Avoid Interrupting When Someone is Telling a Story
The train is proceeding forward.
Everything is going well.
Then a sudden distraction is introduced.
- The distraction may be from the internal world. Aka: an intrusive thought.
- The distraction may be from the external world. Aka: a loudmouth who interrupts.
The train is derailed.
“Losing train of thought” is often a problem that is associated with old people.
It’s as if young adults can’t experience the issue.
Anyone is capable of losing their train of thought.
One of the easiest ways to make someone lose their train of thought is by interrupting when they are telling a story.
Why a Story Needs Momentum
A good storyteller understands how to give info without giving too much info.
They have great pacing and are able to tell when the audience is bored.
Even if the storyteller is a pro, they are not able to show off their skills if they are constantly being interrupted.
This is why a lot of people are great communicators online but not offline.
With online, it’s just the storyteller and the camera.
The camera doesn’t interrupt.
Without the interruptions, the storyteller can:
- Set the stage.
- Introduce key characters.
- Deliver the story with enthusiasm.
- Allow the audience to extract whatever lesson they want.
The story has a lot of different parts.
Due to the different parts, we need to allow the storyteller to build momentum.
Why People Interrupt Storytellers
One reason that people interrupt storytellers is because they have no clue that a story is being told.
Did you ever miss a joke?
They said the punchline, but you stared at them aimlessly.
Once you realize the joke was missed, you ask them to tell it again.
The magic moment is gone.
Another reason someone will interrupt a storyteller is because they relate to the story.
Whenever someone tells me a story about Virginia, I’m tempted to blurt out:
‘I once lived in Virginia!’
Just like it’s easy to lose our train of thought, it’s also easy to jump on another train when we lose our train of thought.
If I get started in Virginia, then I will talk about random stories during my time in Virginia.
Just like that, the initial storyteller has lost enthusiasm for finishing his tale.
And the final reason that people interrupt storytellers is because they lack concentration skills.
This one, I can understand…
Every now and then, a storyteller is rambling.
If someone doesn’t interrupt, then this person will continue to ramble.
Exercise discretion when interrupting them.
Quieting the Audience Down
If you are someone who has interrupted the storyteller, then check yourself and say:
‘My bad, please continue.’
Not going to lie…
The damage has been done.
Every now and then, the storyteller will say:
‘Nah, I think I’m good. Anyway, how’s your day…’
This is why it’s paramount to keep interruptions to a minimum because it’s hard to restore the momentum afterward. But every now and then, the storyteller is so enthusiastic that they will continue regardless.
If you’re in a group and someone new keeps interrupting the storyteller each time, then take control of the group and tell them to pipe down.
If you can quiet everyone down, then you show:
‘Will y’all shut up (in a joking tone)!! Matt was saying something. Continue Matt.’
The spotlight is forcefully put back on Matt.
Matt may continue.
The people who you told to shut up will even admire you.
‘Billy really knows how to take charge. I’m sure Billy would have my back if I was ever getting interrupted when telling a story.’
Interruptions are a social sin.
But one saving grace is to give the spotlight back.
Insights from Being Interrupted
I recall I was talking to a childhood friend on the phone recently.
He is someone I am cool with.
Since we are cool, he has the tendency to interrupt me, and I have the tendency to interrupt him.
During the call, he kept asking me questions that required a story response.
‘What were the leadup moments that led you to adopt a minimalist gym routine?’
As I’m about to share why I went from going to the gym for 2 hours to 35 minutes max, he interrupts me 10 seconds in and asks something else.
He asks another question about OMAD.
One meal a day.
‘What made you get into OMAD, and does it work?’
I’m telling him why OMAD works for my body type and he interrupts once again.
Then I tell him:
‘You keep interrupting!!’
‘My bad, continue.’
I didn’t want to continue after that.
He told a story, and I interrupted him mid-way as a joke.
‘See, it’s not fun?’
We were both being childish because we had a great rapport with each other.
However, the conversation didn’t go anywhere.
We pretty much wasted 45 minutes.
The people we are the coolest with, we interrupt the most.
We have to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything about the person that we are cool with.
This will force us to pay attention.
It’s not personal when someone interrupts.
It just happens organically in conversations.
With all that being said, I would like to leave you with something:
- Avoid telling too many stories in a conversation!
It feels good to tell stories because stories convey a lot of information.
That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
- It’s good because you convey a lot of info to the other person.
- It’s bad because you convey a lot of info to the other person.
At times, they just want to chill.
They don’t want to be forced to pay attention to plots, storylines, hidden themes, etc.
Be strategic when you tell stories.
Utilize your tonality.
Keep it short and sweet.
Turn 15-minute tales into 5 minutes.
Turn 5-minute tales into 2 minutes.
This reduces the likelihood of being interrupted.
For more Storytelling insights, check out the Art and Science of Storytelling Book: