I regularly teach Guardian Masterclasses on public speaking, most recently in November. One of the participants from that edition followed up with some questions about how women can stop getting interrupted. Well, actually how she can stop getting interrupted.

I did a little bit of digging and found some interesting info. I shared it with her, and she found it useful, so I thought I’d put my findings here: four ways that women can stop getting interrupted.

Why women get interrupted

In composing my reply I assumed that it was men who were doing the interrupting. She confirmed as much. And in my research I found that generally, of course, it’s men interrupting women.

Some of the imbalance in interruptions is due to who speaks and why. According to world-renowned gender communication expert Deborah Tannen, men speak to determine and achieve power and status. Women talk to determine and achieve connection. (Forbes.) What ends up happening is that men talk over women. This is the primary problem. Men are the worst.

But even women interrupt women more often! One study found that when women interrupted, 89% of the time they were interrupting other women. (The Ladders)

How women can stop getting interrupted

One commonly cited way women can shut down interrupters is by saying, “I wasn’t finished”, or “Let me respond please.” Unfortunately, according to a study cited in this NYT article, this act is often seen as aggressive and angry.

So while getting upset is a possibility, it’s not always appropriate or desirable. Thus, at the risk of being accused of mansplaining, here are some things women can do to improve the balance.

1. Back up other women in meetings. If a woman suggests a good idea that’s dismissed or interrupted, point it out. Apparently, this amplification and mutual support can be quite helpful in redressing the general imbalance. It was used with success by female staffers in Obama’s cabinet.

2. If someone interrupts you or tries to talk over you, just say calmly (but loudly) “I wasn’t finished” or “Excuse me, I’d like to finish what I was saying“. It’s important to not get angry.

(One study, “Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead?” concluded that men who get angry in the workplace are often rewarded, but angry women are seen as incompetent and unworthy of leadership positions. Journalist Soledad O’Brien says that when she’s interrupted, she makes sure she doesn’t lose her cool: “I stay very calm and don’t rush. I take up time and space and speak forcefully.

3. Start interrupting and talking over men. Not all the time (that’s rude). But a little bit. This will help set out the balance (and give you more opportunities to get your point across). According to a BBC story ‘Why Women Should Interrupt Men’, a ‘no interruptions’ policy will cause men to turn off when women are speaking. But a ‘pro-interruptions’ policy encourages people to get to the point and gives women more opportunities to speak their mind.

4. Be conscious of your body language. By being confident and assertive in both posture and vocal qualities, you’re less likely to be talked over. If you hem and haw and are hunched over you’re inviting interruptions.