How to Respond to an Interrupting Parent

Do you have a parent that continuously interrupts you when you’re trying to speak with them? Do they sometimes finish your sentences, as if they seem to know what you’re thinking? Or do they quickly interject with something that occurred to them based on something you say?. When this continues to happen, it can leave you feeling disrespected, and over time, begin to erode your relation with your parent. So what can you do to respectfully change the direction this is heading? You have three options:


Stop expecting your parent to behave in ways they have demonstrated repeatedly that they are unwilling or unable to do, particularly if you are unaware of where this annoying habit stems from. It could be that your parent’s own sense of weakness or emotional need causes them to fight for conversational airtime. It could be that interpersonal insensitivity is part of their aging process. Who knows? But if we have raised our concerns about this behaviour and how it impacts us, and it’s being ignored then we should stop expecting it to change.

If you want to spend time with your parent, reset your expectations. Make it all about listening to them. Expect little interest or curiosity about your life. There are some people in life that have little room for exploring what’s going on with other people. When you spend time with them, it will always be about them. And if they are close to you, you may need to accept it on those terms. However, because of the limited agenda with these relationships, you may need to limit the contact. Ensure that when you are with them, you are doing so willingly. And when your willingness expires, terminate the contact so that your time with them is genuine, not forced, so engage as long as you have something real to offer.


You also have the option of becoming more responsible for asserting your conversational prerogatives. If your parent isn’t ceding it themselves, you can seize them.

Sometimes being resentful about what feels like a one-sided relationship might not be a product of someones else’s insensitivity but a product of one’s unwillingness to assert their own needs. Do make yourself a victim in a conversations by waiting for someone else to tend to your desire to talk? This will not always come. So if others don’t honour ordinary rules of politeness, you don’t have to either.

This is not to justify being spiteful or being rude to someone but if others are interpersonally insensitive, you must give yourself permission to assert your needs in ways that might otherwise seem rude. Assert yourself as strongly as you need to, but no more. For example, you can listen sincerely to someone talk “at you”, but if you feel a desire to change topics or add your view, you can interrupt them. Sometimes there might be two of you talking over one another for a few uncomfortable seconds before they register that you’re seizing the baton, but hopefully they will stop, listen and engage. 

So when your parent starts to cut you off, continue talking. Firmly raise your voice a few decibels to signal your determination to complete your thought. Stop making yourself a victim of their interruptions and you’ll stop resenting them. Stop taking it personally and you’ll stop feeling offended. Their behaviour is not a measure of your worth, it’s a part of their personality. Accept that this is who they are and how the’ll be, and take responsibility to assert your needs.


If options 1 and 2 don’t work, you’ve got one remaining option: Take responsibility for your own well-being by limiting the frequency or duration of your time with your parent. Again, stop blaming them for being who they are, and start deciding how you’ll care for your own needs given this reality.

The ultimate invitation life offers all of us is to learn to live happily with imperfect people.

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