Read My Lips

A colleague of mine, an older, distinguished gentleman, has this habit of trying to predict and finish my sentences.

For instance, when I start a conversation, he’ll interject these vocal micro-blips while I’m speaking, as if he was just about to say the exact same thing.

Me: “We were on the verge of closing the Colosco deal, but the hurdle rate was..”

Rob: “too-“

Me: “um – a little higher than the buyer…”

Rob: “Fi-“

Me: “uh, than the buyer was thinking, so our numbers were off a little..”

Rob: “S-!“

Me: “No, yeah – we didn’t close the deal after all.”

Honestly, it’s hard to concentrate on what I’m saying. It feels like I keep getting short-circuited throughout the conversation.

I don’t know if this is a display of solidarity, like “Hey! I was thinking the exact same thing!” Or, perhaps it’s nothing more than a subconscious tic that sets off when he gets excited. Either way, he’s a wonderful, supportive friend and mentor, therefore I don’t mind so much.

Then there’s, Dot, a sullen and entitled woman who was in my employ as a bookeeper for a time, and she would do the same thing. But with her it was clearly an issue of sucking up.

She would interrupt me, attempting to complete my sentences, but then her voice would trail off when she could see I was heading in a different direction.

Me: “Dot, that spreadsheet Sue reported yesterday didn’t…”

Dot: “didn’t have th-“

Me: “uh, didn’t have all the correct customer ac-“

Dot: “Customer acceptance rates to…”

Me: “No, Customer account numbers. Go fix it, please.”

She had no idea what I was going to say, and based on her lack of experience, she couldn’t possibly have predicted where my sentences were landing.

Dot was no doubt trying to kiss up and look smart at the same time, but it kind of had the opposite effect, and instead was simply annoying. The thing is, she constantly did this with me, but never with the rest of the office staff, whom she viewed as inferior. I  suppose she was entirely oblivious to her own behavior.

Anyway, people sure can act strangely. But you were probably just about to say the same thing.

Even Jesus Got Annoyed
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Who Would Jesus Fire?
About JBW

JBW is a business executive living and working in the Northeast USA.

  • David Rupert

    Those people are so frustrating. And don’t you find that you are rushing your sentences out quickly, just so he can’t finish them? Either that, or leave one hanging and go the complete opposite way of his completion.

  • Loren Pinilis

    The thing that most stuck out to me from this post was how similar behaviors can come from different motivations and thus lead to totally different reception.

    • shrinkingthecamel


  • phil herman

    When I read your title for this one, I immediately heard myself say “No new taxes.” Does that count?

  • charitysingleton

    I have a friend at work who does the same thing – and she gets me talking in circles if I’m not careful! Though I think her’s is subconscious, and I often have wondered if I should tell here.

    On the flip side, I think I sometimes do the same thing to people who are slow talkers. I want to hurry them along, so I just try to predict what they are going to say. Bad habit, you know?

  • charitysingleton

    I left a wonderful comment here that now seems to have disappeared. Darn. Mostly, I just said that I have been on both sides of this, and it’s really a bad habit either way. At least now I am aware!

  • nancy



    i need

    a vacation

  • sawyerspeaks

    “In the beginning God created –.”

    “– the heavens and the earth?”

    I wonder.

    • shrinkingthecamel

      Ha! Good one, Jeff.

  • pastordt

    Oy vey, yes I am familiar with this habit pattern – have even been guilty of it myself from time to time. But you are so right on – the source of the interrupting-pattern makes a huge difference. I always enjoy your observations when I stop by here! (And I absolutely LOVED your last line. How did you know? :>)

    • shrinkingthecamel

      It’s because I know how sharp and witty my readers are – like you, Diane!

  • Tammy

    You’ve hit on a real issue for me and the world. We no longer listen. I constantly remind myself that I need to be a better listener but really don’t know how one develops the skill without intense persistence.

  • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach

    Hi Bradley, enjoyed reading your post as it made me think, I am sometimes guilty when I am very excited about a project or cannot wait sharing something with my husband. We have a tendency to finish each other sentences, maybe we have been together for too long ? :-)

    I know It is irritating but I cannot stop doing it when I have passionate discussions. If I do that with friends to but, they know me and usually forgive me.

    So back to your story, you assume Dot is doing this on purpose, well I am not so sure, maybe she feels nervous talking with authority figures and her reaction to cope is to try to finish your sentences, she migh even not be aware she is doing it. Did you mention to her that you are annoyed when someone finishes your sentences? if yes what was her reaction ?

    Great post thanks

    • shrinkingthecamel

      Anne, Dot was just a suck-up, plain and simple, with a bad habit of trying to make it look like she was always on the same page as me, when she never really was. She ended up getting fired, because she had an overall negative, catty effect on the entire office (this was many years ago). Unfortunately, I never spoke to her about this habit because there were so many other more flagrant habits affecting her job!

      Now, i know it’s different with other people (like you, i’m sure!) who are peers and friends, during enthusiastic conversations.. that’s entirely another thing altogether!

      Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting.

  • Megan

    This is one of my worst habits…but I know I do it because I prefer people speak concisely and I have a lot of friends that, uh, go off on tangents.

    I try so hard not to, but it’s an ongoing issue that I have to stay on top of at all times.

    Apologies to you from all of us interrupters.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach

      Hello Megan, I am happy I am not alone to confess :-)