When Is It Okay to Interrupt Someone?

I have this irrational fear when interrupting others, particularly when they seem to be working on something important. Doesn’t it seem like a bad idea when they appear so engrossed in their work? But the thing is, I can never tell if they’re working on something important or just staring at their screen reading news articles. So why not interrupt anyway?

I guess I’d also need a good enough reason to interrupt. Obviously, I can’t justify interrupting to ask something that can be looked up in 5 minutes. But if it’s an urgent matter involving things outside my scope of responsibility, I guess it justifies the interruption? But what about everything in between?

Perhaps this is the appeal of sticky notes, email, and text messaging. It makes it feel like you’re not interrupting, not directly anyway. But this extremely low cost of communication has a side effect, it encourages people to ask or email just about anything. Especially the queries we would never think to interrupt someone face-to-face just to ask.

Remember that query I had that could be looked up in 5 minutes? Without the option of texting someone, you would have to either interrupt them in their office to ask, or look it up yourself. But given the choice of texting someone, there’s a high chance you would do just that and not even consider the possibility of looking it up yourself.

As a result, you might end up interrupting others more often because now, they have all sorts of messages coming their way that demands their attention. It’s kinda ironic, isn’t it?

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