How to Disengage From Small-Talk Nicely

If your mind is on matters more important, being pressured to participate in small-talk with those around you can be a torturous ordeal. You’ll risk diverting your focus from important maters, waste time you should be spending elsewhere, and feel a general lack of productivity while engaging in it. There is a time and place for small-talk to be had. There’s no denying that it is an important social exchange of niceties. Engaging in small talk helps you stay tuned to the social setting which you’re in, and is sometimes a source of important news.

Having touched on the positive aspects of it, small-talk sure can be an annoyance. You’ve tried the, “gotta run,” technique. You’ve tried to walk without stopping all while squeezing in a generic, “hey, how are you?” Each method has its holes. Disengaging from small-talk should be handled with care as to not come off as rude towards others. You should try to limit making your time seem more important than time others’ spend on you. Everybody perceives their time to be important, and waving off the people who want to chit chat can make them feel put-down.


Hoping Rather Than Asking


An effective method of disengaging from small-talk is to hope but not to ask. This method involves replacing any open-ended question you’d ask in the small-talk interaction with a closed-ended statement of hope.

For example, if Julie has two young sons, rather than asking how they are simply state that you hope they’re doing well. If Robert gave an important presentation to the board of directors, don’t ask whether it went well. Rather, simply state that you hope it did.

Hope for the best, but make your hopes closed-ended. It will limit the content others begin to cite and hope for you to listen. You’ll consistently be driving the conversation towards a pleasant ending rather than keeping it going with open discourse. The hoping method requires you to remember some general facts about those with whom you engage. You must remember the fact that Julie has two boys, and that Robert had that presentation scheduled yesterday. Reciting these details will improve the feelings others have towards you by fulfilling their need to feel important.

Utilize the details that you hear from others to make them feel good while consistently working to end the conversation. In this case both parties will leave with what they want: your listener will receive the satisfaction of being acknowledged and made to feel important, while you work to save time while maintaining your reputation in doing so.

You’ll be able to stick around for just enough time in case there is anything important you should know from the person you converse with. Test the waters of information, utilize the hope not ask method to close the conversation, and continue on your way.

This method is not perfect though. Be careful of those who take the hopeful statements you make and expand on them as if they’re questions. In this cases you must simply reply with the general, “okay,” “that’s great,” “sounds good,” and other similar closed-ended words of acknowledgement. Be disengaging if they begin expanding on topics you can’t bring yourself to care about and work towards the ending of the conversation in a pleasant manner.

Book Recommendation: 

The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills

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