“Well, Let Me Just Interrupt You There…”

This cartoon definitely hits close to home. I like to talk, to discuss, debate, and argue. I have opinions and I share them freely. I hope I do so because I have something to add, but that is never certain! 

“If you don’t speak up, then your ideas are not heard.” It is a fairly standard approach to workplace dynamics.

In recent years, I have worked mainly with women in my team. Female conversational patterns are different and I have tried to modulate myself more. The pandemic has taken us all to Zoom calls, without the physical cues for conversational flow. We have to be much more intentional in managing discussion. I don’t find it easy – to stay silent, for longer, to wait for space in the conversation and not barge in with sharp elbows.

Knowing there are different approaches to collaboration and discussion is useful. We can notice ourselves more, and create a better conversational fit with our partners. Studies show that women don’t interrupt men much when they are talking, but it doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Men interrupt women much more, but it doesn’t mean there viewpoint is more important.

The art of noticing. In your next Zoom call where there are men and women together, start noticing more who is talking, and how they take control. If it is not balanced, notice and comment. Bring unheard voices to the table, let the underrepresented finish their input. Manage the meeting so all voices are heard and considered. Give someone the job of moderating the discussion.

This Much We Know.

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