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How To Exit A Conversation

How To Exit A Conversation
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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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