No Interruptions Day

“There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse”

John Locke

No Interruptions Day is observed on the last (work) day of the year. National Day Calendar shares it is purposed with organizing for the new year by cleaning our workspace without interruptions. For an entire day, phones are powered down, emails go untended, and interruptions cease. I will nuance this observance to air my dirty laundry of constantly interrupting others. I wish to expand one day’s observance into a lifetime practice.

While attending a meeting earlier this year, I felt an incredible urge to contribute. A fellow attendee was speaking about an important subject matter, with everyone’s undivided attention. In what I now know was a subconscious (yet still inexcusable) act, I interrupted the speaker by making one of the inanest statements ever.

The resulting facial expressions and body language emanating from the person I interrupted was as scathing as they should have been. I earned it by unnecessarily breaking her train of thought – adding absolutely no value to the overarching dialogue. Hers. In discussing my transgression later, I apologized to her – owning my interruption. She responded, “most men do.” Ouch!

Afterwards, I monitored my talking habits in meetings. The results? My interruptions were numerous and unnecessary, arising from the subconscious – home of my insecurities. Inadequacy. Undeserving.  Not belonging. Equating talking with adding value. These insecurities are rooted in experiencing bullying, homophobia and racism. Everything I say, do, wear, eat, drive, etc., are opportunities to assert my worthiness. These actions elucidate the fear fueling bullies, reveal homophobia for the inhumanity that it is, and remind the prejudiced I belong in the (proverbial) room just as they do if not more so.

Once I saw this for what it was, I took specific steps to overcome my urge to interrupt, realistically executed them to avoid overwhelming myself. My improvement has been vast and long-lasting. I share my story as a call to action. Self-assess your tendency to interrupt. I am confident it is unhelpful – regardless of your title and seniority.

Seeing my interruptions for the toxicity they had become was terrifying. As Iyanla Vanzant says, “when you open your mouth, you’re talking about yourself, your values, or what you believe.”

What did interruptions say about me?
I crave attention.
Not: I wish to add value as often as I can.

What did my interruptions say about my values?
Anxiety, Self-doubt. Hostility
Not: I am reasonable and analytical.

What did interruptions say about what I believe?
My opinion reigns supreme.
Not: Your ideas inspire me.

In some cases, my interruptions are informed and timely. Even so, they remain disruptive.

Interruptions are one illustration of how my methods of being the change I wish to see in the world veered off the rails. It can be remedied; too much of anything can a bad thing.

In sharing my quiet parts aloud, they should not be misconstrued as impulsivity, angry-black-mannishness, or a lack of emotional intelligence.