Madam Vice President-Elect Has Spoken and Now Everyone is Listening

"Mr. Vice President, I'm Speaking." Senator Kamala Harris

Senator Kamala Harris happily delivered the most popular meme from the campaign season when she repeatedly stated, "I'm speaking," in response to being interrupted by Vice President Mike Pence in this year's Vice Presidential Debate. Senator Harris would almost be upstaged by the unforgettable black fly that appeared to be glued to the VP's white-as-a-cotton-ball hair, for what seemed like an eternity. You wouldn't wish that on your worst enemy. Or perhaps you would. After all, no one enjoys being interrupted when they have something important to communicate and with limited time.

When Men Interrupt Women

Of course, men interrupt women and women interrupt men. We all need to be more patient when we communicate and to listen harder. It's just that research shows that men speak for different reasons and interrupt women way more often. According to Time Magazine's report on the debate, Mike Pence interrupted Kamala Harris double the number of times (est. 10) that Kamala Harris interrupted Mike Pence. Pence also interrupted the female moderator a number of times more than Harris. After the debate, Time reported:

"Research studying why men routinely interrupt women goes back as early as 1975, with a study conducted by Don Zimmerman and Candace West at UC Santa Barbara, where they found that out of 31 observed mixed-sex conversations, men were responsible for 47 of the 48 interruptions that took place. A 2014 study from George Washington University found that men were 33% more likely to interrupt while speaking with a woman, as opposed to another man. And more recently, a 2017 report from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law showed that male Supreme Court Justices interrupt female Justices approximately three times as often as they do other male Justices. All three studies note that these interruptions can be traced to possible unconscious bias, which affects who we think is powerful or high-status enough to not be interrupted." Read the full article in Time Magazine here.

Interrupting Is Not Always Personal, But It Is Often About Power

Interrupting is not always personal. Sometimes, we can just chalk it up to differences in the way people communicate. We all get a little eager or impatient sometimes. Other times, interrupting is about power.

According to world-renowned gender communication expert Deborah Tannen, men speak to achieve power and status as opposed to women who speak to connect. In America, speaking is considered a position of power, so it's not surprising that men, interrupt more often. It will be interesting to observe if and how often men interrupt the new Vice President. After all, she will be the second most powerful person in the country. If men try to usurp her position, like nobody I've ever seen, she knows how to handle it.

How to Stop Getting Interrupted

Here are a few Kamala-like phrases to look folks in the eye, stand your ground and be heard:

  1. I'm not quite finished with what I was saying...

  2. I'll appreciate your feedback just as soon as I'm finished.

  3. Let me finish my thoughts and then we can discuss ...

  4. I do want to hear your views after I share...

  5. I only have about _ more minutes and then we can discuss your thoughts.

Don't - Don't be long-winded. Don't be apologetic or ask for permission to continue once you've been interrupted. Don't allow people to routinely speak over you.

Do - Be respectful. Give other people the opportunity to speak, ask questions or make observations. If you rightfully have the floor, then keep speaking.

A New Vice President Has Been Chosen and Elected, and She Happens to Be a Female

Vice President-Elect Harris credited Biden for having the "audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president." Regardless of political persuasion, one must recognize that Joe Biden could've chosen just about anyone to be his VP. Superbly qualified on paper, Kamala still needed Joe to provide the opportunity. Joe chose to share his platform with a woman who has a unique and diverse perspective and who also has something important to say. Every woman, and indeed every person, needs open doors and opportunities. It's a historic time in the USA. The women voters in the United States have spoken. The Vice President-Elect has spoken. The world is now watching and listening.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. . . And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they've never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way." Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

What Do You Have to Say that Others Need to Hear?

Women are not only speaking up, we're making sure that we're being heard. So ride the wave, and don't let it come to an end. Now is the time to dig in, develop your skills, seek your opportunities and be heard. Prune your expertise. Contribute. Develop coalitions. Invite others in. Do you have something important to say? If so, how can you say it and when? We're don't require the power of a VP to have the right to be heard.

My Hope for the Next Four Years

My hope is that Americans begin to do what President-Elect Joe Biden asked in his first speech since the election:

"For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I've lost a couple of times myself. But now, let's give each other a chance," Biden said. "It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies." President-Elect Joe Biden

Let us all join together and wish the President-Elect and Vice-President Elect great wisdom and successful outcomes for the American people. Let us listen and give them both a chance. May our democracy, decency, compassion, fortitude and leadership be a bright, shining beacon of light for the world.

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© 2020 by Shai Littlejohn

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