Mia Freedman: "Interrupting is how TV panels work. Everyone settle down."

We seem to be in the middle of an interrupting crisis. I’m not sure how we got here. I blame Steve Price.

No, that’s not true. I don’t. But he does seem to have sparked a new movement where a certain type of person (white, male, middle-aged) is struggling with the idea of being interrupted. I’ve noticed it with men of that age in my own life and when I mentioned it to a couple of friends, they agreed.

It’s like at a certain age, men become unable to cope with how conversations are fluid and how interrupting is not necessarily a ‘screw-you’ act of aggression but sometimes just how things go when several people are rushing to communicate information at the same time.

I think we’ve all become more aware of interrupting after Donald Trump and also with all the post-election conversation about bubbles and people trying to shut down opinions different to their own.

But on TV, it's becoming a bit silly.

I was watching Q&A last night and it sparked me to write this on my Facebook page:

Look, I'm an interrupter. It's not my greatest quality. I'm not like, Donald Trump bad, but it's something I have to watch in my regular life (also when I'm interviewing people for No Filter). Here is the proof, a comment someone (very politely, thank you Julie) left underneath my Facebook post:

But this spate of men becoming upset at being interrupted on live TV panels is silliness. I've been on hundreds of TV panels in my career, including The Project and Q&A and there's a rhythm and an art to it.

It's harder than it looks.

A lot of giving good panel is about getting out of the way. But you have to add value by saying something.

But try not to interrupt. But speak your mind. But don't talk over anyone. But make an interesting point.


But try to distil your thoughts about a huge, complex issue (like, say pedophiles or marriage equality or global warming or Donald Trump or poverty or racism) into a tight soundbite.

But don't be distracted by the audience. But try to say something that will make them clap. But don't shout because that's 'shrill'.

But try not to think about whether you might say something you regret that goes viral. But try to go a bit viral because the show's producers will love that and they will ask you back and everyone wants to be asked back.

And try not to think about what people are probably saying on Twitter. And try not to move your hands around when you talk in case you make your necklace bang the microphone. But also remember not to hog too much airtime. But make sure you add value.

There is a reasonable amount of interrupting that is just part of the cut and thrust of a panel. It's how they work. A series of speeches would be incredibly boring to watch.

When people feel strongly or passionately, they sometimes jump in. It's OK. Anyone who has been booked to be on a live TV show to debate news and current affairs is confident enough and experienced enough and self-possessed enough to cope with an interruption (as Steve Price pointed out when he responded to the petition organisers by basically telling them to go away because their outrage on his behalf was both inappropriate, unnecessary and patronising.).

Put on your big person pants and deal with it and keep going.

And if you're watching at home, pause for a sec and take a breath before you condemn the interrupter or rush to defend the interruptee.

There's a difference between shutting someone down and giving your opinion - which is why people are invited on panels in the first place.

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