If professional communicators are adept at one thing, it’s this: prompting conversations that get people to listen up and notice.
Take me to any networking event anywhere in the world, and I’ll engage with anyone. Even if I don’t understand what language they are speaking, I’ll nod joyfully until my neck seizes up. Sometimes, I’ll even throw in a guffaw to mirror the speaking party, even if the joke isn’t funny or I don’t understand the punchline.
Perhaps it’s the Midwestern gal in me, but friendliness is always a given until clear “serial killer” vibes arise, or, worse, you are an overserved housewife who keeps repeating stories about your recent trip to Canyon Ranch Spa—where you “enjoyed four massages a day” and “reveled in the eye candy at the pool.”
Now that is a bridge too far.
But what if you want to end a conversation so you can leave the virtual or in-person event early?
What if you never wanted to be at said gathering in the first place?
How do you get out of a prospect meeting that is clearly on the fast track to Nowheresville?
For those who are good at starting conversations, the opposite is not always true. In fact, oftentimes we won’t end a conversation because we feel bad for cutting someone short. If I had my husband’s skillset (and mindset), I’d feel free to simply walk out of a group discussion at any time—even if someone is midway through a sentence.
“What?” he said, the first time I experienced this faux pas and subsequently shot him a look that could have brought down a small army. “I was done with the conversation.”
If only it was that easy. Perhaps, with enough practice, it could be?
Inspired by the chapter from my recently released book, Champagne for One: A Celebration of Solitude, entitled “Conversation Enders,” here are a few suggestions that may just do the trick.
20 Ways to End a Conversation
- “I just received a phone call from my doctor (technically she’s a dentist), and it appears I’ve contracted some bizarre gum disease that easily jumps from person to person. Would you like to try a sip of my cava?”
- “You remind me of my mother-in-law.”
- “Would you like to hear about my multi-level marketing company?”
- “Name five places you’d like to go before you die, then please choose one of them right now and go there immediately.”
- “And to think, by this time next week the doctors say I’ll be dead!”
- “Will you excuse me for one moment while I relieve myself? My goodness, 14 times in one hour must be some type of record!”
- “I live with my adult children. In the basement.”
- “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do prefer whispering at all times.”
- “Would you rather drown in a bottle of champagne or eat a disgusting amount of spaghetti and meatballs at a county fair “food eating contest,” subsequently landing you in the hospital for three months?”
- “Of course, I have a side hustle! I’m what they call an Instagram ‘quilting influencer.'”
- “I had a very troubled childhood. Would you like to read the first draft of my 832-page memoir manuscript?”
- “Why yes, I agree the weather is lovely, and I too am looking forward to the big game this weekend. However, I’d really rather talk about politics if you don’t mind.”
- “Sadly, I’ve never met an obstacle I could overcome.”
- “Several of my imaginary friends will be here shortly.”
- “The real question is: do you prefer doing drugs immediately upon waking up, after lunch, or during supper?”
- “My favorite time of day is around 2 a.m. when I wake up from my mid-morning nap, withdraw myself from bed (well, it’s more of a coffin), and wander aimlessly around my house searching for bats. You?”
- “Je ne sais.”
- “How funny, you kind of look like #5 on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.”
- “Pardon me, my water just broke.”
- “Would you like to see some baby pictures? Of my cat.”
If all else fails, and you simply can’t muster the words or the strength to carry on the conversation, take a page out of my husband’s book and just walk away.
After all, as a professional communicator, you have much more important things to do…and say.