The Ole' Walk & Talk: Surviving the Never-Ending Conversation
It’s that time of year again when many of us will find ourselves at a plethora of family and work holiday gatherings. It will be a joyous time filled with lots of laughs and memory making. But it can also be a scary time for those of us who dread the inevitable never-ending conversation.
Is there anything worse than getting caught up in a conversation that you didn’t see coming?
Maybe you were just trying to grab some punch and now you’re discussing the Northeaster and the wind chill in Chicago. You are now locked into a good twenty minute one-way conversation that is making it hard for you to keep your eyes from wandering around the room or rolling into the back of your head.
You try to push through and engage the talker, but they are impenetrable. They are not going to let you turn the conversation into something you both want to talk about, no way. You two are going to discuss the unusual weather around the country in each of the fifty states and how it has affected their gardening and arthritis. So buckle up, shut up, and start thinking of all the weather terms you know.
But, wait! Not so quick. There is a solution. A tried and true solution that has worked for me for years. I developed it in my early twenties after being viciously held against my will in conversations with coworkers. Like most solutions to problems, it developed organically out of necessity. After feeling like I was going to blurt out “Stop it! Stop talking! I have to go!”, I slowly started to back up and nod, ending with “sounds good, Carol” before turning and walking away. Genuis, I know! I call it the “Walk & Talk.”
This method can be used in almost any situation. Upon feeling like the conversation has turned from a normal interaction into a hostage situation, just slowly start walking backward as you nod and respond appropriately to the dialogue. Just before you turn and walk away, end it with a phrase that signals the conversation is over. I would suggest “sounds good”, “you don’t say”, “we’ll never know”, “Hmmm, interesting”, “couldn’t have said it better myself”, or “we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The key to a successful “walk &talk” is turning swiftly and walking away after you’ve said your last piece. If you hesitate or show any sign of weakness, this method will fail and things will get worse….they will follow you! So, a practice run might be in order.
Just to recap, I’ve broken it down into 3 easy steps:
1. Walk backwards
2. Say “ending” phrase
3. Turn and SWIFTLY walk away
Some will find this difficult because they aren’t able to commit or they were raised with better manners than myself. But I can’t stress enough that you MUST commit. Once you take that first step back, you MUST keep walking.
I would say no more than ten to fifteen steps backward before making the turn. If this makes you nervous just thinking about it, might I suggest another method. I’ve never tried it but I think it works in theory.
Carry something in your pocket and during the conversation, with ninja-like skill, throw it a distance away. Then before you go and pick it up, say “That was weird?” The combination of surprise and awkwardness will end the conversation with little effort on your part.