Analysis of the Act of Interrupting Someone

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For this project I decided the social norm, which is expected behavior in specific situations, that I would experiment with is constantly interrupting someone when talking to them.

Social control is relevant to norm violation because it is includes different reactions to said violations. I did this behavior on two separate occasions with two different people: one my roommate and the other my oldest brother. In both situations I prompted them with questions I knew they would have long responses for. I asked my roommate (Brigetta) what activities she and her boyfriend (Andrew) had done that day and I asked my brother (Sean) how his two soccer games had gone the past weekend. In both situations my interrupting them was not normative behavior and by their reactions I could tell they did not appreciate how I was acting.

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The normative behavior that typically follows asking someone a question is to listen to their response and specifically to not interrupt them. Immediately following our class on the Friday, when we got the assignment I went back to my room in Regina Hall where my roommate Brigetta was sitting with her boyfriend Andrew. I knew that they had spent the whole day together since he was visiting from out of town, so I thought she would give me detailed responses when I asked how her day was. After she began speaking I interrupted her in the middle of her second sentence to tell her that “I went to Meijer today too,” even though I didn’t, after my first interruption she did not even finish her original answer to my question. I prompted her again by asking what they had for lunch and she began to respond that they went to Schnitz Deli to which I interrupted and said, “I had a Schnitz bagel today,” which I did. At this time, I could tell that she was getting agitated by the look on her face. After my second time interrupting Brigetta she began to shorten her responses to my prompted questions presumably so that I could not interrupt her. For example, I asked her what her dinner plans were, even though she told me in detail earlier, and she quickly responded, “I don’t know.” This short answer, which gave me no opportunity to interrupt, was a subtle way of her telling me that she was done talking. Throughout the entire conversation I noticed small social queues that I would normally care about seeing and change how I was acting; however, I knew I was merely receiving different informal negative sanctions from her.

Sanctions are responses for breaking norms or rules. The first time I interrupted her she looked at me and tilted her head in confusion. The second time I interrupted her she bit her lip angrily. After that she shortened her responses so that I was unable to interrupt her at all. Brigetta’s sanctions were clearly veered toward getting me to stop interrupting her. While this conversation with Brigetta was occurring her boyfriend, Andrew, was sitting directly next to her. He looked extremely uncomfortable the entire time as he sat there twiddling his thumbs and glancing over to look at Brigetta each time I interrupted her. Andrew never once said anything to me or even looked in my direction, it seemed as if he was avoiding looking at me at all. Not only did not say anything about my rude interruptions, buts he also never answered any of the questions that I asked them both. His reaction was possibly due to this only being the second time I’ve met him. We have never socialized, and this was my first time trying to have a conversation with him. Socialization is a continual process from which we develop identities, and since Brigetta most likely described that I am normally kind and the fact that I acted differently did not fit into how he envisioned me acting. Or perhaps Brigetta had told that I am not a good roommate and I perfectly fit into the prototype- a representative set of features that exemplify a person- which she may have described me as.

When I did this experiment with my brother Sean the negative sanction I received was much more blunt. Sean was driving me to dinner and I started up a conversation about how his soccer game in Chicago went over the past weekend. In the middle of his first response to me I interrupted him and when I was done with the interruption he gave me a semi glaring look. Due to my knowledge of his facial expressions I read this as a sign, a stimulus of something that will happen, that he was upset with me. Sean then said, “why did you just interrupt me?” His immediate response to the first time I interrupted him was very different from Brigetta’s discrete gestures over the course of several interruptions. I believe that Sean responded this way because he was surprised that I was not in my usual role taking position, in which I would look at things from his perspective. I usually take on the role of a caring and understanding sister and someone he knows he can talk to about anything and suddenly I wasn’t conforming to his expectations, which shocked him. He may have responded angrily because of gender socialization, a learned way of feeling or acting based on gender. In general women usually get interrupted by men during conversation so when the role is switched the men react more strongly. This doesn’t apply to the situation above with Andrew because he never responded to me so therefore I couldn’t interrupt him. At first, I thought that I would enjoy violating this norm because people interrupt me all the time but after doing it someone else it made me feel awful. I planned on interrupting more people, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because it felt wrong. While I was doing this experiment, I thought Brigetta and Sean both viewed me as being rude and because of that I felt like I was a rude person. This is similar to the looking-glass self because of how I felt about myself due to how I perceived Brigetta and Sean feelings about me.

For the most part the act of interrupting someone is usually always deemed as social deviance in our American culture with a few exceptions. In some cases when one strongly disagrees with something another person is saying, especially if it is meant to cause harm, it is generally accepted to interrupt someone in this context.

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