Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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A : “Why did you snap at me?”
B : “Because you interrupted me”
That’s a nice simple explanation, isn’t it? But does it tell the whole story?
We might ask why B was irritated by the interruption. Perhaps B was in the middle of saying something that they thought was really important. Perhaps they were concentrating hard on what they were saying, and interruption came in the middle of a complicated train of thought. So perhaps A broke in, not only to what B was saying, but more importantly, to what B was thinking. Perhaps it felt to B as if A had invaded their private world.
We might ask whether A really did interrupt B. If B was thinking hard about what they were saying, perhaps B had paused for thought without realising it – maybe for quite a while – and A actually thought they had finished. Or perhaps B was monopolising the conversation, endlessly going on and on about their own perspective on something – and so perhaps A felt that interrupting was the only way to get a say in the conversation.
We might ask why B thinks that interrupting someone is annoying. Perhaps B learnt this as a child. Perhaps this was something that B’s parents were very firm about, and so it is something that B was brought up to do – something B seems as normal. But perhaps A wasn’t brought up like that. Perhaps in A’s family it was normal for everyone to speak at the same time, so that A learnt from a young age the art of listening and talking at the same time. (And if you think that’s not possible, it’s worth considering how an interpreter could do their job without learning this art).
We might ask as well about how A and B were regarded as children. Did A come from an argumentative family? Did A feel shut out because everyone else talked louder than they did? Was A told to sit quietly in the corner and not speak? If so, A might be getting those same feelings in conversation with B – of being told to be quiet. Or perhaps it was like that for B – perhaps they were never allowed their say as a child, and so now, as an adult, it’s really important to them to get their point across.
Then again, this exchange between A and B might betray their feelings about each other. Perhaps A thinks B is a bit of a bore, rattling on about inconsequential stuff. Perhaps (assuming A and B are a couple), A is embarrassed by how B behaves in social situations and interrupted to try to save their own embarrassment. Perhaps B thinks A never has anything interesting or useful to say and so letting them speak is a waste of time. Perhaps (assuming A and B are a couple) B feels A cannot make decisions and needs to be told what to do. Perhaps, perhaps…
And so we can go on. What happens in the moment doesn’t just happen in the moment, it happens in the context of the whole conversation, of the relationship, of the events that led to the conversation, of the background and upbringing of the participants, of their culture, their religion, their ethnic origin….
Or perhaps A interrupted B because B was about to get run over by a bus….