How To Get Out Of A Conversation

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:


  1. 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.)
  2. 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. 
  3. 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?


  1. The topic is too familiar to your NA (Drone)
  2. The topic is not appropriate (Offender)
  3. 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:


Clarify+Because+Old/New=New Subject


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:


  1. Feel natural to you and your NA
  2. Be plausible to the situation
  3. 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


About Mark Hiatt

Over 10 years ago I began to learn the leads group and relationship networking world and I fell in love with it. Today I create leads groups, put on networking seminars and write books on the power of networking. Business is meant to be fun, uplifting and satisfying. Anything less is unacceptable. Networking is the way, the means and the path.
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29 Responses to How To Get Out Of A Conversation

  1. Mark,

    Just thought I would stop by, coming from the TSA. You have a nice blog.

    These sound like some really good strategies. I have
    had many times where I really could have used MOST of them, lol.

    I like to use the bathroom excuse, it does work. The best one especially when out with my kids is that they are the perfect way to get out of that conversation.

    I will have to keep these in mind, thanks for sharing.

    Tommy D.

  2. As a charter member of the Socially Inadequate Society, I laughed my head off through this article. I have a good friend who is a social networking guru, and I know she will enjoy this. I’m saved the torture of having to go to networking events because they just don’t happen where I am (except for our lame-o C of C that I refuse to join), but if I ever do, I will remember this. Thanks for my belly laugh for the day, Mark. I’m sure I’ll be able to use these strategies – or realize it if someone is trying to use them on me!


  3. Hmmm… I’ve always wondered why people consistently need to use the restroom right after meeting me.

    Or sometimes they get a phone call (I guess they keep their phones on vibrate ’cause I never hear it ring!) and after glancing at the phone for a second they’ll say something like “It was nice chatting, but I really need to take this call…” Now I’m beginning to wonder about this as well…

    Hey, thanks for the eye opener! 🙂

  4. Hi Mark,
    Behaviour patterns and redirects. Interesting concepts.
    The scenarios that you mention happen all the time don’t they, not just in networking scenarios? You’ve given some good tips there too.

    I often find the best way to put a conversation to bed is to simply disagree with the other party.

    Drone – I really don’t like hamsters. Waste of time. Never thought of getting a dog….? I don’t have the room in the apartment/city… and new conversation
    Offender – That’s more information than I require and actually quite inappropriate… Followed by moderated behaviour unless they really have no social skills or awareness and you can excuse yourself.
    Bore – Take them into the deep water on the subject that they’re ranting about. They’ll either loosen up or want to get away themselves 🙂

    I should say at this point that I love a lively debate. I’m the only person I know that invites in callers who’ve come to convert me. Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Hari Krishna… Come in, get comfortable, this could take a while. Amazing that they’re suddenly short of time.
    Of course, they might just think I’m a crazed axe murderer but it’s good fun.

    Thanks again Mark.



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  6. Mark, I love your redirect formula.

    Here’s a question I use. “I came to the event tonight with the goal of connecting three people to someone who would really benefit their business. May I make a connection for you? (Well sure!) Tell me about your ideal referral source.” Connecting someone to an ideal referral source is likely to yield them more prospects than connecting them to just a single prospect.


  7. Mark,
    Love your humor….you had me at Snagglepuss.. (laugh) I’d almost forgotten about that show… Anyway, loved the redirect. Can’t wait to try it out! I’ll probably start laughing when it works, thinking back to this post…. I’ve generally used the ‘ladies’ room’ technique in the past… your sounds so much more fun and I won’t have to leave the room!

    Thanks for sharing a great post….

  8. Debby Beachy says:

    Great tips and strategies that every network marketer should learn! I know I’ve talked with the Drone, Offender and Bore thanks for sharing I’m going to implement these tips when need to see how it works!

  9. Bill Cowan says:

    Mark, I think that I’ve found a new site to bookmark with how you are able to help us. Especially getting out of that conversation that i didn’t want to be in to start with.

  10. Hi Mark,
    What an interesting subject. Never thought about it but it is so true, you just want to disppear from some conversations and I extremely bad because I have little patience for motor mouths.
    But if you really think about it, these people may just be nervous. I did have a friend that would dominate the entire conversation, no stopping him…I would just get up and walk out.
    Redirecting the conversation works sometimes, just depends on the person. I would redirect my friend and then he would dominate that topic.

    thanks for sharing and giving my mind a new place to wonder.

  11. Nat says:

    Hey Mark

    First time visitor coming in from the TSA. This article was so funny…. I love the “Exit Stage Left” scenario. I can totally relate to what you are saying. My worst fear is getting stuck with a bore because my mind wanders so easy and I worry I’m going to miss if they said something, then I seem ignorant…that is my personal struggle 🙂
    great article and strategies

  12. Mark,

    I love the “drones” term. Too funny 🙂

    The redirect sounds like an Anthony Robbins technique to change peoples “state” immediately. I like it! I can’t tell you how many networking events I have gone to where these people know better. They have been told to be “interested” not interesting, and still vomit on us. UGH! Come on people…you know better!

    Enjoyed reading this.


  13. kiaran says:

    Hey Mark – intriguing post topic. It amazes me how oblivious some people are to the patent mind numbing impact their droning has on others!

    I also like the ‘tactic’ of non mirroring ie: speaking at a different tone inappropriately loud perhaps – becoming overly enthused about some distracting object -piece of furniture – dog etc and then like an adhd child on to another topic and then exit!!

    Boring people tend to leave extroverts alone -’cause they aren’t usually good listeners….

    cheers Kiaran

  14. Vanessa says:


    Great info in this post. I love that you get us to re-think our basic assumption that getting out of the conversation is our highest option. Sometimes it may be, but many times not. And, if it is time to get out, your suggestion are great.

    Thanks again. Keep up the great work.

    Live with passion and purpose,

  15. karin says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for this post. I like your re-direct tactics. I think I will try that one. See if I can make it work. Most of the time though, I don’t mind if people just talk and talk. That means I can let my thoughts wander a little also, without being rude.

  16. Paul Reimers says:

    Hi Mark,

    I have been in WAY too many conversations when I could have used this info. I have also seen it when someone abruptly changes the subject on someone else which is kind of like saying “Just wanted to let you know that I checked out about 5 minutes ago and have been fishing in my own mind for something interesting, and I just caught something!”

    This reminds me of pattern interrupts that are used in NLP. If the train is about to crash, it is usually better to switch tracks than to slam on the brakes!

  17. Lesly says:

    Hey Mark,
    It is always amazing to me what you can find out about a person through conversation. I liked your formula in changing the subject – there are those times you want to do that. But when you are able to talk to those people who appear uninteresting, like the garbage collector, the Mall floor sweeper, you are sometimes humbled, and appreciative of them. I liked your post.

  18. Tim Colletti says:

    Hey Mark,

    Very funny stuff here. Sometimes we do need to do the old “Exit…stage right” routine. I really liked how you broke down all the different type of people you will run across.

    ~ Tim

  19. I love the idea of going into the ‘event’ with the mindset of, “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?”
    I think it pays great dividends to have a strategy before the event. Put some thought into how you can add value to the people you meet and how you can stand out.

    Great post!


  20. Ann Marie M says:

    Haha. This was a great post. I’m always looking for ways to escape boring conversations. Energy draining, to say the least.

    Thanks for the tips

  21. Mark,

    I think its extremely important to learn how to “work” a room. Personally, I don’t believe in going to networking functions to try to get to know EVERYONE in attendance. I think it’s important to always look inviting and be open to meeting people but one should look to find individuals the find intriguing and work on establishing a relationship with those maybe 3 or 4 people. You want to ALWAYS make sure you leave with a few strong, budding connections. Thats just my two cents.

  22. Shari Weiss says:

    Great title . . . it caught my interest.
    Great writing style . . . it kept me reading
    . . .
    so I suppose “I suspect we must agree to disagree” doesn’t fit in here.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Dewane, but it took me awhile to learn that lesson. How rude to flit about and not really connect with anyone . . . I we must pick wisely; otherwise we do need to extricate ourselves from fruitless conversations, which turn out to be mostly monologues, rather than dialogues.

  23. Mark,
    I’m so glad I got to come back to your blog this week too so I could find this great post.

    You did a fantastic job of helping us to be better networkers at a networking event. The key is to always be polite and see what you can learn from each person and how you can help them. It’s all about having the right attitude and your great attitude shows clear throughout your post.

    I loved how you kept increasing the value and class with each new version of right question to ask. You are right. Your final version is definitely powerful and what we call should aspire to.

    Thanks for your valuable insight and great suggestions!

    (Dave) and Dawn

  24. Mark,
    Great topic with some creative suggestions. LOVE the Snagglepuss reference from my childhood cartoons! While I’ve definitely gone to the bathroom to get out of things, the redirect seems a more age-appropriate measure and one that might actually create something interesting out of something that isn’t.
    Thanks for sharing it,

  25. Mike,

    Valuable article. I often get a bit flustered at networking events, either not reaching out to enough people or staying too long with someone who has taken over the conversation. I will be using some of your tips at my next event. Thanks.

  26. Mark. Oops. I just noticed I wrote your name incorrectly. Sorry

  27. Petra Zarkin says:

    hehe… this is good

  28. e-ticaret says:

    I do consider all of the ideas you’ve offered in your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for beginners. May just you please prolong them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  29. beautyChristia says:

    I have also experienced the same thing that I have hard time to escape from a boring conversation sometimes I always tend to lie just not to waste my time on a no sense talks.

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