Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 9:18 pm | Overcast 58º


Paul Burri: People Who Break Into Private Conversations

Some people are oblivious to their rudeness when interrupting people who are talking

Here’s another blast from Paul Burri, curmudgeon.

I can’t believe that I’m the only person in the world who is irritated by this: You’re having a conversation with someone when suddenly a third person walks up and starts talking to your friend. This stranger seems oblivious of your presence or that he or she is interrupting the conversation. It’s as if you didn’t even exist. The interrupter continues talking and then walks away still unconcerned or even conscious of what he or she has just done.

I seem to experience this sort of rudeness more and more, and I also seem to think that I’m the only one who is offended by it. I’m still trying to decide what to do about the jerks who do this.

One possibility is to loudly interrupt the interrupter saying something like, “Excuse me for talking while you were interrupting.” That would probably go right over the offender’s head.

Another possibility would be to pointedly walk away from the other two, trying to make your exit as obvious as possible — maybe even loudly saying, “Frank, I’ll talk to you later when we can talk without being interrupted.”

Still another possibility would be to write a column about this so that maybe people who do this sort of thing will read about how rude it is.

Equally irritating to me is the converse of this situation. Recently I was in the role of the third person wanting to talk to one of two people who were having a conversation. I did what I think is the right thing to do. I stood there waiting patiently for one or the other of the two to pause long enough for me to say something like, “Excuse me, but I need a quick word with Mary.” (Note to interrupters — excuse me.)

So there I stood patiently waiting while one of the people went on breathlessly, tirelessly, endlessly ignoring me as if, again, I wasn’t there. I waited a long five minutes, and then with a loud sigh, started to walk away. I guess the loud sigh was enough to alert the speaker of my presence because she then stopped long enough to ask, “Did you want to say something?” To which I replied, “Yes, I did, but it’s too insignificant to interrupt whatever it was that you were saying.”

And just in case there are interrupters out there who would like to know how to break into a conversation that two other people are having, here’s how to do it. You stand there patiently until one of them has the courtesy to acknowledge your presence and ask if you had something you wanted to say. Then you excuse yourself and briefly say what you have to. If it needs to take longer than a few minutes, you ask to meet the person later.

Any questions?

Share your ideas at how to interrupt, or be interrupted, in the Noozhawk comments section below.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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