Stuck in a boring conversation that you desperately want to escape but can’t see a way to without appearing discourteous?
You probably feel that it’s impolite to leave a conversation after talking to somebody for a few minutes. You’d rather endure an uninteresting conversation and hang in there than leave rudely. You may not feel comfortable enough to exit courteously. Instead, you nod your head, exchange listless comments, or let your eyes wander around the room seeking an opening to leap to another person. You even look at your wristwatch and wonder if it’s stopped working.
Idea for Impact: The key to exit a conversation gracefully is to do so quickly and decisively
Here’s an ideal way to exit a conversation: at an appropriate moment, without interrupting the speaker, say something like, “It’s been interesting talking to you; I’d better go around and mingle” or, “Excuse me, let me say hello to the hosts.” If you’re stuck in a conversation over the phone or in an office, just say, “I’ve got to get back to work; let’s resume this discussion later” or, “I’ve really got to go; I’ll talk to you soon.” If you are sitting down, you can imply that you want to leave by simply standing up.
Avoid making up some insincere pretext to get out of the conversation. Try not to claim, “I have an appointment” when you don’t—the other can check if you really do. “Let me refill my drink” is not only overused but also silly when you just walk over to another person. The same is true for declaring, “I need to go to the restroom,” and going anywhere but to the restroom.
Often, a simple “excuse me” is adequate—don’t feel compelled to proffer an explanation or justify your exit. Be decisive and direct.
Related Tips from Previous Articles
- Meet people in their offices rather than in yours—you’ll have more control over your participation. American industrialist Henry Ford applied this technique; he once remarked, “I go to them to save time. I’ve found that I can leave the other fellow’s office a lot quicker than I can get him to leave mine.”
- When you initiate a conversation, you can get out of it more easily if you start with, “Quick question … I am on my way to [somewhere], I thought I’d ask a quick question ….”
- When somebody stops by your office, consider greeting the person with “I must send [a report] in an hour. I’ve only got a minute or two. Do you have a quick question?”
- While introducing people, help them pursue a conversation. In addition to presenting them to each other, add a snippet of information about a topic of common interest. This will help them connect and pursue a discussion.
- Engage everybody around you in a conversation. Some people have difficulty overcoming their shyness and participating. Ask them about their interests or invite them to relate their experiences. Be careful not to pry too deep.