Politeness requires seven or eight minutes" (of conversation). Letitia Baldrige
We’ve all been there. You’ve been introduced to someone with whom you have nothing in common, and the person responsible for the introduction has fled, seemingly into the ether. All you can hear are crickets: chirp, chirp, and chirp. If you let your feelings of discomfort be known, for example by not making eye contact, squirming, or by constantly looking around the room, the person with whom you are stuck with will simply want to know if anything is wrong. And you would probably reply, were you asked the question, that nothing is wrong. But ‘nothing’ can be a pretty tricky thing to express.
Next time you find yourself in an awkward situation, desperate to make your escape, avail yourself of any of the following simple but effective escape strategies.
1. Leave Things Vague
Say: “Would you be kind enough to excuse me… there is something I need to take care of.”
It is very unlikely that anyone will ask you why you need to leave- especially when you’ve asked so politely. Most will assume that you need to go to the bathroom– which is why it works so well.
2. Use The Past Tense
Say: “It was great meeting you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the conference as much as I have.”
This way, you won’t find yourself committing to a future meeting.
3. Indicate That You’re on Your Way Out
Say: “A quick question before I must go: can you remind me of the name of the printers you spoke about?”
This strategy works if you combine it with a question you know your conversation partner can answer, or even a compliment– both will leave them with a positive feeling. Once you’ve asked your question, thank them profusely, smile, ask for their business card (it’s the polite thing to do) and wish them an excellent evening.
4. ‘Tick The Box’
Say: “I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet you.”
You can probably see why I’ve called this method ‘tick the box’. You’re simply ticking off a ’job’ on your list: to meet them. This method works best when combined with the “Indicate that you’re on your way out” method.
5. Introduce Them to Someone Else
This method has never let me down. Simply identify someone who you feel will be of interest to your conversation partner and say something such as: “There’s someone I think you’d be very interested to meet: Charlie Green. You are both working in the robotics field and on similar projects. Please come with me.” Then, once the conversation between Charlie Green and your conversation partner has started, say something such as: “I’ll leave you two to chat– please excuse me.”
There are some apps offering sneaky ways to get out of awkward situations- These apps generate a phantom phone call. However, you may feel more comfortable with the strategies discussed above.
Which strategies do you use to help you escape awkward situations? Add any to the comments section below.