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Escaping the Talker

This article provides some ideas on respectful techniques to disengage from conversations that are no longer benefiting you or the other party.

While I'd be the first person to espouse the virtues of active listening and have done so in many settings, sometimes you just need to get away! In most workplace situations, it is expected that you will give the other person ample regard and actively engage in a conversation when they have a topic to discuss. Of course, the topic is important to them or they wouldn't be going on and on.

When the other person has clearly used up their time and the conversation is no longer benefiting you or the other party, you will need to invoke some respectful techniques to disengage. Here are a few tips, submitted by our E-Tip readers:

· Stand up and walk the person to the door.

· Offer language that will close the conversation. Comments like, "Thanks for dropping by," or "I will get back with you as soon as I'm finished with blah, blah, blah..." Such language signals that you are ready to move on.

· Be direct by saying, "I have another meeting," or "I need to get to an appointment." Hopefully this is not a fib.

· When the other person says, "Do you have some time to talk?" set the expectation with a comment like, "Yes, but I only have five minutes until my next conference call."

Jodi Glickman Brown offered a more structured approach in a recent
Harvard Business Review blog post. She suggests a three-step approach to getting away. First say, "Thank you." It's not insincere to thank them for their time, even if it's been painful. Second, identify a spontaneous transition. Saying something like, "Oh boy, I need to make a phone call," gives you an excuse for exiting the situation. Finally, Brown says you should suggest forward momentum. This might sound something like, "I will be sure to check out that article" or "I appreciate you letting me know about that new coffee shop." Even if you don't have a next step to promise, you can always reflect the other person's passion for the topic such as, "I never realized there were so many ways to categorize birds."

As managers, it is critical that we engage employees in thoughtful discourse and conversation. By listening, we show respect for their ideas and encourage them to be innovative and creative. However, when your boundaries have been crossed and you really need to move on, don't be afraid to say so.

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Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:

We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as Marnie Green's name and contact information are included.

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