An invite to a proper old-fashioned party poses a problem in these days of social media where many of us, and increasingly more and more of us, are more accustomed to socialising virtually.

Social small talk with acquaintances can be ended on Facebook or Twitter by pressing *like* politely on the last reply where we’d like to finish off. Or just leaving the last comment from the other side unanswered – the person will think you got really busy in real life and were therefore offline. At most, you can return the next day to the conversation to write something short and sweet as a way of ending the exchange, since most debates don’t carry over into other days, and it’s taken as given that everyone has moved on.

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The problem is that thanks to living life on social media, we’ve forgotten how to end conversations politely in face-to-face exchanges in real life. It’s like we’ve lost the habit of looking someone straight in the eye and making small talk. And then exiting the conversation without being rude. Maybe by saying, “great, so, see you then” or any other such variation which both participants in the conversation know basically amounts to: “Okay, I really don’t know what to say to you anymore, I’d rather go find someone more interesting to talk to, this is a waste of time.”

How does one disengage in the kindest, or at least the least cruel possible way?

I was at one such old-fashioned party recently, where there was enough alcohol flowing, but no music. So you couldn’t even sit or stand in silence with someone, pretending you’re engrossed in the beats. People were expected to be delighted to see other, exchange hugs, and umm, find something to say to one another, I figured out an advisory on How to Extricate Oneself from A Conversation at an Offline Social:

1. A physical activity – going to the bathroom, going to check out the sushi counters – remains the top way of ending a conversation. But this is best accomplished, and polite, when you have managed to grab another person’s eye, and, through all attempts at telekinesis and maybe a smile or slight wave of hand (anything too overt is desperate), have succeeded in drawing the person to yourself. At which point you can, after the obligatory hugging, introduce the new person to the one by your side (“hey, do you know so and so”) and make your excuses and run.

2. If you are already with more than one person, then “excuse me, I see an old friend I must say hello to” is a great escape. However, fiddling with the phone or pretending to be on a call is not recommended: it might have been ok a decade ago when mobiles just came in, but now everyone’s in on this trick, it’s plain rude.

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3. In India we are lucky to have close family ties. It’s perfectly OK to use this network to get out of situations – “sorry, I have the engagement of my second cousin from my father’s side to attend, can’t make it to your in-store reading”. Use it in a social situation as well. Nobody thinks it’s cuckoo that a family member accompanies you to the do – which is why Bollywood actresses, always at the receiving end of too many conversation seekers, took their mother along everywhere. The trick is to be with an older relative.

(I have heard Mukesh Ambani’s wife Nita disengage once from someone who approached her with a brief polite hello and charming smile in place, saying, “I have to check on mummy”, and then running behind Kokilaben saying loudly enough “mummy! mummy!” just so no one was in doubt). Or take along a younger relative, a niece who you decided to bring along as a treat, but one you nevertheless have to hover and fuss over (“I don’t know where my niece has disappeared to! Better check on her!”) or even a first cousin is fine – “oh my cousin seems to have found an interesting guy to speak to, let me go over say hello” – because you know, you’re a nice, concerned Indian daughter/daughter-in-law/aunt, no egos are hurt.

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4. Being self-deprecating always works. It’s always much better when disengagement is seen to be because there is a fault in you, rather than the other person you’re withdrawing from. But this is easier said than done. “I think I’m having a heart attack, I better find someplace to sit down immediately” cannot, obviously, work unless you want to find yourself bundled into an ambulance next thing. So be imaginative. A good one, as long as you are respectably in at least your late 30s and preferably a grey hair or two to show for it, is to look at your watch and exclaim: “Goodness! It’s way past my bedtime!” and make as if hurrying to the exit. Of course there is the risk that the person you escaped might spot you engrossed in conversation with someone else only an hour later – but there is always the doubt that you got cornered into conversations, and were therefore delayed on your way out

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Note: young people (just in case someone accuses this of being an ageist advisory) can maybe make the excuse of an early morning assignment at work or college, the rest of the exit plan remains same as above.

5. The politest way to disengage, of course, would be to make it seem like it is in the other person’s best interest and in fact a favour to them. A very effective way to do this is to discreetly keep a watch on the glass in the other person’s hand and wait for it to be respectably less than half full, and then point to the glass as if you have just happened to see it and exclaim: “Oh no! Your drink is almost over – let me get you another one?” No person, even one who may not want another drink, or even one who suspects it’s an excuse for you to vamoose, can help being charmed by this and nodding yes.

And remember, if you are one of those people who, like me, is perpetually waiting for drinks that a charming acquaintance is graciously getting you, it means you’re, errrr, ummm, it means you’re very popular.

Disclaimer : The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of ScoopWhoop. ScoopWhoop does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. 

(Feature image is representational)

(Feature image source: Youtube)