You’re at a party. For the last 10 minutes, you’ve been making small talk with someone who, while not objectionable, is not the person with whom you’d like to spend the rest of the evening. So, how do you extricate yourself in a graceful manner?
Chris Colin, co-author of conversation guide What to Talk About, has a solution.
“Whether you’re having a lovely conversation or a crappy one, I think that the way to get out of either is identical,” he says. “My approach is to look them in the eye with a big smile and say, ‘It’s been so nice talking with you.’ And then you just do a hard pivot and you walk away.”
Wait. What? That’s it?
Yes, according to Colin. Although, depending on your empathy levels, the execution of this simple move can be emotionally taxing.
“As you walk, you are going to be convinced that you have offended the person,” Colin says, “and you have—I would say, 18 percent of the time, you have offended them. But my argument is that we should get over that and know that they will get over it, too.”
On the upside, this means the success rate is an estimated 82 percent. Colin’s advice for escaping conversations also speaks to a larger theory he holds about human relations: “When you treat people like they are grown-ups, and like they’re mature, and like they can handle sophisticated things like ending conversations, then they like it, and they like you for it,” he says. “It’s the opposite of what you fear, which is that they are going to be offended. I think they actually appreciate it.”
Colin began using the hard-pivot approach after finding himself at the receiving end of it. “I saw other people do it and I realized that I can take it—that I appreciate it more than the long, drawn-out, awkward, clumsy extraction,” he says.
The swift cessation of a lagging chat can be a welcome relief, even when it feels a little premature: ”When someone else does it to you, when they say ‘Nice talking with you’ in the middle of a conversation, maybe they do it a minute before you would have done it, but it’s something that needed to be done.”
If you are hereby emboldened to try Colin’s approach, note that the technique needs to be deployed with appropriate warmth and congeniality.
“What has to go with it is being a nice and decent person,” says Colin. “When you say ‘It’s been nice talking to you,’ you should probably mean it, and you should communicate that with your eyes and your smile and all that stuff. If you do that, then I think it’s okay.”