Ever feel like you’re interrupted all the time without the other person doing any interrupting? You want to communicate your frustration, but you just don’t have a word to describe it?
I found one for us.
“I bought a new car!”
“Good for you! I really like my car I bought about a year ago. I got a really good deal on it too, and it’s my favourite colour.”
“I cycled 100 km!”
“I know someone who cycles a lot. She cycled across the country. She is doing ironman all the time.”
Someone came in the door and yelled “I GOT A PROMOTION!” and someone else yelled out, “I MADE DEPARTMENT HEAD LAST YEAR TOO!” And now everyone is talking about their own promotion or lack there of. (True story I witnessed)
Those are too obvious? How about…
“I had a great time at the party.”
“Me too. I also met someone really interesting, and we might get together for coffee soon. It’s been a while since I met just a solid guy, you know?”
Google tells me this is called conversation hijacking.
There are various forms (includes one-upping), but the common theme is the change of topic. “I didn’t change the topic. They said ‘car,’ so I talked about cars!”
Hang on a sec here. The topic of a social conversation is never a thing but always the person talking about the thing. Once you start talking about a thing or an issue, that’s a discussion. And, no, you don’t get to decide it’s a discussion not a social conversation.
The topic of a social conversation is never a thing
Do you have this habit? Everyone does! I do! For just one day, pay attention to the first word out of your mouth in any social conversation. “I,” “my” (my dog), and “me” (as in “Me too”) are good indicators.
If everyone does it, why am I going on about this. Who cares? Because not having a word for it ruined the relationship with the most adorable person I met in the last 10 years. All of my friends know that I love being single and it’s extremely rare for me to be excited about a relationship. He was fantastic in every other way. Considerate, sensitive, honest, caring, and interesting.
He had two habits. Laughing at his statements (not just jokes) even before he finishes it and conversation-hijacking.
The effect of conversation hijacking on the other person is the same as cutting them off mid-sentence. The act itself is not nearly as violent. But, just the same, it make them feel diminished, unimportant, uninteresting, replaceable, disconnected, and discouraged. It’s gas-lighting: Telling me over and over how interested they are of getting to know me, then immediately interrupt me when I start talking.
The effect on my mentality was like severe. My 5-year-old rescue suddenly one day learned the concept of trade-offs. I picked up the ear drop he hates, and he immediately came and sat in front of me for the eventual treat. OMG, right? My thought wasn’t “I can’t wait to tell him!” Instead my heart drops, thinking “Well. I’ll say ‘my dog did something interesting today,’ and I’ll spend the next 5 minutes listening to how he never had a dog but liked them and how many of his friends had dogs and what kinds they were and all the details of dog training methods that he’s read about.” I still tried, and he never once let me down on my predictions.
Why didn’t I speak up? I did. He hijacked it too.
“[interjecting] Hey, can I finish my story?” “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just wanted to connect with you by showing I am very interested in dogs too. I wish I had one, actuHAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s nice to have mutual interest, and it’s a foundation to a good relationship so you have something to talk about. It could get boring if you [inaudible]HAHAHAHAHAHA. Well, I guess you don’t have things in common, you can learn something together and you’ll create topics you have [inaudible]HAHAHAHAHAHA. [on and on] So? You were saying what did your dog do today?”
After a while, I started competing. I started running my sentences together for fear that a pause would allow him to get in. I started talking louder. I started interrupting his interruptions, and he would interrupt my interruption of his interruption. We would both be talking for 15 seconds (check how long that really is on a clock), both of us refusing to relinquish the ground. I’m sure my eyes glazed over. The more I tried, the more often I gave him a chance to demoralize and dishearten me.
And one day I could no longer tell stories because I’d choke on the sadness of this dysfunction, which ended up justifying his hijacking even more. I stopped even trying to tell stories from my day. He asks “How was your day?” and I just look at my knees.
I thought the fix is easy, you know? Just don’t start a sentence with “I,” “my,” or “me” until the other person changes the subject. Don’t know what to say otherwise? Ok. That’s fair. Get a couple of defaults ready, like “Uh huh, and?” or “Wow! How was it?” or “yay! You must be so proud!” or “Oh that sucks. Since the fix was so easy in my eyes, I took the whole thing personally. “If he were interested, he could do this.”
I believe the whole picture would have been different if I knew the word for it. Even though he was so absorbed in it that he would even hijack “Can I finish my story?” he wouldn’t hijack “You’re hijacking,” right?