We’ve all been there – that boring coworker, an awkward acquaintance at a party, a distant relative you haven’t seen since you were a little kid. Awkward conversations can happen anywhere (some even started by us), so while there still isn’t a support group set up yet, here are 5 ways to help you get out of an awkward conversation.
Try introducing them to someone you know that’s around
It’s tempting to use this as a distraction to quickly slip away, but generally speaking, this is a great way to break some of the awkwardness of a conversation. The new addition to the group might take the attention off you, balance out the earlier awkwardness, or help transition to a more relaxed topic. At the very least, you won’t have to stew in awkwardness on your own – it wasn’t the Two Stooges after all.
If this doesn’t work out in your favor, and you find yourself in just an awkward of a situation (or worse)…
Try to circle back on the conversation, what you were originally talking about and why
When you return to the original topic of a conversation (and not only the awkward one currently choking you), you subconsciously signal the end of the conversation. Think of it like an essay or article: your opening paragraph introduces your topic and declares your thesis, and your closing paragraph revisits the thesis and gives closing thoughts. It doesn’t make sense to start adding random facts to an essay after you’ve ended it, and it feels very out of place adding new comments to a conversation that’s come full-circle. The less you have to talk, the better.
But let’s face it – some people are immune to all signs of awkwardness. You might find yourself in a situation where both of the above tips are completely ineffective.
Be honest, especially if there’s something else you need to do
I have a friend who will frequently use the bathroom as an excuse to get out of an awkward or downhill conversation. Unfortunately, I picked up the bad habit for a while; it’s very tempting and will work. But the downside is you can seem like a jerk, which could come back to bite you. What’s worse than an awkward conversation now? The even more awkward one when someone blows up your spot and you’re called out as flaky – even more unwanted attention, and negative to boot.
Instead, be honest about needing to go. If there’s work you have to get to, someone you need to meet, or if you’re tired and are rushing to get home and crash, there’s nothing wrong with saying that. That way, the focus is on what you need to get done, and not on the awkwardness of the conversation or your urge to get out at all costs. You aren’t hurting anyone’s feelings that way, either.
Speaking of people’s feelings…
A little appreciation goes a long way
Some people may not notice their own awkwardness, or not realize the awkward situation they’ve got both of you in. In either case, a good way to end this kind of encounter on a positive note is to show some appreciation. It can be as simple as saying “thank you for sharing.” Like the third tip, this ensures you can end the conversation without sounding (or looking) negative.
The important thing here is to not show (or feel) sarcasm. You’re not giving them an Academy Award – you’re just showing a little appreciation. Worse comes to worst, fake it ‘til you make it.
Play it slick - if nothing works at all, fake a call
Warning: I'd recommend this as a last resort - getting caught doing this can be seen very negatively. But if you’re strapped on time, or need to make a less-than-savory exit, there are ways to fake a phone call. Just don’t let them see your Social Anxiety iPhone case, or that’s an entirely new conversation.