When was the last time you were interrupted? How did it feel? Quite possibly you didn’t notice; however if you did, then the chances are that the way in which you were interrupted was not….ideal.
I have been working with a global client this month focusing on helping their high potential talent conveying ‘executive presence’ remotely. In a global market place where many leaders are now working across timezones, cultures and horizontal teams – all whilst at pace – much of business is done at a distance rather than in person. Vast swathes of the day are spent on t-cons and telepresence where colleagues from around the world dial in to discuss, debate and decide on a wide range of issues, and as they do so, the challenge still remains when it comes to being heard, being understood and being influential.
One of the communication challenges that I have observed of late is how to interrupt others. We’ve all been there – on a call with someone else who is just going on….and on….and on………….and on. Alternatively the discussion is going at pace and there are a variety of contributors but somehow, we just can’t get a word in edgeways. We worry about causing offence, starting a row, not being successful in our attempts to interrupt and hence looking foolish to others on the call. We may recognise the easy route – to go on mute and crank out some emails. Or, we might go on mute and have the conversation with ourselves. In any event – we stay silent too often. So the question is: how do we interrupt – and how do we do so elegantly?
When working with my clients I talk about the Stephen Covey concept of The Emotional Bank Account. Our goal is to maintain rapport even when we are effectively making ‘a withdrawal’. The technique that I coach is in three parts.
Part 1: State Their Name
This is a powerful interrupter because we are hard wired to pause when we hear our name. It’s the first really profound sound that we learn. When we hear, we momentarily pause to see if the sound means us. Don’t believe that? Then just think of the impact of the sound of a name on a dog or cat.
Part 2: State What We Have Done
By acknowledging publicly what we have done, it immediately reduces the potential for tension because it demonstrates high self-awareness. We are taking ownership of the behaviour and by so doing making it ‘our’ issue rather than that of the person we have interrupted.
Part 3: Use A Power Word
The word ‘because’ is a 'power word’. A ‘power word’ is one which creates a significantly greater impact in our communication and ability to influence and the word ‘because’ is one such word. There is much data that shows that when we use the word ‘because', our explanation is far more credible and likely to be believed by our audience – even when the reason is extremely ‘flimsy’.
This ‘elegant interruption’ allows us to ‘get in’ to the debate and create an opportunity to have our voice heard. As an approach it is not difficult to understand, but its challenge comes in the graceful and flawless execution. Leaders who convey ‘executive presence’ remotely are able to constructively challenge and drive the agenda of the conversations that they join – and they make it look easy. The rest of us need to practise.