The Fireball Network M.A.G.I.C. Escape Plan™
~ dedicated to anyone who has ever been held captive in a conversation
Have you ever experienced this horrifying situation at a networking event?
Some boring/annoying/useless guy in an ugly suit corners you, and drones on and on and on about his equally boring/annoying/useless business, back-pains or boss. You feel trapped. You feel like you’ve been kidnapped. It happens all too often. The problem is you can’t figure out how to: a) politely interrupt b) shut him up without smacking him upside the head c) sneak away without seeming rude d) beam yourself up to the planet ‘anywhere but here’.
What’s a well-bred networker supposed to do?
How do you escape from Chatty Cathy or Non-Stop Talking Tom, and still keep your integrity, manners and sanity? Well, you can stop fretting now, because we’ll teach you Fireball Network’s M.A.G.I.C. Escape Plan™. Master the Art of Graceful Interruption and Closing,
Step 1. Hit Pause (not the person)
Listen carefully for that brief moment when Chatty Cathy pauses to take a breath. That natural pause is your chance to take your turn to speak. If you grab that pause, you can skip Step 2 and go straight to Step 3. (But you should read Step 2 anyhow, because that natural pause may not happen until you’ve been verbally tortured for another 45 minutes). If you miss that pause, or if Cathy seems to have an unlimited supply of oxygen, and never ever stops talking to breathe, not even for a millisecond, you’ll have to go to Step 2, and interrupt.
Step 2. Be Rude. Interrupt.
I know, “it’s rude to interrupt”. But you have to do it. So, get over your resistance, mute your mother’s voice inside your head, and learn how to do M.A.G.I.C.™ State the other person’s name, in a clear voice. Say it sweetly, with a smile. (Try to resist the urge to shriek in wild desperation, “Cathy you crazy lady, shut the f*** up; it’s my turn to talk!”)
Step 3. Be Polite. Soften the Blow. (metaphorically, not physically. You need reminding)
Now that you’ve taken advantage of a natural pause – or politely interrupted – and have managed to say the other person’s name without cursing, it’s time to add a “softener”. Phrases such as these will mitigate the rudeness factor: excuse me, please forgive me, please excuse me, I apologize, I’m sorry for interrupting you, pardon the interruption – and other insincere phrases spoken sincerely. You might try something like this: “Tom, please forgive me for interrupting, but if I have to listen to your endless babbling for even one more second, I’m going to use my name tag to cut out your tongue.”
Step 4. Excuse Yourself.
Most people feel the need to explain why they’re leaving. There are appropriate – and inappropriate – ways to do this. Do not include overly personal information. Do not say: ‘I have to go potty ‘, or ‘I’m going to visit the little moguls room’. It’s shocking that any adult would think it’s appropriate to tell a stranger “wow, those three beers just went right through me!” It’s not. Save the bathroom stories for your frat brothers and your doctor. Instead, try to find more professional explanations such as: a) I’m sure there are other people here you’d like to torture, I mean, talk to. b) My client just walked in and I need to warn him about you. c) I have to catch a train going nowhere fast.
Step 5. Make your Closing Statement.
Parting can be such sweet sorrow. In this case, it’s a welcome reprieve. Use a gracious closing statement to officially end the conversation. Effective phrases include: It’s been very nice meeting you. Good luck in your business. Have a nice evening. Enjoy the conference. Hasta la vista never again, baby. May God bless you with permanent laryngitis. Goodbye. Say it firmly, with a smile and a handshake. (If you still feel guilty, give the guy a big ol’ bear hug and a warm, wet kiss.) Then leave. Do not hang around awkwardly. Run like the wind to the other side of the room. Now. Go away and meet someone useful. Now. NOW.
Congratulations! Now you’re ready to use Fireball Network’s M.A.G.I.C. Escape Plan™ to get away from kidnappers, trappers, and morons. Oh my.