You should have seen my face when I finished having a conversation with a group of men on my college campus, and my friend – who was hanging back and watching me prattle off with the guys – said “Wow, you’re really good with people!”
“Me? Good with people? Are you joking?” I asked.
I promise you that I wasn’t being modest; I was absolutely gobsmacked that anyone would label me – a shy girl who shakes like a leaf at the very thought of socializing – as “good with people.”
But I realized that although I may be a little bit of a misanthrope on the inside, I didn’t come off that way on the outside. After some reflection and introspection, I realized why my friend perceived me as some sort of “social butterfly” – I’m not “good with people” per se, but I’m insanely skilled at dodging awkward interactions because cringe-worthy conversations are one of my biggest fears.
When that male group approached my friend and I on campus, they were dead-set on recruiting us as members for their Christian club on campus. My friend – a total I-hate-people introvert – awkwardly began stuttering out excuses to avoid offending the Christian group, while also weaseling her way out of being dragged into a campus club she had no interest in.
“But we don’t only meet at noon! We also come together on the weekends,” a member of the Christian group said, knocking the legs off my friend’s excuse that she’s too busy to attend midday meetings.
As I saw my friend turn tomato-red as she rattled her brain for a new excuse, I stepped into the conversation. “It’s really cool that you guys started this club! How did you guys get together?” I asked.
The men’s eyes lit up as they gushed about how they all attended a religious-based high school together and are now attending the same university.
I asked them how they dealt with stumbling upon non-religious students during their recruitment hunt, and again, they sparkled as they answered my question. It was clear that, before speaking to me, no one ever expressed much interested in who they were and how they came together – and they appreciated my willingness to listen.
I thanked them for their time. Finally, I said, “Give me your socials for your club ’cause it sounds very interesting. For now though, I’ve got to run! It was nice meeting you all!” They smiled, happily handed me a flyer, and I continued along my path to class with my friend.
“Thanks for saving me back there,” my friend said. “You’re such a social butterfly!”
What my friend doesn’t understand, though, is that I’m no social butterfly. I just know that her way of doing things – stumbling over her words and racking her brain for a million of excuses – only leads to painfully awkward moments and lingering feelings of embarrassment because you wished you handled that conversation better.
I’m not a charmer; I just don’t see the benefit in standing there, dumbfounded, as it’s painfully obvious to the “approacher” that I am clearly fishing for a way out. I also don’t think it’s a good idea barge my way through the “approacher” and say, “Sorry, I don’t have time!” Personally, these methods always leave me cringing because I didn’t tackle those situations in the most effective way.
You may think fumbling for an excuse to get out of a conversation will buy you a rapid way out instead of having a quick, friendly engagement, but does it really? Not all the time – especially if the person is persistent. My secret to using witty banter to escape unwanted conversations unscathed (and without lingering feelings of embarrassment or regret) is …
Throw the person off by asking THEM a question.
This works because their whole method of persuasion is based on the anticipated answers to their questions. If you throw them off and start a whole new conversation, they’re forced to speak off-script and engage with whatever new topic of conversation you throw at them.
I asked the Christian group how they found each other, and they were so wrapped up in answering the question, I could have walked away and they wouldn’t have even noticed.
Compliment them for their work, advocacy, or talent
These type of people get rejected often, and just the fact that you took some time to listen, they will greatly appreciate you for it. Throwing in a compliment or two is the icing on the cake. This will dissuade them from continuing to pester you with whatever they’re hawking.
Tell them you’ll take a social media handle or flyer
Thank them for the conversation, and say that you’ll take a flyer or take down a social media handle. Of course, you are likely to throw that flyer into the trash and not set a single digital foot on their Instagram page, but you’ll leave the conversation on a good foot. No one is offended, no awkward fumbling for excuses, and no ungraceful dodging with a muttering of “Sorry, not now!”
I promise this doesn’t take too long. It takes me less than four minutes to ask a question, compliment them for their work, grab a flyer, and be on my merry way!
Again, this three-step method didn’t come to me because I have some genius “gift of gab” when it comes to socializing – I just was tired of coming away from these interactions feeling sheepish, and I knew there was better way to handle these run-ins in a more graceful manner.