Why I finish other peoples sentences and how it is possible to stop!
I’m sure you all have that one friend that can’t wait until you have finished what you are going to say and tries to finish your sentence for you. It can get really embarrassing when they try and finish it, but they keep on getting it wrong! Or maybe the person is you? Do you find yourself finishing other peoples sentences? Have you considered why you do it?
I have recognised 2 key reasons why I have developed this awful habit:
Mis-matched energy levels
If there is something I am sure of it is that I have high energy and I live a fast paced life. I am always on the go. I feel like time is precious, I always want to be filling all my time being productive or doing things that I love. When I am faced with someone, who in slower than I am and in my opinion is taking too long to get to the point, I get very impatient and feel like I need to drive the speed of the conversation. I like to hurry them along. I want to pace the conversation or the meeting I am participating in, in line with my jam packed schedule and this means that anyone who operates at a slower pace may be the victim of getting their sentences finished by me.
The second reason is very different and can come into play even with someone as fast paced as me and it is when I am super excited about what someone is saying and I am processing out loud. In this instance I am not feeling at all impatient, just excited to hear what they have to say.
Regardless of the reason, is it an effective way of behaving? No, in both examples, I don’t think so. It shows that I am not really actively listening. This is probably my biggest development area, so it’s not surprising that one of the outcomes is that I try to complete other peoples sentences.
Top tips for not interrupting:
1) Be aware
As with most things, one of the first ways to make a change is by being aware. Make a conscious effort. This is linked to being mindful and being in the present moment. Observing when you are about to interrupt and stop yourself. It’s that simple!
2) Slow down
When I am communicating with someone who is much slower than me, my initial thought is that they need to speed up. I’ve not previously considered that maybe I need to slow down! One way to practice slowing down is is by taking deep breathes and ensuring a short pause between the person completing what they were going to say and you beginning to talk.
If you are interrupting the person speaking, you are not listening properly. You can practice active listening by focusing fully on what the other person is saying and summarizing what they have said before you offer your views or take your turn to speak. Sometimes this can feel a bit forced, but it is a great way to learn how to actively listen.
You should allow for pauses and short periods of silence, which can be difficult for fast paced people. You can ask questions, but don’t be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. This is when you take the deep breathes and allow for a pause before speaking.
If you are conscious that you finish other peoples sentences, the truth is that there is no magic formula for you to stop doing it. The key point is the need to be aware of it and then your focus on stopping the behaviour.
I’d love to hear in the comments below if you have any further hints and tips for stopping this habit.
Ive picked up this habit too, and put it down to spending so many years with non-English speakers. If they are struggling to finish a sentence due to trying to remember a word in English, I continue the sentence for them to try and help them (even when they don’t ask :/ ) Germans did it to me all the time when I struggled at points through a German conversation, and I actually really appreciated it. Depends on the person I suppose…..
Yes, I think this is a specific scenario where it can actually be very helpful. As you say if someone is struggling to find the right word, they may appreciate you helping them out. I think the main difference is whether they are just slower and taking time to think, or if they are struggling and appreciate the help.
I do this too it seems but more in terms of saying what the other person intends to say when they pause to think of the appropriate turn of phrase.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing; I feel it lubricates the conversation.
I agree, it’s not always a bad thing, as you say it can also make the conversation flow.
It can become an issue when you think you know what the other person wants to say, but actually they wanted to say something different.
A friend of mine told me that it is important to him to chose the right words when expressing himself, and that if he was thinking of the most suitable word he wanted to use, he didn’t like me guessing and finishing his sentence for him.
I think it depends on the person you are talking to and how they feel about it.