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How To Adult

How to avoid and bail from terrible conversations without offending anyone

Techly's How To Adult Series

Let’s face it, there are some people you just don’t want to spend your time talking to.

Maybe you had an unpleasant experience with them in the past, maybe they’re rude and boorish, or maybe they’re just plain boring.

We all have those interactions that we want to minimise as much as possible, but our stupid human inclination to be polite tends to get in the way of simply saying, “No, I don’t feel like wasting another moment of my time on your lame ass.”

Lame excuses

The good news is you more than likely don’t need to be rude or abrupt – just make a lame excuse and get out of there.

It’s an age-old trick, but we keep using the classics because they work.

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom” or “I’m actually running late for an appointment” are easy lines to use that can remove you from an undesirable situation.

Tell the truth

No, obviously don’t let the person know that you don’t give a crap about what they’re saying.

Rather, if you’d rather not lie, then actually do the thing you said you were going to do. Actually go to the toilet (what you do there is your business).

Better yet, actually attend to the list of things in your life you’ve been putting off – “Sorry, can’t stay and chat, need to file my annual tax return” – it’s a great way to stay honest and minimise your laziness.

Have a pre-planned signal

This one requires a wingman or woman, but it’s so worth sorting out in advance.

Basically, with your significant other (or a good friend if you’re pretty sure you’re going to die alone), organise a subtle yet clear signal that you need to get out of that situation.

It can be a scratch of the nose, a rub of the eye, a finger-gun to your head – whatever you like – and by simply signalling to them, they know to come to your aid with a “Hey, we’ve got to go to that thing…”

Works every time.

You’ve got a phone, fool

Because it’s 2018 – of course you do.

This may require you to call upon your acting skills, but it’s really not that hard to pretend you’re getting a call – and for that call to suddenly become super-duper urgent the minute you pick up.

“Hey Bill, what’s u… What? Are you serious? But how does that much blood even fit into a refrigerator?”

Sure, you’ll have to slide the phone a little bit so they don’t notice that it didn’t make a noise, vibrate or flash a light, but that’s what all those hours of mime class were for.

You spent every weekend for seven years at mime class, right?

Don’t worry too much about offending anyone

As for any concerns your excuses may upset the person you’re aiming to ditch, Art Markman – a professor of psychology and marketing from The University of Texas at Austin – reckons you’ve likely got nothing to worry about.

“Chances are, the reason this colleague drones on is that he isn’t really paying attention to you. That is, he is so absorbed in his own story that he isn’t thinking much about you at all,” Markman wrote for Fast Company.

“That means that the cost of excusing yourself as another monologue is ramping up is probably low.

“When you notice the telltale signs of another 20-minute conversation starting, you really can take a look at your watch and then excuse yourself by saying that there is a task you need to complete.”

Don’t be that guy

A final note that you should keep in mind, however, is often times, you’ll find you don’t want to speak to someone because all you seem to do is listen while they drone on and on about themselves and their issues.

It’s boring, right?

Well, if you spend most of your conversations excusing yourself because you just can’t be arsed listening to what other, more boring people want to tell you, odds are you’re probably starting to view yourself as a better, more interesting individual than those around you.

Which is a slippery slope towards becoming someone who thinks they should be espousing their views, rather than listening to other people’s.

As Markman puts it, “… remember that if you lose the willingness to listen to others, someday you could be the person that people duck out of the way to avoid.”

There are times when it’s totally necessary to get up and out of a boring or negative conversation. But don’t always be a butthead.

Sometimes the most interesting person in the room is the one you least expect.

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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