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At least 87 percent of casual, small-talk conversations last too long. The problem here is twofold:
• People are afraid to end the conversation and;
• “It’s time to end this talk” hints are ignored.
A solution to the first problem after the jump …
This is something lots of people struggle with, so don’t feel bad.
First, do not fear the conversational reaper. All things begin and all things end, including this conversation you are engaged in. And really, chances are that the other person doesn’t want this to go on forever, either. Can you imagine spending your entire life right there, in that living room, talking talking talking to this person about sports or Occupy or whatever, both of you growing old and grey and still the conversation flows dully on? No one wants that.
So when you notice the drop-off in the mutual enthusiasm level to below say 50 percent, start to convey your intent for things to end by issuing a somewhat final-sounding statement on the topic at hand, followed by “anyway.” For example: “Yes, I mean, I guess I’m just glad that someone is willing to agitate on my behalf even though I’m not the camping type. Anyway,” and here, you will adopt an expression that conveys many things — sadness that this conversation is coming to an end, gladness that you have met this person, resignation to the finality of what you are about to say — “It has been just wonderful chatting with you.” You don’t really need to announce your new destination because chances are it will sound awkward anyway.
And then let them acknowledge that they have enjoyed chatting with you, and then say goodbye brightly.
BONUS OVERWROUGHT JAM: I like to apply extremely hyperbolic songs to banal situations. For example, I hum “My World is Empty Without You” after I’ve lost an earring, or “All By Myself” if some of my coworkers are on vacation and I feel kind of bored.
“Dust in the Wind” is a perfect hyperbolic jam for so many situations. I highly recommend playing it in your head next time, say, board game night comes to an end. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky!
BONUS TO THE BONUS OVERWROUGHT JAM: I am at my house waiting while the plumbers fix something. They had run to the store to pick up some parts, and I thought to myself, “Ha ha! Wouldn’t it be funny if the plumbers walked in right when I clicked on the YouTube link to Celine Dion’s ‘All By Myself’?” Well, it wasn’t.