By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I am one that flies off the handle and there is a big reason I do. I'm interrupted so much that when I am trying to speak, if someone doesn't interrupt me, I actually stutter. I've spoken up and it still happens. Any suggestions? I'm starting to hate my fellow human beings!
A. You get results by realizing that people do not change behavior because you "speak up." People change behavior because you have set a consequence that they don't want. Flying off the handle will never be a consequence that leads to a lack of interruption.
Realize that you are reacting in a normal human manner when you get to the end of your rope. Most do a chilly withdrawal or a heated explosion when we have run out of interpersonal tools. Unfortunately freezing people out or melting people down does not teach others to treat you with respect.
When you blow up, the person who usually ends up with consequences will be you. You'll be even madder when your supervisor ends up sending you to training for "anger management" or disciplines you.
Since being interrupted has been a long-term conflict for you, consider having the following conversation with everyone you know: "I have noticed that sometimes I don't finish my sentence, so you don't know what I am saying. In the future, if I have not finished my sentence, I am going to interrupt you to finish. If this doesn't work, I will end the conversation and come back later."
With customers who keep interrupting, simply interrupt them and ask them if they would like (insert result). Customers are calling you because they need something from you. Let the customer know you want to give them (insert result) and need to provide some information to do so. When the customer can see that your goal and their goal are the same, they will shut up and listen.
To fix problems at work effectively, you must take responsibility that you have obviously been the one needing to change. Blaming other people for behaving badly will not earn their cooperation. When your coworkers and managers see that you will repeatedly interrupt to finish your thoughts or walk away, they will stop butting in.
Often when we are furious with people at work, the problem is we haven't used our anger to keep trying new approaches. As satisfying as it is to blame others, the one with the most power to change is us. When we're mad, we're highly motivated to do anything that gets us what we want. I know you have discovered that getting upset just hasn't helped you finish your sentences.
When you make it clear to everyone that you are now going to do things differently, people are put on alert that you will not engage in conversations with chronic interruptions. When you keep interrupting the interruptions or stop the conversation, no one will have the option to keep running you over.
I know it might not seem fair that if you want change, you are the one who has to shift your behavior. Most of us would love to live in a world where people give us what we want because we ask pretty please. The real world requires us to take the risk to be more assertive and make it impossible for people to continue to do what we don't like.
Q. I just had a career door slammed on my foot. I'm depressed and thinking about all the ways I might have been able to prevent this opportunity from closing. Is there a way to stop obsessing about the past?
A. Yes, when the door behind you has been closed and locked, the only way to improve your situation is to take the energy you are using to obsess and use it to plan a new future.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
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This was printed in the September 22, 2013 - October 5, 2013 Edition