One thing that we’re often expected to do as part of our job is to “network.” We’re expected to socialize with colleagues, meet new people, and form new connections. But it’s a tricky business, especially if you’re an introvert. You need to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. You need to make intelligent small talk. And finally, you need to elegantly and tactfully end the conversation and move on. This last step can be one of the most difficult parts of the process.
To end a conversation, a lot of people use excuses like, “I need to go refresh my drink” or “I need to use the restroom.” But according to networking professionals, these excuses are pretty terrible. People will often see right through them, and they’ll know that you just want to escape. Or even worse, some people might offer to join you on your trip to the bar or the bathroom – so your escape attempt will be foiled.
So what should you do instead? Networking professionals offers the following suggestions:
- While you’re talking to the individual, really listen to what he or she is saying. You’re probably only going to be talking for 3 to 5 minutes, so pay attention. The person will notice and appreciate it.
- When it’s time to wrap things up, be kind and honest. Start by telling the person that you really enjoyed talking to him or her, and summarize what the person said. For instance, you could say, “It was great talking to you. I loved hearing all about your chicken farm!” The person will realize that you’ve been listening and feel good about the conversation. Next, tell the person that you need to move on. For instance, you could say, “Unfortunately, I’d better move on. I promised myself that I would meet at least four new people at this event!”
- It that’s too much honesty for you, here’s a different approach. Try to find another person at the event that you think might interest the person you’re talking to. Draw this new person into the conversation. This will make it easier for you to extricate yourself.
- End the conversation with more kindness and honesty. Don’t tell the person, “Let’s get together for a coffee,” unless you really mean it. Instead, say something like, “I hope we meet again soon!” This is truthful, friendly, and noncommittal.
Good luck! Now go mingle!
Shellenbarger, S. (2015, December 1). A conversation exit plan. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-conversation-exit-plan-1448996491?tesla=y
We often feel the need to “escape” when the conversation is starting to fizzle down. It is totally okay to have those silent moments before we pick up on the conversation again. My rule is to have at least 5 minutes with each person before moving on to the next, that way it gives us a chance to cultivate a deeper connections.