How to exit a conversation without being a jerk

Kio Stark loves to talk to strangers — but she knows every exchange started is one that must be ended. Here, she shares how to gracefully step away.

December 07, 2017
"an interaction in an open space has a diameter. In sociologist Erving Goffman’s study, the range in the United States was no closer than one and a half feet and no farther than three feet or so." "If you want to make an exit, you can use your body as a signal. Beginning in small increments, you can step or lean outside that interaction zone." "Words work too. Often, all you need is a reason or a friendly parting line. “I have to run”; “I need to get another drink”; “do you know where the bathroom is?”; “I have to check on my friend”; “hey, it was nice talking to you”; or glancing at your phone and saying “my friend (or partner, or babysitter) is texting me,” things like that." "To make a clean exit, you also have to contend with which person has the strongest claim to “leave-taking rights” in the conversation. In general, the person who started the interaction has priority to end it. ... There is a tacit understanding that you have to make sure the person who started the conversation got what they needed." "this can be abused — and you end up forced to be rude in order to exit. Power matters, too. When there is a real or perceived differential in power or status, the person with more gravitas has the right to end the interaction and may choose to do so politely or not."
"we can extract ourselves from a conversation without satisfying the person who started it. It’s rude, but it can be tempered with a wave and a smile as one walks away." - note, how this could apply to gendered dynamics