We have some weird genetic thing in our house – when my kids were little every single one of them either ran or spun in circles – incessantly. One of them even crawled in circles! I say it is genetic because I remember one of my favorite things to do when I was young was to spin in circles until I fell down.
Life gets weird when you are spinning in circles. Pretty soon, you feel disconnected from your environment, and you feel off-kilter – but once you get going, it is hard to stop.
Do you know people who are spinning in circles? They keep running the same mental pathways over and over, sure that a solution will show up in this familiar territory. The problem is that every time, the results are the same – eventually you disconnect from your environment.
In our culture, the power of the interruption is obvious. You are watching a TV show, and right when you are fully engaged, a commercial comes on – THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED! the TV shouts while you use the interruption to take a pit stop to the kitchen.
An interruption is when you stop someone who is on a set path. Then, you use that opportunity to help them find a better path.
You might use this in coaching an employee, suddenly changing the topic, sharing a story, or otherwise stopping the auto-response that comes so naturally.
Pictures and humor do this in speaking. Ever notice that people nod off if you stay on one topic too long? You are spinning in circles and have disconnected from your reality. Interrupt yourself with a story, a picture, humor, and reconnect with your audience.
This principle also works when you are trying to change a habit. Don’t try to change the habit. Instead, work on introducing an interruption that will give you time to reinterpret your response. When my kids were young, I discovered that every day around 3pm I would find myself in the kitchen munching on chips. I hadn’t made a logical decision to go to the kitchen. My body went there on autopilot. Sometimes I wouldn’t even realize what I was doing until I was a few bites in. In reviewing this phenomenon, I looked at the external data first. As it turns out, every day around 3pm, my kids reached that perfect pitch of irritable. Instead of yelling, I ate. I didn’t have a game plan for overload, so I was running away. To fix this, I set up an interrupt. I started training myself to ask one question every time I entered the kitchen: What are you doing here? If my goal was to munch, I instead worked on redirecting the children’s energy. With a little bit of planning, this interrupt worked, and I quickly lost 25 pounds.
The power of the interrupt is one of the basic principles of human behavior. If you control the interrupt, you control the conversation.
How do you use interruptions to move people to their next level?