People Share Their Secret Strategies for Escaping Awkward Conversations
Please. Stop. Talking to me.
You don't want to be rude, but you definitely need to end the conversation. How do you do it? These Redditors shared their best tips!
[Sources listed at the end of the article.]
My father would use a technique I called leaning in. If someone is talking to you and you want the conversation to end, lean in and act super interested and ask lots of questions. If you do it correctly, theyll think theyre ending the conversation. I dont know why it works. He was the master at making people go away without ever saying things like well, look at the time! Ive got to get going!
If I don't care whether the person likes me or not:
"Sorry, I forgot I need to return some VHS tapes."
Put your hand on their shoulder and ask quietly: Let me ask you something, have you ever wanted to be your own boss? How does setting your own hours and working from home sound to you?
Bring a buddy. My friend's younger sister was getting creeped on constantly at parties, so we had a hand signal she could give and I'd bluster into the conversation and start asking the creep questions about their hobbies with the enthusiasm and intensity of a game show host. Similarly, she'd pretend to be a GF furious at me for not paying attention to her if I was trapped by someone.
I take a preemptive approach. I don't make friends so that I don't get invited to parties.
I start up a conversation asking them about the silliest hypothetical I can think of, and if their response is boring, I'll go on and endless rant about what I'd do in that situation.
"What do you think your testes would do if you took them out over a bucket of lava? Would they descend because it was warm, or would they instinctively know to get away from the danger, and ascend?"
The beauty is, if they want to engage, it turns into a fun conversation. If they don't want to engage, they leave and you can chat to someone else.
So my voicemail is called Mother in my phone for situations like this. This also works with things like your own home number, the talking clock, any redundant phone number you can call. Even a free customer service hotline like your bank! Basically any free number you can call without being instantly cut off/risk someone answering.
Look at phone so they cannot see the screen. "Oh no! Sorry, just got an important text, I need to make a private phone call." Proceed to call Mother, who is actually just your voicemail service so you can be on a call, they see you're on a call, and the giant letters say "Mother." Then wander out of sight and find someone worth talking to.
Works every time.
The way I see it, there are two types of awkward conversations:
Number One: You do not have anywhere else to go and have to be with that person.
Try to change the conversation to something that you might enjoy talking about by picking up a word up from something they said and straight up start talking about it.
Number Two: You want to get away from them.
"Listen, sorry, but I really have to go talk to this person about something, nice talking to you. Cya later." usually works just fine.
Ive perfected this pretty well because of a coworker that talks so much and interrupts me all the time. Ive literally stood up and walked out of my own office while she was sitting there talking... usually I say something like oh, gotta go do something else now. And walk away.
I have a manager who is actually really awesome, but he can run his mouth a bit at times. One time, he was talking to me over the front counter, and I knew if I didnt do something quick, Id be sucked into the conversation. Knowing I had a million other things to do, I pick up one of the bananas we have for sale at the counter and pretend to answer a phone call, looked him in the eyes and said, Sorry, I have to take this! and ran to the back. I could hear him laughing, so he wasnt upset, and it was a good enough distraction that he didnt follow me. I think he understood that i was busy after that.
So, if theres a banana nearby, answer it!
I usually involve my wife in the conversation, then walk away. It took her a couple years to figure out I did this. Now we have a competition to see who can strand the other first. It's a healthy marriage.
The best strategy always is a variation of Its been really nice talking to you or "Good to meet you."
You can combine that strategy with a reason.
Youll have to excuse me, I spotted my friend right now and I want to make sure I say hello/plan some murders etc etc. Great to meet you though. Have a good night."
You need to smoke or get another drink. (Good excuse for all smokers.)
You need to step outside to make a phone call. (Fake a call, text a friend to call you.)
You need to urinate. Just abruptly say, "Excuse me" and walk away. People will assume you need to go number two.
You can bring an unsuspecting friend into the mix and make it a three way conversation and slyly leave the friend there, although your friend may not be your friend after that.
By this stage of my life I thought Id be more subtle about bailing from boring encounters. Instead what I notice now is that I simply stopped caring about how my actions are perceived. Toward the breaking point of my interest I simply start nodding toward the speaker, then say k, bye and walk away.
Wait for them to ask a question then react to the question like it is a secret code. Do a bit of a double take and stare intently at them while responding, The cuckoo flies by night. Promptly hand them an unmarked business card that contains only a street number and street name that corresponds to a local laundromat or similar storefront. Then immediately turn and walk away.
I have an app that will set up a call for you. You can name who would it be, what number is it and when. I use it when I'm with my old relatives.
The most awkward situations to me are when somebody really doesn't get the hint.
Say Im so sorry Ive enjoyed talking with you, but I also want to make sure I catch up with x, y, and z person. Please excuse me. (Move away.) get it, MOVE AWAY.
If he/she follows you or talks over you once youve tried to end the conversation, you can be direct.
"Youre talking over everyone? I really want to hear what my friends were saying before you interrupted, thanks.
Listen, Ive tried several times to change the subject or end this conversation, but I feel like youre not hearing or understanding me. I dont want to be rude, but Id like to end this conversation now. Thank you. (Move AWAY).
If they still persist just say, "Alright creep, I'm getting a restraining order." That usually gets them.
At work, I call it "Hey Bob"-ing somebody.
If I'm wearing a headset or bluetooth, I'll say "Hey Bob" and look away from them, like I was on hold for someone named Bob. Follow that with "Whaddya need," then just look away from the person like I'm listening to Bob. The annoying coworker will just walk away.
My mom would get caught in conversations with drunk guys at the bar. 22 year old me had to "protect" her from these guys who would hit on her relentlessly. It's a small town and there aren't many single women her age there. Sometimes she even called me at 1 am faking that I called her and she needed to come home, even when I left town. It became such a problem that we created a code word. Pineapples. She's seriously allergic to citrus fruits and can have a reaction to someone eating an orange next to her.
She would call and say "I smell pineapples" and I would know she's dodging one of those guys.
One of my best memories was when I was working at a staff food area (I occasionally work at sci-fi conventions) when some other staffer came in and started talking about his Dungeons and Dragons character. And no matter how many times the group I was with changed the subject, he would steer it back to his D&D character. Finally, one member of our group who is known as Silent Bob among my friends because he almost never says a word said, in a bold, deep, and clear voice:
"YOU ARE DONE TALKING NOW!"
It was shocking, and certainly derailed the D&D braggart for a few seconds. He stammered, and then tried to put his D&D train back on the story tracks, but our friend said an abrupt:
The guy then sighed, and casually made like he wasn't going to leave right away, like he was trying to pass off not having been shut up so abruptly. He fiddled with his snacky cakes for a few moments, sipped his soda, looked out the window, until he finally looked at his watch, then did a pantomime, "OH! I have somewhere to be, my gosh, look at the time...!" and left.
Seconds after the door closed behind him, we all burst out laughing.
Now this is something I take pride in:
I call it the conversator reversal. It's when you swap roles in a conversation with someone who initiated it. By taking the initiator role, it gives you the opportunity to end the conversation in a way that seems polite, convenient, and amicable. I love it, and use it perhaps far too often.
It takes a few minutes, you can't pull it immediately. You have to establish a conversation that has run a modest course. But after a little bit - when an opportunity presents itself I reverse the roles of the conversators as if I was the initiator.
"Well, I've taken up enough of your time. I'll talk to you later, ok?"
Or some such derivative.
You would be amazed at how effective this is. It makes the other person feel like you are doing them a favor by ending the discussion, and lending to the idea that their time is more important than yours (not sure if that part actually works, but I feel it's a nice extra bit to help). It also puts them in a position to go along with you ending the conversation because it's clear you are done talking.
It seems so simple, but I'd wager many people are programmed to accept whatever role they have in a conversation and just curse their luck if they happen to be the receiver of a conversation they don't want to be in. But for all I know people think I'm weird and silently go "...but I'm the one that started the conversation...."
Regardless, it's always worked for me in ending conversations in such a way as to not appear awkward or uncomfortable.
Once on a date that I very quickly realised wasn't going to go well, I excused myself to the toilet and text a friend asking them to phone me in 5 minutes. Sat back down with my date and lo and behold my phone rings.
Totally ignoring what my friend was saying I responded with, "Oh crap, is she ok?" "Ok, phone an ambulance and I'll be there asap."
As far as the date was concerned my sister had fell down the stairs, never saw her again.
"Wait, where's my husband? I need to go look for him." or "Sorry, I need to give my husband a call, gotta go!"
My husband uses me as an excuse too, only he'll always say I have a headache. People probably think I'm a very fragile person.
Whoops. That snip was just a hair too far....
Your first bad haircut probably made you want to die a little when you looked in the mirror. Imagine how the person cutting your hair must have felt. Although, maybe they didn't care at all, as evidenced by the bs excuse they gave you when you finished in the barber chair.