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Okay, I really wanted to tell you about something. It all started…

Oops, wait, someone over here needs something. Hold on.

Done. Now, where was I? Oh yes, so anyway…

Gosh darn phone! I’d better take this.

Now, finally, let me tell you… Wait, where are you going?

Ever been in this situation, on one side or the other? Annoying to get interrupted? Annoying to get ignored while an interruption takes place? Do you notice it getting worse?

In our fast-paced world, it seems like people are more and more eager to get their point across quickly. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid they’ll forget what they were going to say. Maybe it’s because they lack patience. Maybe it’s because they have a hard time focusing on any one thing for very long.

Michelle and I watched an episode of Modern Family the other night that was a perfect example of this. It was completely shot from the perspective of one of the characters interacting with others via her computer. She was messaging, calling via Facetime, checking her Facebook, Googling things, and various other activities, never paying too much attention to any one thing. It was a great microcosm of so many people in the world today.

We’re all guilty of interrupting others, for one reason or another. But what can we do to slow down this epidemic, especially among young people?

Watching Deb Goette, who coached the 8th grade girls for basketball this year, is a great example of how to handle this problem. Kids would constantly come and try to talk to her when she was in a conversation with someone else, and she would simply hold up a hand. Barring an emergency, the person she was talking to initially was considered more important; the other person would just have to wait.

I was trying to teach a lesson on persuasion to my 8th graders. There were given a scenario where, within their groups, they had to come to a consensus on some imaginary situations. It was interesting to watch the groups debate. Many kids had a hard time listening to others; they wanted to spout their point of view RIGHT NOW. One of the items to learn was to listen first. By listening, especially during an argument, we can often find clues to help support our side by better understanding the opposition.

Even in a non-confrontational situation, if we listen more, we’ll eventually get our turn. We might even find the other person more willing to hear us out if we’ve given them that courtesy.

When I was putting together requisitions last school year, I found a stanchion and ropes that I could use to form a pathway to my desk for students seeking help. It ended up costing too much, and there were other items I needed more from my budget, so I didn’t get it. I wish I had. I had two students waiting at my desk recently, and I was helping one answer a question. Another student came to the front of my desk and just started talking to me about a problem. Wait, don’t you see these two people over here already? This is not a solitary situation either; it happens often in classrooms, hallways, etc. I even had a student walk up to me in the front of the class while I was finishing a class discussion and interrupt to tell me something not related at all!

Our cell phones seem to be just as bad, if not worse, at interrupting. How many times are you talking to someone when your phone rings or buzzes, and you immediately reach to check it? It’s become habit for so many of us. Out to eat at a restaurant, in the middle of a conversation – is there a possible emergency? Maybe, but a quick check and ignoring it can be good too, without losing much of the current conversation.

Let’s face it – the world is changing. However, we can limit the interruptions with some basic lessons in courtesy and find that we still accomplish all we need to do. Maybe I’ll order those stanchions for next year though, just in case.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is fissiparous, which means tending to break into parts, as in, “The class became fissiparous when everyone wanted to interrupt everyone else to create many discussions.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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