Interrupting or Engaging?

I was reading a study 1 that analysed speed-dating results. They asked women which men they “clicked” with (those they wanted to see again), and then examined transcripts of the speed dating interaction to see what forms of communication from the men were particularity successfully. I think their findings can be extended to marriage.

Of particular interest were interruptions. Previous research has suggested men often interrupt to redirect the conversation or to establish control. Men do this with women, and with other men they feel are or should be subordinate to them. Women on the other hand are more likely to interrupt to show engagement or to encourage continued conversation by the person they interrupt.

Interrupting © digitalart |

To quote the research: “One unexpected finding is that women feel they click with male partners who interrupt them.” Closer examination found that these “successful interruptions” showed either alignment (“I’ve experiencing the same thing”) or understanding.

Bottom line: If you interrupt your wife to control or redirect the conversation, she will be put off. However, if you interrupt to show understanding, support, or agreement, you will make her feel better about the conversation and about you.

1 “Making the Connection: Social Bonding in Courtship Situations.” American Journal of Sociology 118 (6), 1596-1649. McFarland, Daniel A., Dan Jurafsky and Craig Rawlings. 2013. PDF

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3 Comments on “Interrupting or Engaging?

  1. Paul,
    I have observed that women will often see interruption as engagement in the conversation, and that one does not even have to be agreeing with what is being said. Experience has taught me to tread carefully in these waters.

  2. Excellent article! I HAD to read this one to my husband, since our views on interrupting were so different when we first married. Another takeaway for husbands is that SHE isn’t (necessarily) trying to control the conversation when she interrupts. Sometimes, a husband can take offense from his wife’s interruption when none is intended — indeed, the opposite. (Of course, there are lessons for wives on this too! I don’t interrupt nearly as much as I once did.)

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