Guidelines for Interrupting Politely, Interjecting Opinions, and Sharing Ideas

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you really liked what the other person had to say and wanted to show them that you’re looking forward to hearing more?

Or realized that you missed something but knew it was central to the conversation?

Or maybe felt that you had something to add but you weren’t quite sure how to interject your idea without sounding rude?

We’ve all been there.

If you’re connecting with another person in conversation and actively participating in the conversation, you’re going to want to speak up at some point – even if the other person hasn’t fully completed their thought yet!

One of the biggest comments I hear from non-native English speakers is that they often have an opinion or something to share in conversation, but they’re not sure how to interrupt politely in English.

They don’t feel comfortable jumping in and interjecting their thoughts.

Instead, they wait for extremely clear opportunities to join the conversation, usually when someone has asked a question and is waiting for their response!

By the time the other person has finished speaking, the conversation topic may have already changed and the opportunity to share a useful observation may have completely passed.

That’s why I’d like to discuss some guidelines and expressions for interrupting and interjecting opinions in conversations in English.


Guidelines for Interrupting Conversations in English

The most important thing to remember when interrupting a conversation in English is that you want to interrupt in order to create connection with the person you are talking to.

Many people think that interrupting is rude, but it’s only truly impolite when you are interrupting in order to change the topic or disagree with the other person before they’ve completely finished their idea.

If you interrupt politely and with the purpose of connecting with the other person by sharing your interest and your own ideas or experiences, interrupting can actually show that you’re actively participating in the conversation and make the conversation even better.

Here are some good reasons to interrupt a conversation:

  1. You can interrupt to ask for clarification or greater detail.
  2. You can interrupt to agree with the other person.
  3. You can interrupt to show interest and enthusiasm.
  4. You can interrupt to mention that they’ve reminded you of something similar that you’ll talk about later.

Finally, if you decide to interrupt, be sure to interrupt politely.

After you finish your comment or question, you can be extra polite by excusing, or apologizing for, the interruption. I provide more examples of how to do this below.


1. Interrupting to ask for clarification

If you want the person you are talking with to give you a longer explanation or additional detail, it’s perfectly okay to interrupt them to ask for clarification.

This can help keep the conversation on topic; it also shows that you’re listening.

Here are some useful phrases for interrupting to ask for clarification:

  • Sorry, but could you go over that again?
  • Sorry, but would you mind repeating that?
  • Excuse me for interrupting, but I’m not sure I follow. Could you repeat that?
  • Sorry for interrupting, but I’m not sure what you mean. What was that again?

For more expressions you can use to ask for clarification, be sure to check out my video lesson on clarifying what you heard, asking for repetition, and confirming your understanding.

(You’ll also notice that some of these interruptions use embedded questions to be extra polite.)


2. Interrupting to agree with the other person

If you are making small talk with someone, they may be talking about a topic that’s important to them, such as a favorite movie or TV show, podcast or book, hobby or activity.

If you’ve also seen that movie, heard that podcast, or done that activity, it’s fine to interrupt to agree with them. This encourages them to keep talking about this specific topic.

Here are some examples:

  • I loved that book!
  • That last episode of Game of Thrones was so crazy!
  • I love kayaking in the summer!
  • I also thought his latest book was disappointing.
  • I know, I didn’t understand what happened in the last show either!

If he or she is talking about a personal experience, emotions, or feelings that you’ve also shared, you can use one of the following expressions:

  • I can totally relate.
  • I’ve been there.
  • I know exactly how you feel.
  • That’s happened to me.
  • I know what you mean, that’s so frustrating/challenging/nervewracking.

Interjecting your similar opinion in this way can show the other person that you have something in common that you can talk about in more detail.

It creates connection during the conversation.

Please note: If you disagree with what the other person is saying, it’s much more polite to wait until they finish before sharing your contrasting opinion.

(To seem more likable, you may want to wait two seconds before starting to speak.)


3. Interrupting to show interest and enthusiasm

If you are in a conversation where the person is mentioning something you’re intrigued by, interested in, or otherwise enthusiastic about, you can interject with a comment to briefly share your opinion.

This shows the person you care what they are talking about.

Use one of these expressions to show interest:

  • I’ve been wanting to see that!
  • I haven’t had a chance to read that yet.
  • Oh, I’ve been meaning to download that app.
  • I’ve been wondering how that is.
  • I’ve wanted to know how that works.
  • I’m curious how you handled that.
  • I’m interested in hearing more…

These very brief interruptions help move the conversation forward because the speaker knows you are truly interested in what they have to say.


4. Interrupting to mention something similar that you’ll talk about later

One of the wonderful things about having a good conversation in English is that you’ll probably find you relate to what the other person has said.

If you want to share something similar, it’s okay to say that they’ve sparked something for you and that you’ll tell them more about it after they finish talking.

  • That reminds me…
  • Ooh! I also wanted to talk about X.
  • Let’s come back to that.
  • As you were saying,….
  • Remind me to tell you about my experience doing…

This way you can go back to listening carefully to the other person.

Be sure not to interrupt with a long story of your own, as this can distract the person from their main point and isn’t very polite.


How Be Polite When Interrupting in Conversation

Now that you understand when it is acceptable reasons to interrupt and interject a short comment, question, or idea, let’s talk about how you can be especially polite when interrupting.

You may feel a little timid about jumping into the conversation while the other person is still talking. In some cultures, interrupting is always rude, although this is not true in English.

I want to encourage you to interrupt more because it’s part of active listening and creating connection in English.

But if you feel uncomfortable doing so, I’ve got some more expressions that you can use before interjecting your similar opinion or asking a question:

  • Sorry, but I just wanted to say…
  • Excuse me for interrupting, but…
  • Can I add something?
  • Can I say something here?
  • Can I ask a question?
  • Before you continue, I’d just like to add…
  • I’d like to comment on that/say something/add something/remind you/etc.

All of these phrases show that you respect the other person’s ideas and want to make sure it’s okay to jump in with a brief comment, question, or thought.

If you’re feeling especially shy, you can even raise one of your fingers or your hand a little bit or lean forward with an enthusiastic smile.

This motion signals to the person that you have something to say.

If you’re concerned about being rude, you can do two things to minimize the impact of your interruption:

  • Lead into your interruption with a question or introductory phrase that shows the listener that you care about what have to say; and/or
  • Apologize for the interruption after you’ve asked a question or shared enthusiasm or interest in the topic of conversation.

Remember, interrupting thoughtfully and with good intentions helps lead to a more interesting, engaging conversation.


Excuse the Interruption

Once you’ve finished with your quick interruption or enthusiastic interjection, you can acknowledge your interruption by using one of these phrases.

When you excuse the interruption or apologize for jumping into the conversation, you show the other person that you still value their ideas and are listening carefully.

  • Sorry to interrupt! I was just so excited.
  • Please continue.
  • Please go on, sorry about that.
  • You were telling me about _______…
  • You were saying…
  • Sorry! I just wanted to mention that.

This is a gracious way of saying sorry, especially when you remind the other person what they were talking about before you interrupted.

Sometimes we lose our train of thought when speaking, so you can help remind the person where they left off.


Your Turn

As you can see, interrupting during a conversation and interjecting opinions is not always a bad thing; in fact, it can help improve the conversation by showing your interest in what the other person has to say.

Learning how to be a good conversationist in English requires practice, so be sure to study these expressions and find an opportunity to use them.

To practice, leave a comment below giving an example of you interrupting someone. For example, what would you say if someone starts talking about the latest episode of your favorite TV show?

Ready to communicate more effectively in conversations? Learn communication skills that enable you to connect with other people and engage in natural conversations and professional discussions. Get started here.

24 thoughts on “Guidelines for Interrupting Politely, Interjecting Opinions, and Sharing Ideas”

  1. Dear Kim,

    I absolutely love your explanation. I used a summary of the main ideas in an article I’m writing on Arguing – Rules of Engagement. I will attribute my summary to you in a footnote.

    Question, how much would you charge to answer two questions? I’m ready to go to print.

    My business card begins as follows:

    Imagine a product designed to reduce the divorce rate and increase the happy-marriage rate. How, by helping you or anyone crystallize your thinking about your life and how it intertwines with your relationship status; a tool to help you…….

    1. Is the hyphen correct? I think it’s a compound adjective.
    2. Is “you” and “your” used correctly in the second sentence? It feels like it needs a “their?” The rest of paragraph uses “you” one more time. The message is aimed at the reader of the card.

    Hope you can help.

    Will this be read by you, personally? Just curious.

    Thoughtfully yours,
    Mel

    PS. I was going to try Grammarly, but then I thought of you. Your site seems more personal.

    Reply
    • I’m happy to hear you appreciated my explanation of interrupting and interjecting. This was a request by one of my clients who found it challenging to jump in and join a conversation with her colleagues. I’ve responded to your other inquiry directly via email.

      Reply
  2. my boyfriend goes ballistic when I interrupt; even politely.
    He is German.
    I repeated your ideas and hope that helps our conversations in future.

    thank you.

    Reply
    • There are definitely different cultural views on interrupting. I find that people sometimes find it frustrating when you interrupt if they’re having trouble getting their ideas out for any reason. Hopefully this article helped open a dialogue about both of your perspectives about interrupting.

      Reply
    • My guy is Peruvian and also goes ballistic during conversations. While out to dinner, I asked what was in the dish he ordered. While he was explaining, I merely uttered 4 words… “you mean like sushi”? he expressed such anger telling me I was interrupting. After 4 months of Walking on egg shells during a conversation, I decided to end it even though I was falling in love. Just too much drama. 😞

      Reply
      • Asking short questions to confirm your understanding is an active listening technique. It shows you are listening carefully to what the other person is saying.

        Reply
      • I agree with your decision , your not in an office meeting your with someone you know and should be able to speak freely and spontaneously without fear of interruption .

        Reply
      • Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Angry & Controlling Men” explains the psychopathic personality.
        What a smart move, Paula, to end that relationship. It only gets worse.

        You read the signs well.

        Reply
  3. Hi Kim,
    I have an employee that insists that it is in her German culture to “interject” and it isn’t interrupting when she does so on a regular basis. It is disruptive and rude in my “culture” to do this to everyone she is talking to or trying to get an answer from in a conversation. Do you have any thoughts on this for us please? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Karen,
      My first suggestion would be to check out this article/video on responding to interruptions: https://englishwithkim.com/respond-politely-interruptions-continue-conversation/ (I’ve linked to an article with even more tips on handling colleagues who interrupt, so that may be useful as well.)
      From there, I would suggest you take note of situations when you consider it inappropriate to interrupt so that you can give her specific feedback on why you’re asking her to stop interjecting. Did it prevent the other person from finishing their thought? Did it change the topic of conversation? Did it distract people from the person who was talking? As you saw, I provided some examples of when interrupting is normal.
      I would also encourage you to take note of other people you work with who interrupt or interject. When is it okay to interrupt? Do they use more appropriate language when interrupting? Do you find some people’s interruptions are more readily accepted, either because of their language, their role in the workplace, or the timing of these interjections? It can help to give a model of when it’s okay to interrupt/interject in order to contrast with what isn’t okay.

      Reply
      • Where’s e difference between interject and interupt? Is interject when someone interrupts someone and adds further information compared to purely interupting

        Reply
        • Great question. In the context of a conversation, the two words are very similar. “Interrupt” often has a negative connotation, such as when it disrupts the flow of conversation, or distracts the other person from their train of thought. However, it could be used in a neutral way as well, such as when people say, “Sorry to interrupt” or “Sorry for interrupting.” “Interject” describes interruptions that add to the conversation, or help the speaker clarify their thoughts, or quick comments that encourage the other person to go on. Ultimately, whether something is viewed as an interruption or an interjection depends on the people interacting, their rapport, and how open people are to mutual participation in the conversation.

          Reply
  4. I am normally a linguistics guy, but I love what a detailed guide you made here today. You could learn alot from this. Very Polished guide.

    Reply
  5. This article was just what I was looking for. I am normally an extremely shy person but in the last few years have tried to talk more in conversations. But family and friends act as if I constantly am interrupting. I was happy to see I was following all your rules or suggestions. I am very polite and only add quick interjections never change conversation. Other people interrupt frequently but no one notices them. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

    Reply
    • I’m happy you found this article helpful! It sounds like you’re doing your best to interrupt politely. It sounds like your friends and family may just be surprised by the fact that you’re participating more, and they’re not used to it just yet. Like you mentioned, if you’re used to someone chiming in, you might not even notice it. Conversations can be tricky, depending on the people, the topic, and the context. We become better conversationalists with practice, so keep going!

      Reply
      • Wow, the last example here is similar to what I experience with my daughter. I have no way of knowing whether she is going to continue on with something after she has paused for a few seconds. I am basically listening, then occasionally simply make a small acknowledgement of what was last said, ie such as really? or that’s neat. She then acuses me of interrupting her. Is this really a conversation, or a diatribe by one person in the conversation? Very confused and frustrated because I feel if I can’t even make a sound.

        Reply
        • Communication can be complicated with close family members. It sounds like she may be having trouble formulating her thoughts, and is possibly perceiving your small comments as interruptions. That said, those small acknowledgements are normal active listening strategies. You may want to try asking more specific questions that encourage her to keep sharing details. I give a few examples under the second heading here. That way she knows you’re interested in hearing the rest of the story or point. And yes, conversations can feel one-sided at times.

          Reply
  6. Hi,
    I follow these rules with my boyfriend, but he keeps say that I’m just interrupting him. His friend dose this too, but it’s okay when his friend dose it. He just gets mad when I do it.

    Reply
    • Communication can be complicated. Many people don’t realize that they have different expectations for different people in their lives. Unfortunately, when we ask people to consider their reactions, they may respond defensively and it can be hard to negotiate a solution. I would encourage you to write down some questions you have about his reactions to interrupting, and find a good time to discuss them.

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much for this article. I interrupt during conversations with just a couple of words but often get told to be quiet and let them speak or be quite and just listen. I find this very bossy and controlling as I’m not trying to stop the conversation but just enthusiastically agree or express something at what they are saying, especially if if is a long story with twists and turns. I find that it is my introvert, teacher friends who tell me to “listen” and feel they are treating me like their pupils. I mean don’t my small comments show I am listening? I just go “oh yeah, that’s funny” and am jumped on to shut up and listen. It’s all I was saying but they act like I was trying to take over the convo and change the topic. I’m getting tired of it and feel I am not allowed to converse, only listen to long speeches in social situations. I think me and my introvert friends are not compatable conversationalists. They act like they are making important speeches all the time when it’s just a light hearted social atmosphere.

    Reply
    • You have made a very wise observation here – you may not be interacting with compatible conversationalists. It sounds like your small comments are showing active listening, but other people are not interpreting them as such. In my own interactions, I have found that some people prefer silent listeners, whereas others appreciate that you’re reacting to what they’re saying. It can be helpful to experiment in these situations; for example, try only responding with facial expressions to see how that goes. Every conversation involves a bit of negotiation.

      Reply
  8. I have an odd situation with my husband. First, I’d like to explain that I have a brain injury which happened almost 12 yrs ago and when I talk, I need to get my sentence/thought out so I don’t forget what I’m saying. My husband knows this about me, however when I speak, he will interrupt me by asking questions or debating what I am saying. He states it’s interjecting in the conversation and no one else has a problem with him doing it. I feel this is rude of him I do this to me. He will take over the conversation and I cannot finish my sentence nor thought, then it can be lost forever for me. I’ve asked him to politely wait for me to finish my sentence or thought so I can tell him what I know, then ask me questions. This way I don’t loose my train of thought because I am not like I used to be 12 yrs ago before brain surgery. So, I just stop talking because I feel my words don’t matter.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your story with me. Communication with close family or your partner can be especially challenging because of the level of familiarity you share. I can definitely understand why you feel frustrated in this situation, especially since you’ve specifically asked for what you need during conversations so that you have time to finish your thoughts. What may be viewed as interjecting or participating in other contexts is actually disruptive to your train of thought. While I’m not a relationship expert, I would encourage you to continue to mention what you need during conversations. It may help if you have another family member or close friend there to help back you up.

      Reply

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