Lucas Cohen

Why We Need Interruptions

Interruptions (DALL·E)

Image generated using DALL·E

Have you ever been in a conversation where someone goes on and on about something that seems gets harder to follow as they continue talking?

You try and find the space to chime in. Add your point of view. Contextualize. You wait for a pause. The person comes to the end of a sentence. Are they pausing? Maybe. It doesn’t sound like they’re finished. Their eyes are looking up and to the right. That’s supposed to be a signal that they’re trying to remember something, right? Okay. Now’s your chance. You’re not going to get this opportunity for another 10 minutes. They look like they’re about to keep going. Just change the topic. Tell them about ––– and then they keep going. They’ve interrupted you interrupting them.


Interruptions exist on a spectrum.

Sometimes they’re celebrated. An interruption can help steer an otherwise less interesting topic into something more generative.

And sometimes they’re rude. An interruption can change the course of things too soon, or lead to missing the punchline of a joke.

Any interruption breaks continuity. But that’s not always a bad thing. There can be continuity in a boring story.

So we can think of interruptions as guides, steering conversations into higher ground.

And sometimes interruptions aren’t just from people in dialogue, but the environment. Life itself. You look at the time, and realize you’re late for a meeting… a loud motorcycle drives by… a neighboring dog runs up to you to say hi… an attractive person catches your eye on the other side of the street… it starts raining.

If we were never interrupted, life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

We’d never really experience synchronicities (simultaneous experiences where we derive unexpected meaning and connection).

We wouldn’t get the chance for spontaneity.

Things would be boring.

For better or worse, interruptions bring novelty. And we need them.

Perhaps rather than seeing interruptions as, well, interruptions... what if we saw them as opportunities?

Necessary breaks in continuity to keep things interesting.

– Apr. 20, 2022