On leaving in the middle of a conversation

I usually like talking to people.

One of the people I talk to most these days is my work colleague. He has interesting viewpoints and is knowledgeable about subjects I’ve never considered finding out about. It makes lunch breaks more like lectures, but it’s fascinating and I’m learning a lot. 🙂

Today, I had to leave work early for a doctors appointment. I needed to catch 3 trains in a row in order to get to the doctors on time. My colleague, however, was in a very talkative mood, more so than usual, and kept bringing new ideas into the conversation I was trying to get out of. I am exceedingly bad at not answering questions, and I don’t like cutting people off mid-sentence…

I ended up leaving 10 minutes later than planned (which wasn’t actually as bad as it could have been because I managed to catch an earlier train than on my connection plan. Also the doctor in question never runs on time anyway).

So.
How is one supposed to excuse oneself from a conversation without being rude??

0 Replies to “On leaving in the middle of a conversation”

  1. That’s a tough one. Some people just have the personality to be able to excuse themselves from a conversation without seeming rude but I’m not one of those people. The problem is that even when I’m pretty sure I’m handling the situation politely, I still feel like I’m being rude which in turn makes me awkward and shifty eyed which of course comes off as rude. It’s a no-win situation for me usually 🙁

  2. ‘Sorry, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go now [do X, concentrate on this]’. If you can slip this in at the end of something you’ve said, before they say the next thing, that’s best. If they’re on a roll and you have to interrupt them, just start out with ‘Hold that thought’ or ‘Hang on’, or ‘Sorry, got to stop you there’.

    The trick is to *believe* it’s OK to stop a conversation. It is. Really! Trust me on this! A lot of people believe there’s a rule they have to make themselves available to be conversed with whenever another person wants, and so they feel rude when leaving a conversation. But no such rule exists – of course it doesn’t, or none of us would be able to get much done. (Imagine working in my job – talking to people is a key part of it, but there are a *lot* of people to talk to over the course of a day. I *have* to stop conversations, or I’d be home after midnight!)

    Practice it a lot by yourself, imagining yourself speaking to the other person and reminding yourself that it’s OK that you can’t stay and talk to them for as long as they’d like – they’d *like* that, but that doesn’t make it an obligation on you. That way, you practice being able to sound matter-of-fact about it, which is the key thing.

    Oh, and if it was a conversation you were really enjoying feel free to pick it up with them at a later date – that’s a win-win situation! If not, no worries, you’re still not obliged to.

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