Seven Surefire Ways to Exit a Conversation

When I moved to New York, I was unprepared for the sheer number of people that were available to meet. Every weekend brings a fresh batch of faces to remember, names to memorize, and life details to fake interest in. I’m just kidding, I don’t memorize their names. And right when you think you’ve made some headway in remembering who is who, summer rolls around and brings a new blast of imports to Manhattan. It’s gotten so bad that last week the mayor proposed a current-day iteration of Ellis Island just to process all of the Southern girls flying in.

Fortunately, since I love meeting new people, I’m happier than a hoarder at a three-day estate sale. Still, it’s difficult to know how to portion out your conversation time at a party. Investing in only a few people seems like a good strategy, until the girl you’ve been laughing with for the last half hour checks her phone, revealing a background pic of her and her boyfriend. You only make that mistake once.

Additionally, every party has that super-friendly guy, the one who’s not content until you have traced each other’s biographies back to the third grade. It’s all fun and games until the pretty girl from your “You May Know” Facebook section leaves before you can meet her. And then, while the party roars on, you get stuck listening to some wet-behind-the-ears intern explain the finer points of the U.S. Treasury system. “Thanks for the seminar, my man” you peevishly want to say, “but I need to a little more ROI on this evening if I hope to get married before 35.”

Admittedly, it’s a tricky situation. How do you move on from a conversation that you are stuck in, without offending the other person? Well, that’s why I’m here to help. My roommate Paul and I have distilled our experiences into seven surefire ways to get out of any conversation. With a little practice your social skills will be so deft that Leonardo DiCaprio would blush.

1. The Re-Friend: When a conversation has run its course, re-friending is a foundational tactic for switching things up. As your conversation partner waxes poetic about the finer things of her recent vacation to who-knows-where, scan the crowd, searching for someone who you think might have any inkling of common ground with her. Having spotted your helpless target, wait for a pause and say, “Have you ever talked to Andrew about this? I think he’d be fascinated by what you’re saying.” Don’t wait for a response, just go. Lead the way to Andrew and say, “Andrew, Katie was just telling me about the native bird-watching in the deciduous forests of Papa New Guinea and I thought you’d love to hear about it.” Andrew’s honored and Katie’s intrigued. And that right there is what we want, a win-win.

2. The Replenish: So in the above example, you’ve re-friended someone, but now you need to extricate yourself from the duo. The answer is to combine the Re-friend with the Replenish. Once Katie and Andrew exchange two sentences each, wait for a pause and say either, “Is there any food left?” or “Whew, I think I need another drink.” Don’t even wait for a response; just count one-Mississippi-two, and boom, exit stage left to either the drink or food table. Cheers to that!

3. The Release: This one is so basic I hesitate to even put it on this list. Wait for a dead space and then ask, “Does anyone know where the restroom is?” Instant freedom. I mean, who is going to argue with that? Just make sure you actually go to the restroom or people will get suspicious. This is probably the most powerful one, since there will be a Boggle-style shake-up in the conversation groups in the five minutes that you are gone.

4. The Replay: If a conversation is dying out, slowly become enraptured with the SportsCenter-showing TV that every bar has. Begin to act like the current sports highlight is the most monumental piece of breaking news since Paul Revere said the British are coming. As you stare at the TV, add in comments like “Wow” or “That’s incredible” or “I can’t believe that just happened!” With any luck, the people in the group will look at you like you’re reciting the Declaration of Independence in Pig-Latin. Continue to gaze at the TV and mumble until you all drift into other conversations.

5. The Remix: Every event always has some kind of music playing in the background and you can use this to your advantage. If you’re stuck and needing an out, wait for the first danceable song to come on. When you hear the first few notes of Uptown Funk, start snapping your fingers and make your eyes light up like you’ve just won a million dollars. Then look at the other person and you cry out, “I. love. this. song!!!” The moment Bruno says, “This hit, that ice cold…” sprint to the middle of the room and start dancing like someone just lit your hair on fire.  Your conversational compatriots will be in shock, their feet glued to the floor. Use this one wisely because the probability of you dancing alone in the middle of the room for a whole song is somewhere north of 98%. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

6. The Refill: This one only works if you are the host of a party, but boy, can you milk it when you are. As you’re talking to someone, wait for a pause and then plead the party-hosting fifth: “Oh sorry, I think I need to go refill the __blank__.” Choose whatever you want, be it the ice or the drinks or your famous frog leg shish kabobs. Not only does this get you out of the conversation, but the other person thinks you’re a great host. “Sure, of course, go,” they say. “You’re doing such an amazing job hosting this party!”

7. The Relax: Leaving a conversation always carries a risk that the other person will realize that you think they’re boring. That’s dangerous, although not entirely untrue. That’s what makes this last technique so beautiful. A harder, yet ultimately safer, way to end a conversation without offending the other person is to get them to think you’re so boring that they’ll leave. For this one just begin to relax, shortening your answers and slowing your responses until you are only left going, “mhm-hmmm” as you gently nod your head up and down and stare off into the distance. After a few minutes the other person will get that, “Why am I wasting my time with this idiot?” look and will then pull a conversation-stopping trick of her own. Bon voyage!

And so there you have it, the seven ways to get out of a boring conversation. By now I fully expect a third of you to start looking for how to unfriend me on Facebook. But before you confirm that unfriending,  let me give you four thoughts to chew on.

  1. If you don’t live in NYC, you are underestimating how many people there are at every social event.
  2. If you do live in NYC, you know you do these, or at the very least wish you did.
  3. Freeing someone up to have a conversation with something they are a better fit with is doing both you and them a favor.
  4. Oh, about number four. Sorry, I need to go check on something. Can you just sit tight? Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a minute.