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!