For a shy person, ending a conversation can be as hard as starting one. I realized this first-hand when I attended an event of a professional organization (AIGA) where I’d been a board member and president for 10 years. I had left the industry for a few years and come back, so I went to a few meetings to rekindle relationships.
Well I couldn’t believe what happened, I got into conversations that I couldn’t get out of. I must confess that I panicked a bit and actually had a feeling of my feet being cemented down. I looked to others in the room for help but no one came to my rescue, I had lost my touch. It was a weird sensation for a guy who used to really work a room because that was my role as President. Was it because I out of practice? Sure! But I think it was more than that.
Here’s what I think happened. I have no training in psychology but I’m pretty sure I reverted to my shy side, a part of me that I thought I had exorcised over those years. Shyness is something that I have had to work through all my life. This situation made me realize that it will always be a part of me so I need to face up to it. I was good at networking back then because of practice and familiarity, I had a response for everything and knew most of the people, it was a big comfort zone. I thought I could get back into it just like riding a bike but now I know I have to reflect on what worked for me in the past.
As I’ve said in a previous post, there are no natural born networkers and this experience is a great example of that.
I think we all have a shy side within us, and the degree of it varies from person to person. A big part of it is fear, fear of rejection, of the unknown and what others may think of you. One way to combat this fear is to recognize what you are afraid of and why you may have a tough time exiting conversations. Here are my top five fears and some simple techniques to overcome them.
… I avoid conflict and ending a conversation is just that.
Don’t think of it as an ending, think of it as a continuing the conversation, but not here right now.
Example 1: Gosh, I’d like to know a little more, but I see the person I was supposed to meet, do you have a website I can visit?
Example 2: “That is a great point, I have a friend who may be interested in that, do you have a website I can refer them too?
…I am afraid of ending the conversation because they may think I am rude or uninterested
It is not rude if you leave with enthusiasm. Whatever your exit line, look them in the eye and say it with a smile. A couple of head nods with affirming eyebrow lifts always work for me. Make sure you say something positive about them and then offer a firm handshake as a punctuation to end of your awesome conversation.
Example: Your product/service sounds amazing, I hope your sales go through the roof!
…I am usually tongue-tied and don’t know what to say
In my most recent experience stated above I was extremely unprepared and therefore I was stuck.
Have your exit line ready to go, keep it simple, even rehearse it a few times so it sounds natural. The key is to be polite, enunciate and say it with confidence.
Example: It was great talking to you, I wish you luck with your company.
…I am afraid to quit this conversation and to go to the next one
Well, you actually don’t have to go to another conversation immediately, take a break, go get some food, look at the display or better yet go to the bar. What I like to do is eavesdrop and see how conversations go, I take notes and usually try some of the things I just heard.
…I have a tough time figuring out when to exit
Every conversation has a flow, a rhythm and cadence. There will be pauses after points have been made. Just be ready to interject politely. If you missed an opportunity know that another one will be coming, have a little patience, look interested, be ready this time!
For us shy people, socializing does not come naturally. The main thing to remember when exiting a conversation is: always be polite and use the manners that your mom taught you. Practice, patience, and preparation will take you far.