Interruptions, Part One
Do you like being interrupted? I can’t stand it. And yet, I have interrupted people far more often than I’d care to admit.
I love the speech about being interrupted in the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” with Jack Nicholson, who plays a brilliant writer but a very ill-tempered curmudgeon who enjoys the company of no one. His neighbor (played by Greg Kinnear) comes knocking on his door while he is writing. He is infuriated when his neighbor, who comes to ask if Nicolson’s character threw his dog down the trash chute of the apartment complex.
With no regard for animal cruelty, Nicholson asks his neighbor if he likes being interrupted, and the neighbor politely says no, and tries to offer empathy by citing examples of how he avoids interruptions in his own life. Nicholson’s character cuts him off, however, not really caring about his response (sharing his disdain for not being interrupted by interrupting some one!). I won’t share the whole speech, but here is the gist of it:
"Well, I work all the time. So never interrupt me. Not if there's a fire. Not even if you hear the sound of a thud coming from my home and a week later, there's a smell that can only be a decaying human body and you have to put a hanky up to your nose because the smell is so bad, you think you're gonna faint. Even then don't come knocking. Even then, don't knock, not on this door. Not for any reason. Do you get me, sweetheart?"
A pretty rude response, but not far from how I feel when I am interrupted. And I am afraid I at times do not do much better than Nicholson’s character does in the scene in terms of social skills. (So why should others give in to my demands—or Nicholson’s—to not interrupt me, right?)
When I am interrupted, the feelings that emerge for me are typically sadness, anger and fear. I am afraid that what I have to say does not matter to the person listening to me. I have the sense that my opinion won’t make any difference in the conversation. When others exclude me from a decision or exclude me from a project after I have been interrupted, I often feel quite angry.
A second reason I have a low tolerance for being interrupted, is that I see in others what frustrates me about myself. I am in twelve step recovery, and this is a concept we find in our journey of self-discovery. We say, “if you spot it, you got.” Too bad Nicholson’s character can never see that. I know I should not interrupt people, and yet I do it all the time, because I am not aware of it in the moment. I feel better about myself after I have apologized. I feel better when I stop myself from interrupting others in the first place. I am grateful to report that my Higher Power has shown me how to do both of these pro-social behaviors in spite of my addiction and autism on a regular basis.
One of the frustrations about being on the spectrum is that I continue to interrupt people even though I actively try not to do it, and I know that it can push people away. Doing some of the other things I just mentioned make others willing to deal with me.
I have a tendency to be too assertive in assuring that my voice is heard. I often convey this message: “I am about to speak, and I want everyone to be absolutely silent when I am speaking. And if you interrupt me, I will reprimand and demand that you let me finish what I am saying.” I am not sure how much respect this kind of attitude generates in others, but it certainly is an excellent way to piss people off.
I fail to recognize that there are some excellent reasons to interrupt me. In my next blog, I will share some of those reasons.
Teen & Adult Program Manager
Disclaimer: **The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.