Image courtesy of Suvro Datta at

Image courtesy of Suvro Datta at

Whenever I ask my American students to pick three impolite behaviors that bother them the most (the list I give them is pretty tame, mostly consisting of verbal misdemeanors such as not saying “please” and “thank you”), the majority picks “interrupting” as top annoyance. How I must be getting on their nerves – I interrupt constantly. You may label it a character defect, or blame it at least partially on my being German. We interrupt, with relish, and though we know we should not, it is typically not such a big deal to us.

I know that you are supposed to wait for a pause in the conversation in order to speak… but in my interactions with Americans, these pauses are typically so miniscule that I tend to miss the boat. So, I interrupt.

American manuals for conversational success (yes, there is such a thing!) claim that my interrupting sends the message that I deem my ideas, opinions, stories more valuable than yours, which is not true. I just want to show enthusiasm! Agree with you! Disagree with you! Share! Let alone the fact that if I try to hold on to my train of thought until the elusive pause appears, I will be too distracted to hear what you are saying, and I might also forget what I was intending to say.

My American partner is a pensive man of few words. Finding a pause is not a problem when we talk. A match made in conversational heaven?