Interruptions at Your Desk-
How should you handle an interruption when you are sitting at your desk working and someone knocks and interrupts you at an awkward time? You can tell the person you are in the middle of something but can give him your undivided attention for two minutes. You might add that if he would like to schedule a meeting (open your date book) at 1 p.m. instead, that would be so much better. Jerome Shore from The Coaching Clinic calls this Extreme Time Management. Don't let anybody interfere. "I'd like to handle that now but what I'm doing must be done this morning. How about after lunch?"
Always give people an option, rather than a no. Even an unfavorable option is better than a no. When you have booked the appointment or given him his two minutes, walk him out of your office and close the door quietly to prevent further interruptions.
If you eat lunch at your desk, expect to be interrupted. You are, after all, at your desk. To eat in peace, close your door or leave your desk.
You may be required to field inquiries for your boss who has asked not to be interrupted. If someone superior to you wants to bypass you and see your boss in person, you can call your boss on a secured intercom and say: "Emma, I know you asked not to be interrupted, but Richard really needs to talk you for a few minutes. Shall I schedule time or can you see him now?" Using this method, you are off the hook: Emma will make the decision, and Richard knows that Emma is really busy.
Interruptions in Meetings-
If it's acceptable in your company culture to interrupt someone who is speaking during meetings and presentations, be prepared to handle the situation if you are the one doing the speaking ! When I am the speaker, I have my thoughts on a one-pager in point form. If there are any questions or digressions, I can be back on track in a second.
Interruptions on the Telephone-
If you are conducting a telephone interview, definitely don't interrupt the interviewee.
My pet peeve is people who do not pay attention to the person they are speaking with on the phone. When I used to call my sister in the States, she would talk to me while giving orders to her children — right into my ear, with me paying the long distance charges. After so many irritations, I had a game plan. When I called and she started interrupting herself with child-rearing, I said immediately that I would call her back at a more convenient time and hung up. Our conversations came to have far fewer child-rearing interruptions. Yes, people can be taught.
When Interrupting is Beneficial-
If you are at a party where a discussion had become very heated, try diffusing the situation by interrupting it. For example: "I'm sorry to interrupt, Perry, but I need you in the kitchen for a moment. I'm just not tall enough to reach the pan I need”. That situation aside, interrupting is not considered to be courteous. The next time you are about to interrupt, ask yourself: how would I feel if I was in his shoes? His time and thoughts are as important to him as yours are to you.
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