The Art Of Escaping A Really Boring Conversation

Please tell me more about that time you invested in stocks and nothing happened…

We’ve all been there. You love your grandfather dearly, but trying to end a phone call with him is more difficult than trying to leave a Zara sale unscathed. And while your BFF wouldn’t hurt a fly, her constant updates about her cat are as painful as a trip to the dentist.

Then there’s Mr Boring, a frequent on the dating scene and clearly alone for a reason. Every time he opens his mouth you notice more and more exciting things in the room than his conversation: the crack in the ceiling, the water marks on the coffee table…

There are hundred of tips on ways to start a conversation, but not many on how to actually get out of one. So what’s a girl to do when she finds herself stuck in a seemingly never-ending spiral of dull dialogue? Thankfully, there is a polite escape route…

1. End on a high

Most people can take a hint, but if none of your polite one-word responses have registered, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.

If you’re on the phone, tell a white lie. “I’m just about to walk into the hairdresser” or “I have a meeting with my boss in five minutes” are always good ones (unless, of course, you’re bald or unemployed). These one-liners will draw the conversation to a close and prevent the other person from thinking you’re wrapping things up because of their extremely monotonous nature.

If you’re engaged in a face-to-face discussion at a party, end with a polite excuse. “I need a refill” is a plausible, if slightly overused, option. Finishing that with a positive, like “It was lovely to see you again” (ensuring you do so maintaining eye contact and facing your body towards them); will help your comment seem more sincere.

“I know it seems silly, but our brains pick up on people’s foot direction and use it to gauge interest,” says behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards.

“You can make them feel valued by keeping your toes and torso pointed at them as they speak – that is the best compliment you can give someone.”

2. Take control

Sometimes it feels as though hours have passed when you’re stuck in a mind-numbing convo. Though it may seem tedious, esteemed journalist and author of How to Talk to Practically Anyone About Practically Anything, Barbara Walters, recommends leaving escaping as your last resort. Instead, she suggests stopping politely and capturing Mr or Mrs Boring’s attention by controlling the direction the discussion takes.

“When a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation anymore. Conversation means genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception. Conversation can be such pleasure that it is criminal to exchange comments so stale that neither really listens,” says Walters.

3. Speak up

As Walters notes, dull people have emotions too, so instead of looking disinterested, why not try to involve yourself in their story?

“A bore has feelings. Very often he will interrupt something boring he is saying to comment that he is a bore. If he is, maybe it’s your fault. ‘Being interested makes one interesting’, Dr Erich Fromm observed, to which I would add that you generally get out of a conversation what you put into it,” says Walters.

Instead of nodding and umming and ahhing at a horrid story, interject with your own fascinating points or use it as a bridge to another subject. For example, if Mr Boring is telling you Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is his preferred film due to its unrivalled cinematography and sound score, ask if he has gone salmon fishing or enjoys other sports. No? Well there’s your chance to take control of the conversation and tell him about the time you went on an extreme-sports holiday with your bestie.

4. Screw it

If all else fails and you can’t seem to stop your eyes glazing over, do what any grown, sophisticated women would do: pull Mr Boring along with you to the bar, buy him a drink to shut him up, introduce him to a friend and then leave them there together while you knock back a drink of your own and head toward the interesting people.

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Comment: What’s your best trick for getting out of a really boring conversation?