Interrupting and the art of conversation

"As offices and schools reopen, and we venture into more in-person social gatherings, we’re having to relearn how to have conversations," says Deborah Tannen.

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Two-way dialogue/BigStock

Two-way dialogue/BigStock

On the political debate stage, interrupting is against the rules, and, in casual conversation, constant interjections are just plain rude. But it might not be that simple. According to Georgetown University linguistics professor and author DEBORAH TANNEN, cross-cultural and regional differences shape everyone’s unique conversation styles, and misunderstandings about manners and active listening in even the most insignificant chat can be harmful to relationships. How can we be more flexible when we talk to each other, and what do interruptions even look like? Tannen joins us to discuss what anthropologists call ‘cooperative overlapping’, and how talking at the same time can be a compliment to the conversation. Her bestselling book is You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.

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