This Conversation Is Finished

One of the hardest parts of making new friends is starting the conversation. “Come here often?” doesn’t quite do the trick, and just walking up to someone and saying “Hi, you look nice. What’s up?” can feel odd, too.

But what about ending a conversation? That can be tough and awkward, and has the added pressure of sending the wrong message when you do it wrong. You don’t want to use some obvious exit strategy that makes a potential friend think you don’t like her, assuming you do, in fact, like her.

I got this question in the form of a reader email recently. She writes: “Do you have any tips on ending conversations? I don’t mind starting them; I’m always happy to chat with pretty much anyone, but towards the end of the conversation, I always find myself floundering. There’s only so long that you can talk to even the most wonderful person, and if I don’t have some other pressing engagement, I never know how exactly to extricate myself without blatantly lying (which is my current strategy). … I’m always nervous that the person will think that I’m trying to escape or didn’t enjoy the conversation, but on the other hand, I also worry that they might be trying to get rid of me and I’m not taking the hint! So I tend to cut things off, perhaps prematurely, with people I think might be ‘too cool’ for me and may want to get away, which feels just as silly as letting a conversation trickle on because I’m afraid to simply say that I need to leave.”

I totally understand this dilemma. When one person is trying to get a move on, and the other won’t stop chatting, it can be seriously difficult. The plus side of going on friend-dates that involve a meal is that there is usually a set ending. Once the check is paid, it’s easy enough to start futzing around with your purse to signal that you’re ready to go. (The downside of meals is that those checks add up.)

I’ve been on a few really great friend-dates in which the company has been so awesome that after the meal we’re both nursing our water glasses, just to have something to keep us there. Those are the ones you know are winners. But usually one person has to get home, and the purse reach is a nice and subtle move to say “it’s time.”

If you’re not at a meal, or are already holding your purse (thus making the reach unavailable), I think there’s nothing wrong with saying “I could keep talking forever, but I actually have to get home. But let’s get lunch sometime! Are you around next week?” You know, something that says, clearly, “I like you. I want to keep talking to you. But not this minute.”

And as for not taking the hint–I wouldn’t worry too much about that. When someone is trying to get out of a conversation with you, you’ll know. Just watch for that purse reach.

Input please! What advice do you have for your fellow reader? How do you get out of conversations without being rude?

Side note question: I’m thinking of organizing some MWF Seeking BFF book events that aren’t just a reading or signing, but more of a way for readers who relate to my plight to meet. Something like a giant book club, with wine maybe, for the purposes of making new friends. Would anyone be interested in attending such an event? If so, what would you most want it to include? A signing? Alcohol? I’m thinking no nametags or icebreaker games, but maybe I’m wrong. I really want it to be an event you would like, and not think is awkward or cheesy. So let me know!


Filed under The Search

13 responses to “This Conversation Is Finished

  1. Great question! When not at a meal, I’ve found that it works well to say something like, “Well! It was really great chatting with you. I’d love to meet up for lunch some time [or whatever]. Let me give you my number/e-mail address.” That is a pretty clear signal that the conversation is wrapping up while still letting them know that I enjoyed talking to them and would like to see them again.

  2. erin

    Giant book club with wine? yes, please!!! Seriously, I think it would be a great idea for your book events.

  3. LOL I am laughing LOUD in the office at the purse reach 🙂

    I’m too straightforward – I usually set the thing up for 1.5 hours and if it runs over, great (we both like each other so much) otherwise I just say, “listen, I need to go… but we’ll EMAIL!” 🙂

  4. I totally relate. I love chat time with my close friend but whenever she calls for a lunch date it’s a guaranteed 3 to 4 hour affair. After 2 hours I start feeling guilty about all the other things I should be doing. My exit strategy is to ensure that she understands I want to leave…and not because she’s boring. “This was great. What are you doing next Tuesday..” kind of thing.

  5. Gina

    Hi! I too would be super interested in some kind of make new friends event that includes wine! Rachel, I read the article yesterday in the Sun Times, immediately tore it out and went to your WEBSITE! I love this concept- for years (9 to be exact) have lived in Chicago-transplanted from Cincinnati where I left a lifetime of good girlfriends and my bff. I had no idea how hard it would br to make new friends as an adult and certainly 9 years later didn’t think i wouldn’t have a bestie. I have talked about this with some ladies who agree and even organized “2010 be a better friend” that never happened. I could talk forever about this, bottom line…i need a bff!

    • Thanks Gina! I will most definitely keep you posted about a Chicago event. I know that feeling of “um, where is my bestie? I was sure she’d be here by now!” Too too well…

  6. Lynn

    The giant book club events sounds like a great idea! What about an informal wine tasting?

  7. Maureen

    Totally agree that a more casual meet-up would be awesome! I’m halfway through the book and find myself laughing and relating with every chapter. I think some sort of structured ice-breakers are nice (albeit sometimes cheesy) and wine helps to get the conversation flowing.

    • Gina

      Cheesy yes probably-but since we are all interested in the same thing-it would be great, not like a bad blind date! I hope we can organize this, I’m in!

  8. Rachel, PLEASE come to Tucson, Arizona with a friend-making type book event! I’ll definitely be there!

  9. Really enjoying this site and your writing and as I’ve just moved from London to New York (leaving behind a load of amazing BFFs) it’s the perfect reading for me right now! An informal book and wine event would great. I’d definitely attend in New York!

  10. AJ

    I’d love to join the informal book and wine event! I arrived in Chicago in August 2011. Prior to that I was in Delaware and Virginia, originally from Oregon. I am loving your book (halfway through!) and I’m fascinated with friendship and the sociological aspects of it! I had lunch with a new friend yesterday and today called a friend from first grade to wish her a happy bday! Awesome!

    • Great! I think there will be an event in March — stay tuned! And thanks so much for reading MWF Seeking BFF — I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! Happy friending!

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