A holiday party experience can quickly go downhill when you get stuck listening to a rambler.
You may question whether you should just be polite and stick it out. But it's completely reasonable to expect a conversation to end after five to 10 minutes, Lynne Waymon, co-owner of Contacts Count, a Newtown, Pennsylvania, networking consulting firm, recently told The Wall Street Journal. Around that point, "a bell goes off in many people's heads. They have an intuitive sense that it's time to move on."
So how do you escape the ramblers of the world? Well, to start, keep your body language friendly as you listen: Stand straight, face your partner, and make frequent eye contact. And anticipate when the discussion will wane, so you know when to put your exit plan into action.
Here are five graceful ways to end a conversation:
1. Summarize and appreciate.
Wrap up a conversation by summarizing what has been said to assure the other person that you've been listening. And leave them with a good feeling by expressing your appreciation. An easy default statement is "It's been a pleasure meeting you."
2. Give a specific excuse.
People aren't stupid. When you give lame excuses like "I'm going to freshen my drink," you're not fooling anyone especially if you head in the opposite direction of the bar. Plus, they can backfire when the other person offers to come with you.
And vague, halfhearted excuses aren't much better. "I guess we should both go circulate" is a not-so-subtle way of indicating that you no longer want to continue the exchange.
Instead, have a real agenda when you're attending an event and use it as a reason for moving on. For instance, "I want to move on because I promised myself I'm going to meet at least 10 new people tonight" is a respectful way to end a conversation.
3. Set the stage for the next meeting.
Cut things off at the "sweet spot," when you think you've made a good impression but haven't kept your conversation partner tied up for so long that he can't meet others. If you'd like to see the person again, just ask for a business card and promise to follow up. But don't make the mistake of lying. If you have no intention of ever seeing the person again, be honest and say something like "I look forward to our paths crossing again."
4. Use a third person.
Ask your conversation partner to introduce you to someone you want to meet or introduce him to others with shared interests or invite him to come along to the next conversation.
For the extra-clingy ramblers, have a friend at the same event come to the rescue. Establish a signal beforehand to indicate to your friend when you need help.
5. Avoid being rude.
You may be bored out of your mind as the other person rambles on, but that doesn't give you the right to be rude. So don't look down at your phone or cease to respond. You never know who might be a valuable contact in your future endeavors.