Recently a reader wrote in with an etiquette dilemma we all face. Sometimes it happens at a party. Or with a colleague at work. Or when you get stuck with a certain sort of a seatmate on a plane.…
francesca1: What is a graceful but effective way to escape people who talk too much? Also, what is a nice way to end a conversation?
My first instinct was to wonder about the specifics: Who cornered Francesca1, and where did the boring conversation occur? While there are plenty of ways to slip away, the solutions are often situational.
If you’re at a party, for instance, you can make a graceful exit by introducing the boring talker to someone else (“Do you two know each other? Mary, meet Miss Dull….”) and then excusing yourself. This is known as the “put on your own oxygen mask first” technique. You save yourself—and worry afterward if other people around you also are gasping for air.
In the office, however, you may need to take extra care not to offend a colleague, even a particularly tedious one who drones on and on, because this is exactly the sort of person who one day may get promoted and become your boss. The best way to end a mind-numbing workplace conversation is to pretend you’re the one with the problem. Look at your watch and say, “Oops, I just realized I’m late for a meeting,” and then go hide in the restroom until the cost is clear.
Pretending you’re the one with the problem also works in a hostage situation—when you’re sitting next to a wearisome passenger on a plane or a train—but in that case you can simply pretend your problem is a pile of work you need to finish before the trip ends. “I envy you for getting to watch TV on this flight, because I have a horrible report to write,” you can say, before you open your laptop and start typing, regretfully but decisively.
If you’re in a public place—at the movies, say, waiting for the lights to dim—you can claim your cell phone is buzzing and excuse yourself “to answer it where it won’t bother anyone.” Then change rows.
There are so many possibilities—have I overlooked your favorite solution? Or, is there an all-purpose answer, something you can say to extricate yourself from any unpleasant conversation?
(image courtesy of Realsimple.com)