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How To Exit A Conversation

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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.

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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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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