You have been talking to someone (a neighbour, a shopkeeper . . .) and they have no real message, but they won’t let the conversation end. (Long-talkers become skilled in keeping their listeners.) You don’t want to appear rude or disinterested, but you don’t want to stay either. What do you do?
1. First, remind yourself that where you are is supposed to be your choice, not theirs.
2. Second, remind yourself that you are not obliged to give a reason (for your departure).
3. Simply say to the person, ‘I’m going.’ A smile helps.
‘Mark, that sounds so rude!’
Most long-talkers know what they are doing, so if you leave in that fashion they know why. For that reason it isn’t rude. A game was being played, and this time you won.
The few who don’t realise what they are doing will have to deal with it. They would have encountered similar reactions before, and if they haven’t learnt from those past responses, they are hardened to them.
Yes, it seems cruel to leave a person desperate for your attention, but you will have to leave sometime. They will be insatiable. Their loneliness might stab them when you leave, but their loneliness will haunt them whatever you do.
Besides, if you wait too long to end the conversation you will become impatient. On a subconscious level the person might sense your impatience, yet feel compelled to keep talking. If that’s the case, their loneliness will deepen. It’s best to leave on a high note.
Ian: ‘I got my hernia trying to lift a piano. It was a brown piano that my sister bought in 1998, in Malvern, not far from where I went to school . . .’
You: ‘I have to go.’ Incorrect. Don’t give a reason. Don’t suggest that the only reason you are going is because you must, even if it’s true. Try:
You: ‘I’m going. Goodbye.’ The person might be puzzled why you are leaving without giving a reason to justify it, but being puzzled isn’t such a bad thing, especially if you have spoken to them in a friendly manner. The person might even appreciate your directness and honesty.
Even if the person thinks you are rude, you haven’t been rude. You have politely chosen to spend your time elsewhere. That’s your choice to make.
Ian: ‘But I just want to finish this story . . .’
You: ‘Even so, I’m going.’ (With a friendly smile.)
Ian: ‘But the piano . . .’
You: ‘Nuh. I’m going. I have an appointment . . .’ Incorrect. Don’t give a reason, even if it’s true. You are not obliged to explain the choices you make.
If it’s a lie, you know you are lying and the other person knows it too. Try instead:
You: ‘No, I’m going.’ (Another friendly smile.)
Ian: ‘But I haven’t finished . . .’
You: ‘Even so, I’m going. Bye.’ (Good. Your one intent is to ‘cling to the mast’. Focus on your intention.)
Ian: ‘The point I’m making is . . .’
You: ‘You should have made your point twenty minutes ago. I’m leaving.’ Incorrect. What you have just said might be correct, but it’s unnecessary to be so blunt. And, it gives the opportunity for Ian to argue further. Try instead:
You: No, I’m going. Bye.’ That simple repetition works wonders.
Q. ‘Isn’t it kind to give someone your time, by listening to them? Some people are lonely, or needy, and value the time they spend talking to you.’
Yes, we can give them a gift of our time, but we don’t have to let them abuse that gift. At some stage our bout of kindness must conclude. Then we say, ‘I’m going. Goodbye.’