The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Turn-takers, Pausers, and Interrupters

17W RGLP

The Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) participants "try on" various communication styles. (Photo by Seamore Zhu)

17W RGLP

Along with their peers, RGLP participants Frederikke Fürst and Marcus Gresham share with the group at large their reflections on the session's activities. (Photo by Seamore Zhu)

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The Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) began the term with a session focused on communication styles and how they are informed by culture. One activity in particular introduced students to the idea that people’s conversation styles can largely be categorized into three patterns. The turn-taker: a person who waits until the other person is finished talking before speaking. The pauser: a person who not only waits until the other finishes talking before talking in turn, but actually allows for a pause or silence before talking. The interrupter: a person who tends to cut the other person in conversation off by starting to speak before the other is finished speaking.

RGLP participants, Frederikke Fürst and Marcus Gresham, share their reflections here on this particular activity.

“At first the interrupter style can come off sort of as the bad guy. This style can seem rude and sometimes does not allow pausers and turn-takers so get a say, because they are interrupted or simply as they wait their turn before speaking never get the chance, as there isn’t a lull in the conversation that allows them to. As an interrupter, it was a valuable insight for me to learn how this style comes off to other people, because I don’t converse this way with the intention of being rude. Rather for me, this style where you interrupt each other as a way of bouncing ideas off of one another, is a sign of interest, of being engaged and interested in what the other person has to say. I still believe it can come across as this, but it is good to know that is not always the case. Likewise, it is good to know that pausing before talking is not a sign of disengagement or indifference to the conversation, but merely the way that person engages in conversation.” Frederikke Strøbech Fürst

“The most meaningful experience from the first session was the conversation and practice with different conversation styles.  Prior to our first RGLP session, I noticed that people had different conversation styles, but I never took the time to think about how these varying styles were often informed by cultural differences.  It was invaluable to hear from students who were a part of cultures where some of my conversational habits are seen as disrespectful. Without the insight from the students, I would have proceeded thinking that my conversation style was a sign of productivity and engagement rather than rude.  In connecting this back to my career goals to become a practicing physician, it’s important for me to be aware of my conversation style when building trust with patients and other physicians. I have started to challenge myself to be a turn-taker in situations where I would’ve been an interrupter and to consider cultural implications behind all types of communication styles.”  Marcus Gresham

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