Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knock knock! Who's there? Interrupting cow!

I'm in a class, this semester, that has two coordinating professors - a husband and wife couple - that are responsible for getting guest lecturers for every week of class while themselves coming to each class to oversee each lecture. What has resulted from this is some of the most incredibly egotistical and disrespectful lecturing I've ever witnessed. They interrupt each other and the guest lecturers constantly. And depending on the hubristic fortitude of the guest lecturer, it has been turning into an all-out interrupting battle of who gets to display how much they know about stuff. Neat-o, right? The husband usually backs down to his wife, who uses her interrupting to go off on lengthy tangents that are concurrently irrelevant to the discussion and redundant of themselves. The guest lecturers, who are often head honchos of departments in the med school/hospital and who consider themselves to be kind of *awesome*, are less likely to retreat into silence, but when they do it's in a huff of tarnished self-esteem.

I'm publishing this post during class, as a way to interrupt them all back - or at least, to interrupt my having to listen to them.

Interruption is a fairly normal part of casual conversation. I'm thinking of the type of conversations that occurred while sitting around the lunch table back at GPhi, where we all discussed the delights/indiscretions of the night before. We were excited, and we frequently couldn't wait to jump in and tell our own stories. Sometimes this would come at the expense of the tail-end of the previous person's story.

But that was ok. Usually. As long as, at some point when you were holding the invisible magic talking stick, people seemed to acknowledge and appreciate your story, you were probably ok being cut a little bit short. You'd pass along the imaginary stick - no harm, no foul.

It would suck when it seemed like people would interrupt simply because they didn't care about what you were saying. And it would become obnoxious when it seemed that particulars had the tendency to interrupt a lot. Otherwise, casual conversation interruption is usually forgiven. I myself have been trying to minimize even this, but admittedly my excitability will get the best of me from time to time and I'll jump in on someone.

Then why, given all this, including being guilty of it myself, do I generally count interruption as one of my hugest pet peeves?

There are two main instances in which interrupting gets me seriously riled.

One is during a serious discussion, debate even. An argument qualifies. It occurs usually during hot button topics. The topic could be frivolous in actuality, but as long as someone involved in the conversation feels personally invested in it, like their opinions have a certain gravity and shouldn't be disregarded - then interrupting will be surefire way to get that person irritated and defensive.

I see nearly all people get a dark look on their faces when they are interrupted during conversations like this. But some people don't do anything about it, because despite being disrespected, it is still seen as more civil to just allow the conversation to proceed. But they glower. They're annoyed. And at that point, they feel like either they just don't want to share any more, or, the next time they speak up they're more emotional, less composed.

Other people will keep talking to try and send the message that they weren't done talking, and the interrupter would do well to wait until they've finished. It's a more ballsy move, one I've attempted myself, but it feels really uncomfortable to do it. It's a direct challenge, and most people are uncomfortable engaging in direct challenges. In general, it's got a few amusing results - one is that the interrupter gets an irritated and/or embarrassed look on his/her face, but s/he'll stop talking. Another possibility, which starts off being funny but actually itself becomes embarrassing to watch the more that it happens, is that the interrupter also keeps talking. This then turns into a battle of wills, with the parties talking loudly over each other until one finally stops, defeated.

Which gets back to my opening story about my class. The other scenario in which interrupting seems really inappropriate, which is in fact the scenario that prompted me to write this post, is in these lecture situations with multiple lecturers. I can't really considered this much in the past - obviously the potential for interruption is there when there are multiple people who consider themselves "experts" conducting a lecture, but it was never so much an issue that I had to witness or experience until I got into this class. There has been so much of the "I'm talking over you in continually elevated volumes until you stop talking, BECUZ I'M MOAR IMPORTANT THAN U." It makes my class hard to enjoy, because if there's one thing I have a hard time with, it's obvious non-ironic egotism (I know, good luck finding kindred spirits in the professional world.) It's one reason why I can't handle Jon Stewart, as much as everyone else on Earth seems to love him. (But that's a topic for another post.) So to watch guest lecturers - who are supposedly the true experts on the particular weekly topic - get interrupted CONSTANTLY by this husband and wife duo, who then spend a bunch of quality time interrupting each other, is excruciating.

I've talked with my classmates about it, and they, fortunately, feel the same way I do about The Situation (which will probably be capitalized for awhile, at least as long as Jersey Shore is relevant.) It always makes you feel a little bit better to know you're not the only person that's being driven completely crazy by something small and random, right?

So tell me, if you're reading. Does interrupting drive you up a wall like it does for me?

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I also don't really like when the interupter/interuptee says, "No, you go ahead." If I've been interrupted, I would rather just back down. Or if I was the one doing the interrupting, it makes me feel like a huge jerk. Either way, it is just super awkward.