Move on when you’re ready

How to avoid being stuck in a conversation

We’ve all been there haven’t we? You’re at a social function, a networking event, a business conference and your intention is to circulate, meet new people, catch up with colleagues and friends – and then you get stuck.

What started off as an exchange of ideas can then turn into a one-way or dead end street where someone goes from being interesting and helpful, for example, to dull and droning on.

Maybe they don’t value their time; they certainly don’t value yours. It’s an interesting conundrum. If you know you’re ready to move on and it’s time to get going, how do you politely, assertively and intentionally wind up that conversation and move on to your next one?

Firstly I put to you, there’s the ‘mind’ piece. If you know your intention is to meet people, to find out how people are doing, to contribute where you can and to show up in a way that means people remember you were there, well then that’s the first thing to keep in mind. You can also assume other people will have a positive intention similar to that. No-one’s ever going to say to you “Oh no, I only came here to bang on about myself, to tell people how great I think I am, try and sell everyone something and then to leave having met as few people as possible” – they just won’t ever say that, even if it is their intention.

Unfortunately, some people, unconsciously or otherwise, do have that very intention and when you find yourself stuck it can be really tricky to move on without being rude or finding yourself apologising.

To respectfully and assertively steer yourself away – and this works just as well socially as it does professionally – you need to be able to say a couple of things really clearly. So, I’ve chosen for you, from my extensive ‘Treasure Chest’ of ways and words, phrases and angles, a simple example you can use straight away. Plus of course, the behind-the-curtain thinking in saying it.

It goes like this:

“Well, it’s been great chatting with you Jane/John and I know you’ll be wanting to chat with other people too so I won’t monopolise you any more and ABC etc.”

Behind-the-curtain thinking:

  • The word ‘Well’ immediately implies a change in rhythm or tempo is about to occur.
  • “It’s been great chatting with you” – you’re firmly putting it in the past tense.
  • “I know you’ll be wanting” tells the other person what you assume to be true and you’re presuming that their intention is to “chat with other people too”.
  • “I won’t monopolise you anymore” – this is where you take the responsibility for what could be happening but in reality, you’re ready to disengage. It’s both assertive and self-deprecating at the same time. A simple, savvy combination.
  • “and ABC…” is where you say what happens next – if anything. “and I’ll call you next week” or “and thanks for your advice” or “and enjoy the rest of your evening too”.

Well, now we can just both move on. Bye.


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