Extremely likable people are very talented in conversation. Yet their secret to success is less about what they do than what they don't do.

The most likable people avoid the fastest conversation killer: Interrupting. I've written about other secrets to being a better conversationalist, but not interrupting produces the quickest results.

My life quickly changed for the better when I stopped interrupting. Daily conversations became enjoyable, negotiations became easier and my network grew faster than ever - as people were happy to make favorable introductions to their contacts.

Here's why interrupting is so toxic and how you can become more likable by breaking the habit.

It makes people defensive

When you interrupt someone, you tell them that your voice is more important than theirs. Naturally, they feel defensive and either fight back or become silent. It's a lose-lose situation.

I didn't realize how much I stifled other people in daily conversations. My interruptions made conversation impossible because the other person had to fight to voice their opinion or gave up trying because I wouldn't let them finish. 

If you want to be likable, make others feel good by not making them feel defensive.

It disrupts the flow of the conversation

If a conversation is like a dance, interrupting is like stepping on your partner's foot. It disrupts the entire rhythm and it's hard to recover.

Likable people avoid breaking the rhythm by not talking out of turn, asking an ill-timed question or finishing the other person's sentences. They give their partner the space to flow and improvise - supporting them with active listening and genuine interest.

It creates an unsafe environment

When you talk less and listen more, it creates a safe space for others to share. They will trust you because there's no threat of interruption. People will share their ideas, feelings and thoughts because you've proven yourself patient enough to listen.

Patient listening establishes an unspoken bond of trust between you and the other person - and you'll both benefit from a good conversation.

It makes them interrupt you in return

It's the golden rule at work. When I stopped interrupting others, they stopped interrupting me.

When you speak, you want to be heard completely. If I don't interrupt you, you won't feel like you didn't make your point - and interrupt me in return. You won't feel resentful, and you'll listen patiently when it is my turn to speak.

How to stop

First, pay attention to when you feel the urge to interrupt. Second, bite your tongue when you feel that urge. Don't let go until two seconds after the person's last word. This way you'll know they're done talking instead of taking a breath before their next sentence.

I know it sounds a little silly. But it works. It's how I kicked the habit.

If you need some motivation, consider this quote from Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, the bible on how to be likable:

"If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don't wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence."


We live in a world inundated with interruptions. Not being one of them will make you stand out. It may sound contradictory, but it's true: By talking less and listening more you will leave others with a lasting impression and you'll enjoy all the benefits of being a more likable person. Avoid interrupting people and you'll enjoy more of the benefits of being a likable person.