Zoom Makes Manterrupting Incredibly Obvious
We’re all learning new speech patterns now. Try not to zoomterrupt.
The weirdest thing about doing all your meetings on Zoom is that videoconferencing makes you a co-worker of yourself.
There’s the me that is typing this — the me that sits in front of a computer and meets with co-workers every day. Now, in real life, this guy knows not to do the “man-” stuff. He knows not to mansplain (although he’s realizing it’s way more nuanced than he thought). He knows not to manterrupt because that’s easy, right? You just let people finish what they have to say!
But it turns out there’s another me. A tiny me that exists in a box in a Zoom window. Let’s call him Reese. Reese McCracken. Reese is a little… aggressive. He’s a first-talker — he tends to fill the first available silence. He tends to talk over the colleagues on his team, all of whom are women. He’s a little smug, with his “jokes” and raised eyebrows. Even worse: He’s a zoomterrupter.
How is this possible? I wrote a book on office etiquette. I wrote a story for Medium on how working with millennials revealed to me this type of behavior and how I corrected it. I thought I’d habitualized being fair and equitable in meetings. To solve my manterrupting problem IRL a few years ago, I simply resolved to stop talking over anyone. To give people time to finish a thought. To not be a jerk, basically.
Zoom made me realize I still have work to do. I’ve found that during video conferences I’ve taken to zoomterrupting. I try to let people finish talking, but I don’t let the pause between sentences play out. And so I end up speaking right when they start their next sentence. And then the mute function kicks in and the application gets to decide who is heard.
Only I see it happening as I do it. I know what it looks like now. It’s like I’m manterrupting myself.
What seeing myself on camera interrupting and first-talking in real time has taught me is that it’s not enough to simply be considerate. It’s not enough to simply wait. It’s not about you. It’s about everyone else. It’s about empathy.
We tend to be more guarded on video. If tics and facial expressions make their way onto the screen, it’s…