Last night, I had the privilege of dining with a group of people I greatly respect. At some point in the evening, the conversation turned to my book and race relations and history.

We got heated – as these conversations always will – because we all felt so passionately about what we were saying and because we didn’t always agree with one another.

Then, people started interrupting each other. Despite all the manners we had been taught as children, despite our genuine respect for each other, we began talking over one another. This makes me crazy.

I think interruptions make everyone a little peeved, of course, but for me, a person who spends hours each day trying to craft a clear, concise, thorough point in words, they totally derail me. Just when I feel like I’ve gotten my feet under me verbally, someone jumps in and cuts me off. I hate it.

Part of the reason I loath this so much is that I’m spoiled. Most of the time I have silence and a page with easy editing tools to get my words write. I can work through an idea fully and then go back and rework it until I get it write. Writing, thus, is much more natural to me than conversation – although I love a good conversation.

But another reason I hate interruptions is because they say that what one person has to say is more important than what another does. Most people say they value everyone’s opinions, but when you get most of us in intense conversation, the number of times people cut each other off seems to belie that fact.

We think we do this only when speak – at least that’s what I was thinking when I started this post – but the truth is that we do it when we read, too. We read the lead of an article, the introduction of a book, and we think we know what the writer is going to say, so we begin responding in our minds before we even hear the writer’s full thoughts.

I wonder if this is part of why we are so divided about topics – because we don’t take the time to really hear the other person’s full ideas, because we don’t look for the common ground before we throw our opinions out there, because we think what we have to say or thin is more important than what the other has to say. I find that sad.

So I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to let people finish a thought when we’re talking; I’m going to read a full article, book or blog post before I get riled up. Maybe, then, I won’t find a reason to really be riled. Maybe I’ll find some new insight.

How about you? How do you feel about interruptions? Do you interrupt people when they speak, respond to their writing before you finish it? What does that do you our opinions of each other and our society?