In conversation, I am what is known as an interrupter.
I know it’s an annoying habit; I also know it’s one I share with a lot of academics. What I tell myself is that I interrupt people—friends, colleagues, students—when they are midthought, sometimes midsentence, because I am so excited by their ideas I cannot help but engage. It’s because I adore lively dialogue, and like to prod and provoke ideas. I’m not good at waiting my turn.
I might attribute that to having spent formative years in Manhattan, where interrupting goes unnoticed in the hustle and flow of city life. Or perhaps it’s part of my ethnic heritage, the turbulence of the Jewish dinner table. Or maybe my mother didn’t want to constrain my creativity and allowed me to run roughshod over conversations. Regardless of its provenance, what I know is that interrupting people when they speak is just plain rude. I’ve tried to cure myself of the habit but, like everything, it takes work. And in the course of working to be better, I’ve begun to wonder about the root of the problem.