Are you interrupting your way out of new business?

Awesome photo from erin666 via Flickr

My name is Clay, and I’m an interrupter.
Actually, I’m a *recovering* interrupter.
Acknowledgment is the first step toward recovery.
But it’s far from the end.

I grew up in a house of interrupters. Conversations at dinner were often reduced to half-sentences and heavy sighs as one person after another jumped on top of the conversation.

Yet, I was oblivious to my own problem until college, when a coworker (on whom I had a serious crush) pointed out how much she hated my interrupting.

Sure, I still do it occasionally, but I’m also now painfully aware when others interrupt. Especially when they do it to clients.

In the last few months, I’ve been in too many meetings and conference calls where someone consistently and repeatedly cut off the person who was paying for us to be there. Like interrupting my crush, talking over your current or potential clients is one of the best ways to destroy your chances of a successful relationship.

Account services, creative directors and, yes, copywriters. We all do it. And it can be hard to recognize when you’re the interrupter.

It’s the kickoff meeting and you have an important question. Even more important because you already know the right answer. So you pose the question to your client, and she starts explaining her thoughts. But they don’t match yours, so you jump in to explain your question better before she goes too far down the wrong path.

A little rough, but no real harm right? You’re just guiding the conversation back in the right direction. That’s your duty as project lead. But who says your answer is correct? And who’s project is this, really?

Now, you have confidently guided the conversation back into safe territory, and you pause to let your incredible insight hang in the air for all to appreciate. But the client was just cut off as she answered a very important question about her project. She doesn’t care about your explanation or insight. She was waiting for her turn to speak!

So now she jumps into your weighty pause to continue explaining the answer to your important question. But you cut her off again because she’s completely missed your point about this project!

See where this is heading?

Absolutely nowhere. Some Eastern religions call this samsara.

Now your chances at finding the one true right answer have dropped dramatically. So have your chances at getting the client to really share her thoughts on this project. It’s hard to open up when you’re in constant fear of being cut off.

Just like college-Clay and his co-worker crush, you have now seriously damaged your chances at making a meaningful connection. Unfortunately, it’s not over. You still have to see each other and talk to each other on a regular basis. You still have to work together. And most likely, your client didn’t make the effort that my crush did. She didn’t tell you that she hates how you interrupt her in meetings.

But she does.

So you spend the rest of the project wondering why she doesn’t seem to respect your advice or listen to your explanations.

But as I saw in a great tweet from Will Sansbury (@willsansbury) yesterday, “Respect isn’t given to you. It’s returned.” Well said.

Now, you were saying…?