“Excuse Me, I’m Speaking”

 February 26, 2021

Women, here are three effective tactics for overcoming aggressive interruptions and taking back the mic - as provided by Nancy Medoff from AthenaWise.

Ever been interrupted, talked over, sidelined?

“Excuse Me, I’m Speaking” became buzz-worthy after the 2021 Vice Presidential debates. These exact words are how Vice President Kamala Harris reclaimed her voice, recentered the attention and took back the microphone during a very high stakes debate.  And these words will forever go down in history. 

You’ll notice when watching the brief recap that during interruption number three, Vice President Harris asserts herself with a big, beautiful smile on her face while at the same time completely shutting down her opponent.  

Just follow these three simple steps

This tactic was executed flawlessly and now you can do the same when this happens to you.  

1. Start with a smile

A big, wide and genuine smile is your best offense. A smile instantly disarms people and situations.

You are viewed as friendly, upbeat and non-confrontational.

Vice President Harris was well coached here and the approach served her well.  

You can substitute your own words here such as "one moment, or "just a second" or "insert your favorite term here."

The words are not as important here as the action. Stand firm. Polite, but firm.

2. Do not, under any circumstances, take it personally

Research shows that most people do not even realize they’re interrupting and, in many cases, they can’t help themselves.

They are either excited or agitated and sometimes even in agreement.

They want to be heard. They may need to make a point. They may want to sound smart.

They might need to prove something to themselves or to others in the room. Maybe they were just raised this way.  

Notice anything here? Their behavior is about THEM. Not you.

If you take it personally, you make the situation about you and shift the focus to how you’re behaving rather than what you’re saying. 

3. Finally, you can politely pause

This can be a least favorite tactic even though it is used frequently.  

Here’s what it looks like. If you have the floor and someone keeps talking over you, politely pause and let them go on.  

Sometimes you can even close your mouth and take a step back.

You can even wait a few extra moments after they’re done speaking. The silence is unsettling for everyone and this awkwardness ensures that the offender won’t do it again.

 If for some reason you want to make it really awkward for the interrupter, you can take this a bit further by sitting down if you were standing.

Regardless of how you pause, the people in the room will notice what’s happening.

They will in many cases ask you to “go on” or “keep going” and in essence take the floor back for you.

The first time this happens you can just politely let the person speak. No harm here. If it happens again? Refer to tip #1 or #2!

Bring the focus back to you

Excuse me I'm speaking techniques

The underlying theme in all three of these tactics is to take the high road.  

Be polite but firm, realize that the offending behavior is not about you, and above all else, bring the focus back to you - with a smile.

Speech tips


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