How to exit conversations graciously

Ever wish you could exit, escape from, or even avoid a conversation? I don’t mean the difficult ones where it’s necessary to speak the uncomfortable truth, face the elephant in the room, clear the air, make a confession, or talk through a problem or stressful situation. I mean the conversations (or as my witty friend Mike Robertson calls them, “non-versations”) that take place in social settings or as you are going about your life or work and, for whatever reason, you feel trapped. It’s not only unpleasant, but it drains the life out of you.

I think you know the ones. And I think the fact that these non-versations exist is a huge reason why people don’t make the effort to connect with each other.  Someone always has to abuse the privilege.  

See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

  • Your Aunt Bertie calls regularly (and often inconveniently) to unload the elaborate, if not inappropriate, details of her most recent medical procedure.  Or to gripe (again) about Uncle Horace.
  • Your busy-body neighbor stops you in the street to offer up an overly-intricate news report of the latest gossip or drama on the block. You really couldn’t care less.
  • A co-worker loves to come by your desk several times a day “just to chew the fat.” He ends up overstaying his welcome. By a lot. You have deadlines. And sanity to preserve.
  • You’re at a networking event, trying to meet a few new people, and you get cornered by a boring, self-absorbed ass-hat who loves his far-reaching opinions almost as much as the sound of his own voice.
  • You’re on an airplane seated next to Chatty Cathy who decides you’re her therapist and/or new bestie for the duration of the flight.

We’ve all been there. And if you haven’t, you’re not getting out enough.

Two words:  It’s exhausting.

I was on a flight recently (fortunately a short one) and drew the unlucky seat next to someone who decided a few midday cocktails were a really good idea.  He was totally fired-up about his upcoming weekend with his pals (likely a bunch of good and patient listeners – or fellow day-drinkers).  Adrenaline and vodka were surging through his veins as he proceeded to yammer endlessly about every topic imaginable: his upcoming trip, his business, his wife, his pets, his house, his hobbies, his 9-year birthday party…

At first, this lively gentleman seemed friendly and charming. But things went quickly awry.  After reading a very valuable book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker, it dawned on me that this guy could potentially be, not just annoying, but potentially even unsafe.

After a few minutes of pleasant exchange, I gave him (what I though were) clear signals that I was finished conversing and very interested in settling in for some quiet time. I very deliberately plugged in my earbuds, put on my reading glasses, opened my book,  and stared straight ahead at the pages.

And…(you guessed it) the yammering continued.  Ugh!  (I can see you out there nodding your head. You’ve had this happen, too. )

I finally had to use the words that my dear friend Jan Goss (a business etiquette and protocol expert) shared with me and that I will now share with you. These three simple words will help you escape from (or politely shut down) people who want to use you as the receptacle for their verbal diarrhea, well-intentioned as it may  be. Here are the three simple, yet powerful words:   “Please forgive me…”   

Yep, it’s that simple:  Please forgive me…

  • “Please forgive me, but I’m going to settle in here with my book and relax for the rest of the flight.”  (And then you have to disengage to show you mean it!)
  • “Please forgive me: I need to go refresh my drink [or find the restroom or see if my spouse / best friend / client / colleague / parole officer has arrived].”
  • “Please forgive me, [insert whatever excuse or next-activity you can think of].”
  • “Please forgive me, but I have to get off the phone / finish my grocery shopping / get back to my work /clean up the dog vomit on the carpet / [whatever you have planned next].”

Whatever your next activity is, it doesn’t have to be urgent.  It can be a round of golf or a mani-pedi. The point is your time is your time. What’s more, time is a priceless asset.  As are energy, attention, productivity, and emotional well-being.

Does this make sense?  Of course it does.

“But I don’t want to sound rude.”

What?!?  Are you kidding me?  Someone has invaded your time/space/attention/emotional well-being, and you’re worried about sounding rude?  There is nothing well-mannered, considerate. or even healthy about someone who is being a verbal fire-hose or social parasite.  It’s selfish and inconsiderate on their part. And if they are unable to read your non-verbal cues, then you have to take the next step, be assertive, and save yourself.  (Repeat after me:  Please forgive me…)

Again, your time is your time! And despite the fact that being a good listener is a wonderful trait, there are people who will take advantage of it. You don’t need that in your personal life or in your work environment.  You have the right to excuse yourself from such people  The words “Please forgive me…” are your ticket.

Please forgive me…

Try this out. Plan in advance what to say after “Please forgive me…”,  and see how these three words work for you.  The hardest part is getting rid of the belief that you’re trapped and helpless.  You are not.  “Please forgive me” will set you free.

Best of luck!
_______________________________

Oh boy! This has been a fun, busy, and super-enlightening fall! I’ve been delivering keynotes, breakout sessions, and workshops all over the country to all kinds of audiences and groups:  fellow speakers, association executives, meeting industry professionals, business managers, retail industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and even a team of hydrologists and geologists.  These groups tell me they’ve learned all kinds of new ideas on how to expand, but also sharpen, their networking vision, intentions, and goals.  “Please forgive me…” is just one little tidbit.

How can I be of service to your organization and help your team become better connected, more respected, and wildly successful?  Contact me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com, and let’s visit about exciting ways we can work together in  Q4 of 2018 or in 2019.

8 Responses to How to exit conversations graciously
  1. Donna Scroggins
    October 10, 2018 | 4:08 pm

    I will be using this immediately at the pharmacy counseling booth.

    • pattid
      October 10, 2018 | 5:51 pm

      Perfect application, Donna! I imagine you have to be compassionate, professional, and thorough in your interactions with customers – and yet protect your valuable time and boundaries. Hope “please forgive me” works well! Let me know!

  2. Lorie Marrero
    October 11, 2018 | 11:25 am

    Good one, Patti! I needed this reminder of Jan’s 3 words! I hope you’re doing great, I think of you often! 🙂

    • pattid
      October 11, 2018 | 1:39 pm

      Thanks, Lorie! Great to hear from you and thanks for commenting! All good here!

  3. Julie Bou
    October 11, 2018 | 11:33 am

    Brilliant! By asking their forgiveness you take away any blame projected on to them and can move on with grace.

    • pattid
      October 11, 2018 | 1:38 pm

      Thank you, Julie! Yes, it puts you in the place of “blame” and who could argue with you asking for forgiveness?

  4. DeeDee Lake
    October 18, 2018 | 11:13 am

    Thanks for the three words! They are excellent, polite and definite. I plan to use them. I often teach boundaries and will certainly include this tip.

    • pattid
      October 22, 2018 | 2:27 pm

      Thank you, DeeDee! Glad you find this helpful!

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