Every now and then we're forced into conversations we don't want to be in. Some scenarios include chatting with people you like, but about topics you're not interested in. It could also include chatting with people you don't like about topics that bore you. It could also be a situation where an uninteresting person is yapping away, droning on about something silly.
And lastly, it could be when you're being stopped in the middle of the street or in the hallways at work for that notorious stop and chat that Larry David made infamous on the show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Whatever the situation you want to get out of that conversation, fast. And so today I'm sharing seven polite enough ways that you can exit a conversation that you have zero interest being in.
If you're ready, let's go for it.
1. BE BLUNT
OK, so the very first thing, and this is the most obvious of them, is to be obvious. Yes, you heard that correctly. Be blunt. So you can say things like, I have to run. I can't talk right now. Now's not a good time. Let's pick this up later. So you just say it. Point blank. I can't talk to you right now.
Right. And again, there's a nicer way of saying that instead of I really don't want to be in this conversation. I'm going to leave right now. You don't have to say it like that. But you can still be blunt enough when you say: “I have to run.” “I can't talk right now.” “Let's circle back on this later.” OK.
2. USE CONSPICUOUS NONVERBALS
Use conspicuous nonverbals. You can look at your watch. You can look at a clock if there's one in the room. You can look distracted. Out of sorts in a way, if you will, being distracted with your gaze floating your attention about the room, maybe looking at your shoes. Maybe if you have some bracelets on or something, looking at your bracelets, you're obviously showing that you've lost interest as you divert attention.
So basically here you're making it obvious to the person that you don't want to talk to them without specifically verbalizing it. And so anyone who is socially adept and is using common sense will pick up on this. And if they don't, then you could revert to strategy one about being blunt and being explicit and verbalizing it. I mean, there are cases where you could just walk away.
That would be a little bit more extreme. Very well could be construed as rude. And honestly, I'd only advise it if the person is being hostile towards you or showing some other heightened emotion and you just really physically need to remove yourself from the situation and exit the space that you're currently in. But most of the time, and I'm sure you can relate, you probably wouldn't need to resort to such a dramatic exit, but know that it's there if you need it.
3. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM
All right. Number three, make it about them. So I really like this one because it's focusing the attention on them. It's like you're it's not you or it's not, you know, me. It's you kind of thing. So things like, I'll let you go now. I know you have to run. I won't keep you anymore. I won't keep you any longer.
Well, you must get back by now. Right? So you're making it about them. Or if it's around lunchtime and you're really hungry and you're famished and you need to go for your lunch break. You can say, Oh, you must be hungry. It's lunch break. Don't waste your lunch break yapping with me. I know this lunch break is never long enough.
We, you know, you should grab some food before we need to get back into the meeting or whatever. Right. So the idea is really focusing the attention on them, and then they'll be like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. That's a completely plausible argument. We all have this air of busyness at times, and you can leverage that to your advantage so that you can exit the conversation.
4. DIVERT YOUR FOCUS
All right, the next one. Divert your focus so you're diverting your attention You're let's say you're in a networking event or a party and there are people around. You might find a person you might like, grab them and say, Oh, hey, hey, come here.
I want you to meet so-and-so or oh, hey, Joe, do you mind if we go and talk about that project that we have coming up, the proposal or let's say, you know, you're in the hallway at work and you see one of your colleagues walking about. You might say, oh, Jennifer, I want to go over that project before the meeting.
And then that way you just take Jennifer and you go and you do what you need to do, or you find your other colleague and you say, OK, well, now I need to exit this conversation. And they won't think twice about it because obviously you're in the middle of something and you need to do what you need to do.
5. PLACE OUTWARD BLAME
The next thing you can do is an outward blame. So, for example, the easiest thing is to blame it on your electronic device. So my watch is almost out of batteries, and I need to charge this before it stops giving me the data. I need So I might say something like, you know what, I really need to charge this watch before it dies on me.
Or your phone battery might be low or honestly, it might not be low. You're just using that as an excuse, right? So you can just blame it on your electronic devices because goodness knows we're all very much tied to our electronics and we can't go a day without the Internet. Goodness. But you know what I'm saying? So you can blame it on your electronic device.
You can also blame it on someone else like oh, you know, my friend's expecting me right now or my partner is expecting me. I'm on dinner duty this evening, and they don't like it when I'm late or I don't want them to get hangry or whatever. And honestly, that might be true, right? There might be somebody waiting for you.
Your dog might be waiting for you at home, and you need to go and take them on their walk or you need to go feed them. Right? We have responsibilities that are very much a part of our life. So we need to honor those. And we can even use those in this kind of situation where we need to use it as an excuse and again, it could be very, very true.
And if it is all the better. Right. And that way you don't feel a little cognitive dissonance about it.
6. SET A TIME CONSTRAINT
The next thing is tell them about a time constraint so you can really time constrain it. That's really what I'd like to share at this point, in that you tell them at the get go, the beginning of the conversation, as soon as they start yapping away.
You say, I have 3 minutes to chat, right? So you say that at the very beginning, however much time you want to spend, however much time you want to allocate to this conversation. So if you really have 20 minutes, but you only want to spend 2 minutes and say, I have 2 minutes, right? And again, you don't have to be 100% transparent with how much time you actually have, but it'll force the person to get to the chase and get to the bottom of it, whatever they want to share with you and not beat around the bush and that way you can just at the end of 2 minutes you skedaddle, right?
“So I've got 5 minutes before I have to hop on a call. What do you want to share with me?”, for example.
7. MAKE A FUTURE-MENTION
And the final one, and this is if you like them and you actually want to hang out with this person and you actually want to talk to this person because you like this person, but you might not necessarily have the time to talk at that moment or maybe you just don't like the conversation or where it's heading.
You want to switch gears. But again, you like the person. What you can do is a future-mention. And I love the power of a future mention. So the future mention is alluding to something in the future. So if you have plans with this person, this works particularly well because you're saying, Oh, I'm looking forward to T tomorrow or I can't wait to see you this weekend, or I'm so excited for a camping trip next weekend or I'm looking forward to our lunch.
Let's talk over lunch. I'm excited, right? So you can use that if you have plans with this person. And if you don't have plans with this person, you can still make your future mention how you can say, we should definitely go to that movie opening next week or let's grab coffee. And a lot of people say, let's grab coffee and they never end up getting coffee.
But if you're genuine and sincere about it, then it's a real thing. Then you'll actually absolutely grab coffee. Do coffee, right? So let's do lunch next week. My schedule is open, something like that. So those are future mentions. And again, this is for, if you like, the person you actually want to hang out with them and that's it.
There you have it. Those are the seven painless and mostly polite ways of getting out of a conversation that you don't want to be in. As it happens, these strategies will help you exit conversations that you have in casual settings and even in professional settings. You want to protect your time and your mental headspace. If someone is not communicating in a way that is respectful to you and to your time, then you have every right to exit it prematurely.
And sometimes your reasons for wanting to get out of the conversation have nothing to do with the conversation partner, but more to do with time management constraints or topics you might not want to get into, particularly if it's gossip. Gross right? So take it one step at a time. Try out these strategies the next time you're forced into a stop and chat, because I personally don't like to stop and chat, and I know that most people are not crazy about them either.
Larry David made it abundantly clear that he's not. But anyway, you can focus on mastering one of these communication techniques, let's say, each week, and then once you feel comfortable, you can graduate to the next level. Just add it on and on. Just add the next strategy and keep this routine up until you're able to do these things naturally in conversations, the ones that you don't want to be in, that is.
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