On Being Interrupted

for mezzo-soprano and guitar

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For decades, studies have documented that men interrupt women who are speaking, particularly in the workplace, with much higher frequency than they interrupt other men (or than women interrupt anyone).* There are many theories as to why this may be and how to remedy it, but the incidence of interruption does not seem to have changed much over the years. This piece lists some of the tactics “experts” recommend women use to avoid being interrupted. I could find no data on their efficacy.

Additional strategies include teaming up with other women (and sometimes male allies) to point out when a colleague is interrupted and ask that she be allowed to finish her thought. But this is obviously not feasible in situations involving one woman among a group of men who do not acknowledge any bias—unfortunately still a common circumstance in 2019.

* This phenomenon likely applies to other marginalized people as well, but the research I’ve seen focused on gender in binary terms.

Vocal range: A♭3–D5.

Watch the Bowers Fader Duo premiering On Being Interrupted:

I have something to say.
I will be concise.
I will avoid tentative language, like “I think”, “how about” or “maybe”. 
I will lean in and make eye contact—
But he has an ingenious joke and he cannot allow it to go unsaid.

I will smile politely.
I will return to my point.
I will use a lower and deeper voice that commands attention.
But I’ve reminded him of something he wants to discuss, 
and he has to bring it up now or he might forget!

I will not take it personally.
I will remain calm.
I will be patient, and when I can speak I will be concise.
I will avoid tentative language, like “I think”, “how about” or “maybe”. 
I will not pause for breath and give them an opening to interrupt—
But he has a question. Apparently he didn’t hear when I answered it five minutes ago.

I will explain it again.
I will not get upset. If I show emotion, it’s over.
I will use a lower and deeper voice—but not too low, that would be unnatural! 
I need to sound authoritative, but also warm and non-threatening.
I cannot be boring; I can absolutely not be shrill—

But I know I can never match those melodious baritones.
Their words are inherently fascinating, and mine are easily dismissed.
If I mention this they will see me as oversensitive and petty, so for now I will listen and smile...

I have something to say.
I will be concise.
I will avoid tentative language, like “I think”, “how about” or “maybe”.
I will lean in and make eye contact—excuse me, Joe, that’s a great thought, but I wasn’t finished— 
I have something to say. 
I have something to say!
I have something to say—will you hear it?