact of a team approach is good. I mean I know it might sound like I’m suggesting bullying. I’m not. You need to be careful that your actions are always consistent with the corporate culture and the mantra from HR. All I’m saying is that sometimes it takes more than one person to quell a bad situation.

But when in doubt, don’t take matters into your own hands. Sometimes you do need to consult your boss, or maybe even HR. They can always help you remedy this type of situation if it’s getting really serious.

So there you go. Sorry for the interruption—get back to work.