The golden rule has long proposed a simple principle: treat others how you want to be treated. Seems reasonable, yet most people do not honor this simple principle. Successful leaders, on the other hand, know that treating others well leads to being more likable. Being likable is crucial to eliciting support and inspiring others to reach a common goal or buy into a vision. 

There's one bad habit that you're likely doing every day that makes you unlikable. It hurts your ability to lead, it frustrates others and it weakens your team's chemistry.

I know this first hand because I was guilty of this bad habit for two decades. When I finally stopped doing it, I was blown away by how people responded. This one change helped me be more likable, have better conversations and create real connection. 

So what's the big mistake?

So what is the mistake that most people make, and you might be making every day? The answer is: interrupting others.

Interruptions tell people that their opinion doesn't matter. It makes them defensive. It can increase adrenaline and cortisol, which triggers fight or flight mode, making it harder for people to stay present and continue contributing. It can trigger some to get mad, and others to go silent. 

If you want a team that works well together, and does great work, then you can't have a team that is divided, silent or angry. One fast way to prevent all those things is to stop interrupting others, and to not allow others to do the same.

How do I stop interrupting?

Interrupting others is very common, so there's no need to berate yourself. You're human and it's never too late to stop.

Here's the best ways to remove interrupting from your habits. 

Step 1 - Awareness

The first step is to admit that you interrupt others and to start recognizing when you're doing as it happens. This is not easy because interrupting is so ingrained in our behaviors that we don't even notice when we do it. 

Step 2 - Observe your body and others

The key to recognizing when you're interrupting, or when you're about to interrupt, is by tuning into your body. When I'm about to interrupt someone, my body gets hot, I tense up, I stop breathing and I feel assertive energy. Most of the time it's because I just want to contribute or help, and other times it's because I'm upset and want to make a point.

These are not excuses, but rather signals that I'm likely to interrupt someone or a whole table full of people. This takes practice. 

Step 3 - Ask for help

You don't need to do this alone. In fact, if you admit to others that you interrupt them, and you want help, you'll probably be met with open arms. People don't like being interrupted, and they'll be glad to alert you in real time when you're interrupting. 

No one is going to do this without permission, so it's important to apologize for interrupting and ask for their help.

Step 4 - Stop doing it!

Now that you recognize the moments when you interrupt others, and how you feel, now you can stop. Here's a trick I used: when you feel yourself starting to interrupt, literally bite your tongue until the other person stops talking for two seconds. Then you can start.

Step 5 - Apologize in real time

You're going to make mistakes, and that's ok. If you interrupt someone, just apologize. It doesn't need to be something intense. Simply say, "I interrupted you, I'm sorry."

Final Word

When you stop interrupting others, you're acting as a strong role model for your entire team. You'll also create a team dynamic in which people have the space to speak and contribute, which means you're getting everyone's best. That's exactly what you want as a leader and what your business needs to be successful.