At some point in your life you’ll have an awkward conversation. Parties, networking events, they’re all minefields potentially littered with awkward pauses, regrettable jokes and just plain invasive small talk. You don’t have to suffer the slings and arrows of bad conversation. Some tried and true practices to get you out already exist, whether it means bothering a buddy or downloading an app.
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Conversations at parties can go in any direction, but if you’re chatting with someone new, or someone who isn’t particularly interesting, a minute can feel like a monologue. When you feel the conversation’s gone on long enough, a graceful exit should always be the first option.
You can start with a simple, “Excuse me,” or put some mustard on it and throw in a handshake and a smile. Remove yourself with confidence, knowing you were polite and direct, then hit the punch bowl (or the door).
Turn Your Phone Into a Friend
The tried and true method of getting out of a jam is a classic: The emergency interruption. A text or phone call from a friend, the discovery that oh no, Jennifer locked herself out of her flat and I have the spare key, and the apologetic goodbye are all you need to make a quick getaway.
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Of course, if you have a second of free time you could always use an app to extricate yourself from this awkward situation. Search the App Store for apps like Fake Call Free that let you set up pre-populated excuses such as phone calls and text messages from your list of contacts.
Tag Team Your Talks
Entering and leaving discussions is easier when there’s more than two people involved. Attending an event with a friend or acquaintance? Turn a random one-on-one conversation with a stranger into a triumvirate by inviting another person.
If you’re at a networking event, introduce your current conversation partner to another individual you might know. Conversely, you could ask them to introduce you to someone they know. From there, you can easily excuse yourself and slip away while the two converse.
An object in motion stays in motion. The theory applies to both physics and social situations. Walking through the city and stopping for every canvasser and busker won’t help you get where you’re going, and will probably just leave you frustrated.
If you feel like you need a valid reason to avoid stopping for every person with a clipboard, just point to your headphones, your watch, a cloudy sky pregnant with rain, or your conveniently placed dog on a leash and be on your way. A quick, “No, thank you,” is the perfect capper.
Don’t Lead Them On
It’s perfectly normal to never want to interact with someone again, but you might leave the wrong impression if you end your conversation with platitudes about exchanging phone numbers and grabbing a beer to make your escape less stressful. Don’t make a commitment you’d rather not keep. Not only does that convey something disingenuous to your conversation partner, it makes you look like a flake when you eventually ignore their missives.
Fake it ‘Til You Make It (Out)
Look. No one knows who you are or why you’re at the international arm-wrestling symposium after-party, so if you find yourself being drawn into discussions about top roll training you’d rather not have, just fake the funk a bit. “The only thing I know how to say in English is, ‘I don’t speak English’,” is my go-to line, but feigning ignorance or some form of hearing loss has always worked for me in crowded situations such as bars or parties. Besides, by the time they realise you were being facetious, you’ll be long gone.