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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Get a rude co-worker to shut up

A reader writes: "Dear Annie: I was hired about six months ago to do part of the work a colleague had been doing. Lately, he has developed the extremely rude habit of interrupting whenever I'm speaking - and almost always leaping to the wrong conclusion. He shouts me down to interrupt me. It's not that I'm delivering long monologues; I try to keep my remarks brief and to the point. This is really aggravating an already stressful working relationship. How does one make "shut up and let me finish" sound polite?"

The solution? "From your description, I'd say the person interrupting you is not only rude but is also a bully. For bullies, everything is a control issue, so you need to let him know that you are in control," says Frank Kenna III, CEO of the Marlin Co., a 93-year-old workplace communications firm in North Haven, Conn. "How you deliver your message is just as important as what you say. It's up to you to strike a delicate balance, somewhere between a battering ram and a doormat."

When your co-worker starts to interrupt you, Kenna suggests saying something like, "One moment, Fred (or whatever his name is), I'm not finished." Say it with "a strong and confident tone," Kenna says. "If you have a soft voice, you might also accompany it with a forceful hand motion. Make sure to do this consistently every time he interrupts." Sooner or later he'll get the point.

One other thought: It sounds to me as if this guy might be struggling with some turf issues, raised by your having been brought in to take over part of his job. Many people's egos are quite fragile and easily bruised, and that can give rise to some pretty obnoxious behavior - constantly interrupting, for example. Maybe he'd calm down and let you finish a sentence if you gave him a pat on the back once in a while and made a point of acknowledging his contributions to the team. It's worth a try.

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Thanks for taking out the time...........