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How To Exit A Conversation

How To Exit A Conversation
How To Exit A Conversation

We’ve talked about making yourself more approachable and initiating conversation. Now, hopefully, you’ve gone and got yourselves into some conversations you wish you hadn’t.

There are 3 reasons you might stay in a conversation that you want to leave:

You’re too polite – Many of us feel like it’s rude to leave someone alone after talking to them for a few minutes. It isn’t. People have things to do, and talking is just talking. As long as you excuse yourself politely, your exit will be comfortable.

You’re afraid or lazy – Being in a conversation can be comforting and you might stick it out just because it’s easier than heading out on your own into the ‘unknown’. This isn’t true and you might be selling your time short if you settle.

You don’t know what else to do – Similar to the previous, this is counting on your lack of imagination. There is always something else to do and someone else to talk to. Grab a drink or hit the toilet and then find a friend or another contact.

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There are plenty of situations that call for different kinds of exits. The only real rule I can think of is to stay polite. No matter where you are or who you’re talking to, maintaining a civil attitude goes a long way – even when you’re talking with a complete bastard.

At times it can be somewhat enjoyable giving someone the short end and letting them know how little you think of them. However, this is never productive or beneficial. You might just cause more trouble than it’s worth.

How To Exit A Conversation

These first few examples can be used for brief encounters; those light conversations when you’ve made a drinking pal or just exchanged contacts for a possible project.

Excuse yourself – A simple “Excuse me” will suffice. There is usually no need for explanation. Don’t feel compelled to justify your exit, it’s no big deal. “I have to talk to so-and-so”.

Leave an impression – Particularly in business related encounters, it helps to leave the conversation with something promising. Exchanging details and leaving by saying something like, “I’ll get in contact with you tomorrow about this and that”. Don’t just say, “We’ll talk” or “Let’s work on something”. Make a commitment to get something together. Shake hands and be on your way.

But, you don’t want to see them again – The above example is counting on you actually wanting to talk with this person again. If that isn’t the case, you still may not want to be vague about getting in contact. Don’t say you want to work on something if it isn’t true. Give them some details on how to find your work, a website for example, and tell them they can see what you’re working on there. This way they can gauge their own worth to your work and get in contact with you with some ideas.

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Introduce a colleague – “I have to introduce you to so and so”, works well. Introduce a third party and make sure to include a piece of information about either person. This should get another conversation going where you can slide off and make your exit.

It ain’t all business!

I want to get right to the point with this one. Here’s the situation: you’ve got yourself in a conversation with someone who isn’t giving you much value. They’re going on some rant about something you have very little interest in and isn’t trying to engage in a real conversation. What do you do?

Being polite and excusing yourself is still an option. But there are situation when this isn’t enough. You’re sitting at a party, shindig or what have you and you’re essentially watching someone talk while you would rather just get up and do something, anything else.

Toilet and drink break – The easiest and most understandable. Skull the rest of your drink and get up. If you smoke, start rolling. If you’re smart, you’ll pick the option that can’t possibly include this other person – for instance they’re not a smoker.

Again, an introduction – As stated before, bringing a third party into the equation can work. Make mental notes of people who have similar interests with the person you’re talking to and grab them when they are near. “Hey Mike, Jodie here just came from the snow. Didn’t you have a board you want to sell?” Step away….

My friend’s in trouble – Take a quick glance towards someone you know and tell your conversationalist you have to help them. “I’m sorry, Mike’s had too much; I must go” or “Excuse me, but do you know when someone is in a bad conversation and they give a signal? Yeah, Mike just gave me the signal; I’ve got to help him”.

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Speaking of signals

You can usually tell if a friend is in a bad conversation, but it’s handy to do the signal thing. Before you head into a party or gathering, think up something you’ll each do if you want to get out of a conversation. A hand signal or a series or coughs etc.

This is very useful for people who have trouble getting out of bad conversations and will need someone’s help. If you’re the person to help them out, come in and just excuse them. Grab them by the arm and pull them away. The other person will assume it’s important and not question it.

Alternatively, you can come in with ‘big news’ or something you just have to tell your friend. It will no doubt supersede the existing conversation and possibly leave the other person no choice but to leave themselves. It’s a little anti-social, but works.

The fun way

Just because you’re in a bad conversation doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. There are a bunch of games you can play to entertain yourself. I’ll mention two that have different goals.

The first is to try and confuse the person into wanting to exit the conversation. You can achieve this by bringing the topic of conversation to something off topic, only constantly. Interrupt with strange anecdotes and respond incorrectly and indirectly to questions. Have your own conversation without considering what the other person is saying. Start your own rant.

The proper way

If you’re in a bad conversation, the actual proper and social thing to do is take charge. The funny thing is this is I see this done rarely. What you want to do is not succumb to someone’s poor choice of conversation or lack there of, and rather gain control over the topic and how things run.

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For instance, someone is ranting on about BMXs and it’s the only thing they seem to be able to talk about. The tournaments they’ve been in, how good they are and the latest gear they’ve bought. NO-ONE in the room wants to talk about bikes.

Your job should be to join his conversation and drive it to something people actually want to talk about. There are two basic ways to do this.

Interrupt – Begin talking, either to them or the other person [possibly your friend] about something completely different. Be confident and, most of all, direct. Ask a question that will change the topic instantly and will get someone else talking.

Transition – Respond to something that this person has said and then direct the conversation elsewhere. “Is BMXing expensive?” “Oh really? I’ve been trying to save up for a holiday to Uruguay…” Yay! Holiday stories!

Participate

Generally, bad conversations result from someone not participating. There’s one passive listener who is allowing someone else to go on and on. If you ask questions and engage in conversation, all should work out.

You can do what you like in conversation. Not many people are that fragile that you wanting to leave is going to break them. If you want to talk about something else, do so. If you just want to talk to someone else, go do it.

But, be nice.

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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