Sometimes it is necessary, as the cartoon character Snagglepuss phrased it, to “exit, stage right” – or left or up or down or anywhere, really, that is not directly in front of the NA (New Acquaintance). Anyone who has been networking has encountered at least one situation where you ask: How do I get out of this conversation? This article contains the answer you seek. But, as with all good answers, we have to determine the right question.
Is the question: “How do I get out of this conversation?” Let’s take a look. There may be a number of types of New Acquaintances (NAs) with whom you want to end a conversation quickly:
- Drones: The Drone is easy to spot – they talk and talk and talk with both ears closed to your views. (Whose mom hasn’t said, “God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason young man!” – just mine? Ok, moving on.)
- Offenders: These interesting folks seem to have no awareness of the effect words can have or the thought that even like-minded people want to get to know you a little before hearing your views on religion, politics, sex, nasty habits of others, shabby dressing habits of others, etc.
- Bores: Not much explanation needed – do you feel like pulling up a couch and lying down? You’ve just met one.
Maybe you have experienced others but these are the big three. So there you are talking with the NA, or NAH as one of my seminar attendees put it (New Acquaintance from Hell). What do you do now? Many would ask:
“How do I get out of this conversation?”
Is that really the question? Questions have power. If we are seeking a powerful answer, we need to be sure we truly ask a powerful question. How about: “How do I get out of this conversation in a manner that leaves both of us feeling good about our interaction?” Not a bad question. But is it the best one? Let’s keep exploring.
There is one skill every good networker needs in order to tackle this subject: The Re-Direct.
The re-direct is a way to move people to a different topic. Why do you want to do this?
- The topic is too familiar to your NA (Drone)
- The topic is not appropriate (Offender)
- The topic is boring to you (Bore)
If you encounter such a situation, you can often re-direct the NA to a new topic using a simple formula.
“Wait a minute”, you say, “this is starting to sound like a way to keep the conversation going. Are you trying to pull a fast one?” Bear with me. We are going to get to how to get out of the conversation but maybe there is yet another more powerful question to ask. Back to the re-direct – let’s look at an example:
Henry: “So then my pet hamster, his name is Joe Bob, well he was walking round and round that darn wheel and . . .”
You: “Did you say you have a pet hamster?”
Henry: “Yeah, as I was saying . . .”
You: “Now before you get to the rest of the story Henry, let me ask you this because I’m interested – what was your favorite pet growing up and where did you grow up?”
Henry: Well, uh, I had a Boxer I loved and I grew up in Portland.
If we had to create a formula for the re-direct it would look something like this:
Begin by asking a clarifying question (good listening skill to develop anyway). The clarifying question gives you a reason to interrupt his pattern of behavior. Then follow up with: “before you finish the story, let me ask you a question.” Be sure to add the word “because” (see article entitled “A Powerful Word” for more on this subject). Then you introduce a few new subjects, the first of which is related to the old subject that the NA introduced. Based on Henry’s answer, we could explore two possible subjects – pets we loved growing up or Portland, OR. You want to focus in on the one that gives you the best chance of finding something in common with Henry. I grew up in Portland so I would choose that subject. I might say:
“You grew up in Portland? No way, I grew up there also. What did you like the most about living there?”
And we are off on a new subject.
The beauty of the Re-Direct is that you are breaking this person out of their usual pattern. You are taking control of the conversation and leading it in a new direction. Here’s an interesting question:
Why the *&%$^# do I want to do such a thing with this person?
I understand that sentiment. I really do. But speaking as a past representative of the socially inadequate – good people sometimes say stupid things when they are nervous.
Do you really want to give up on someone two or three minutes into a conversation? Here is an interesting question:
What if there is something good, maybe even great, about every person I meet? Or possibly Can I learn to quickly bring the best out of every person I meet?
Some of the best people I have met and developed relationships with started out as a Bore or Drone and, yes, occasionally even an Offender. And if you can bring the best out of these folks? They will be your fan for LIFE.
That being said, perhaps you still just want to get out of the conversation. I like to deliver on my promises so let’s take a look at how to do that quickly and easily. The key to getting out of a conversation while not offending your NA is to have your delivery of the exit phrase:
- Feel natural to you and your NA
- Be plausible to the situation
- Be urgent enough to allow you to interrupt and leave
Exit Strategy #1: Set up the exit from the beginning.
“Hello Mr. Smith. Very nice to meet you. I just want to mention from the start that I read an article on networking before attending this event and I have a goal of meeting 20 people tonight. I also have certain things that the article told me to find out about each person that might allow me to help your business when I get back to my office. If it looks like we might be able to help each other we can set up a time to talk sometime this week. What do you say, do you want to play along?”
Wow. Bing, Bang, Boom – you are in control the whole way now and there will be little opportunity for the person to be offensive, boring or long-winded. But yes I know – some people are determined to be offensive, boring or long-winded and in a few rare cases they will try to wrestle control back from you. So what if you still end up in a conversation that you want to get out of?
Exit Strategy #2: I have to go to the bathroom.
“I am so sorry to interrupt you but that last drink snuck up on me. Can you please give me your card so that we can connect by e-mail. There might be ways that I can help your business and I would love to have your card on file in case one of my customers need you.”
Not rocket science, right? You can even start to bounce up and down if you want to sell it more. Don’t want to lie? Leave a pen in the bathroom at the beginning of the event. You have to go to the bathroom to get your pen eventually, right? The excuse (going to the bathroom) is not as important as the last part. You are validating the person’s existence by letting them know that you want to help them if possible. I say, be part of the cure, not the problem. Be nice – maybe they are the way they are because they had a tough time in life.
There’s just one thing left to do in this article – uncover the most powerful question we could ask relating to this subject.
What might it be?
How can I empower and uplift myself and others with each new acquaintance I meet – and how can I maximize my time and energy at each networking event?
Now THAT is powerful.
Copyright 2010 by Mark Hiatt