Microsoft-Research-Meetings-Interruptions-Graphic-WorkLabs

Everyone has someone on their team that is a know-it-all, the person who will charge into to just about any conversation with their “expert” opinion. Heck, it could be you! If not, you probably dream of telling them to just shut up during a meeting. Well, surprisingly, Microsoft may have a tool for that.

Microsoft is essentially helping you to shut down those people who love their own voice and want you to love it too. Whether correcting someone or offering an opinion when none was asked, these people can slot down meetings and collaboration.

Microsoft agrees. In a recent WorkLab document, the company describes a tier list of meeting interruptions. For example, an unnecessary response of “cool” or “super” would be a mere interruption.

However, the company also points to “power interruptions”. These are the people who interrupt with “truly hostile takeovers, whether deliberate or by someone totally unaware.”

Here are all the interruptions Microsoft’s team categorized:

  • “Acknowledgement tokens: Supportive interruptions like right, okay, or yeah
  • Back channels/continuers: Cooperative interruptions that signify support, agreement, or that the listener is paying attention. Words/sounds like uh-huh, wow, hmm.
  • Choral sounds: Laughter, groans, coughing, etc.
  • Competitive overlaps: An attempt to take over from the speaker, for a variety of reasons, including process or content control.
  • Conversational equity: When speakers in a conversation have roughly equal time and ability to contribute.
  • Cooperative overlaps: Interruptions that are supportive or helpful.
  • Power interruptions: Truly hostile takeovers, whether deliberate or by someone totally unaware.
  • VSUs: Very short utterances, a subset of back channels.”

Power Interruptions

Microsoft data scientists looked at meeting transcripts and were able to find patterns in conversations and interruption.

Microsoft’s principal researcher in human-computer interaction, Sean Rintel, says: “You could clearly find patterns of people taking long turns or interrupting somebody else on a regular basis.”

It is worth noting some interruptions that happen regularly could come from the meeting host. They may be cutting off people in the interests of moving the meeting along. Although, it can also be that it’s the office know-it-all who wants another go at showing you the breadth of their knowledge on every subject.

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