Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

I have just taken a new job and am really annoyed by a co-worker who is a habitual interrupter. I don’t want to be seen as unfriendly, but when she tries to finish my sentences or talks over me—which is an hourly occurrence, I sometimes lose track of my own thoughts and want to yell at her. I need to do something—soon! Help?

On the Edge, Heathsville

Dear OE,

There are a few understandable reasons why we interrupt each other. They include the intention to enthusiastically support what the speaker is saying, disagree with what the speaker is saying, add to what the speaker is saying, or let the speaker know of imminent danger such as an out of control car hurtling up behind her.

However, only the last instance is considered civil. Most of us are guilty of stepping over the civility line at some time, but the repeated interruptions of your co-worker are rude.

I suggest you consider the following responses when your time to talk is being slighted:

• Look directly in the eyes of your co-worker and say “Jackie, excuse me, but I am not finished.”

• Hold up an index finger and say, “Just a second, Jackie, I want to complete this thought.”

• Look at your co-worker with widened eyes, in the manner of your fifth grade teacher, and say, ”I am not finished yet.”

Sometimes humor is effective—“Jackie, want to lay bets on whether you’re finishing my sentences correctly or not?” or “I am not finished, Jackie. I will let you know when I am, but it will usually be when I stop talking.”

If all else fails, take your co-worker aside and explain you find her interrupting a serious problem. It is distracting and disrespectful. Mention that her ideas will be better received by you and others if she is patient and awaits her turn to speak.

By the way, to those who have expressed their appreciation of my recent column on my friend, A, another of her endearing traits is that she never interrupts!

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at