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Politely Disengaging

In our last article we talked about mastering the art of small talk and socializing. Today’s article – the last in our four-part series – provides a few thoughts on how to politely disengage or gracefully end a conversation in a social setting.

With just a few weeks left before the holidays are once again behind us the holiday business-social scene looks to be in full-swing!  With this year’s Holiday Survival Guide we’ve stressed the importance of making a good first impression by quickly responding to holiday invitations, discussed how to be a good guest and outstanding host, and encouraged mastering the art of small talk and socializing. Now, as we look toward the end of another holiday season we finalize our Guide by sharing a few thoughts on the best way to make your getaway!

Politely disengaging from social conversations is another aspect of business social engagements that people find difficult to navigate. How do you preserve the budding relationship you’ve just cultivated or maintain the relationship you already have without falling into the trap of having your time monopolized? What do you do when you realize the person you’re talking with dislikes social settings even less than you do and has decidedly marked you as their lifeline for the evening? You carefully, with as much consideration, respect, and honesty as you can muster, disengage. You take a very precious moment to think before you act. Consider not only who is affected by your disengagement, but also how everyone involved is affected.

By considering not only who is affected, but how, you put yourself in the best position to make choices about disengaging that will show respect to the other person(s) and continue to build the relationship. Taking the time to consider your options for disengaging honestly will assure that your actions are sincere, genuine, and authentic. Being truthful is also an important part of acting honestly. But honesty will help you be sincere in choosing actions that will best benefit all involved – including yourself!

Making It Work

When it comes to disengaging from social conversations you don’t want to be rude, but let’s face it, sometimes you feel a bit trapped and you want to get away.  There are a number of ways to disengage from social conversations, but not all of the typical solutions really show consideration, respect, or honesty to the other person(s). People usually get so frustrated or impatient in these situations that they say or do the first thing that comes to mind – which usually involves disregarding the other person(s) and telling the classic little white lie. Not the most sincere or genuine approach. Take a look at this typical scenario and walk with us through a few of the various possible solutions. Noting how that typical white lie might get you into more trouble than its worth.

The scenario: You are attending this year’s company holiday party and find yourself talking with a person who is monopolizing your time. You just can’t seem to end the conversation.

What do you do?

Possible solutions:

  1. The refresher. You need a refresher for your drink. So, you wait for a break in the conversation and say, “Great talking with you. I’m going to head to the bar for a refill.” On its face, a fairly workable solution – right? Unfortunately, no. This solution isn’t always going to work since more often than not you’re new found friend will simply follow you to the bar deciding a refresher is just what they need! Let’s look at a few other options.
  1. Escape to the restroom. Waiting for the right moment you say, “Please excuse me, I’m going to step into the restroom.” Again, maybe not the ideal solution as the person might follow you there as well. (Which is a completely different etiquette discussion!).  Let’s think of something else.
  1. The Handoff. Many of you may be familiar with this one. Covertly scanning the room you spy a friend nearby and grab their attention. As they step into your group you introduce the monopolizer to your friend and after a minute politely excuse yourself.

 Sadly, with this maneuver it’s usually best to avoid your friend for a few days. And, if we’re being honest, this probably isn’t the best        solution either as it works for everyone in the scenario except your friend. What we’re striving for is a solution that works best for  everyone involved: you, the monopolizer and anyone else involved in the disengagement process.  How about this one….

  1. Honesty. Find a way to politely let your new acquaintance know you’ve enjoyed meeting them, but that you’re goal for the evening was to meet several new people. Something along the lines of, “I want to thank you for helping me with one of my goals for the evening – meeting several new people. Can I get your business card? I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Maybe we can catch up later.” This solution works best for all involved: you and your new acquaintance. This solution also works well when the monopolizer is already an acquaintance.

 By being honest in this way you have shown the person respect in a manner that gives you confidence and shows you to be a genuine and  sincere person. Not a bad way to be perceived in business!

We have so many opportunities over the holiday season to make choices about how we interact with others. By taking the time to think before you act and then acting in way that builds those all important business relationships will go a long way toward distinguishing you from your colleagues. Such actions will also solidify your personal brand as someone who understands the value of developing and maintaining professional relationships.

As this holiday season winds to a close we hope you found our SAFFIRE LEGAL 2016 Holiday Survival Guide to be informative and useful. We also hope you have been able to put some of our tips to good use by taking advantage of some of the wonderful opportunities afforded by the season to represent your company and build your personal brand.


Until next year…Cheers!


Image © JMcQueen all rights reserved

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