As we say bye-bye to President Bush, it seems time to answer Pat M’s request for some smart conversational getaways.
If you’re at a party and a monologuist is droning on, you could break in by spotting someone else across the room — ‘Oh, look, there’s Ebeneezer’. Then say ‘You know, he’d really love to hear this story/you really must meet him’ and make the introduction. Then make your escape.
If your glass is empty — even if the other person’s isn’t: ‘Goodness, these margaritas slip down. Can I get you a refill?’ Then scarper (because at parties it is inevitable that you meet someone else to talk to, near food and drink).
If the boring person clings on, still go to the food and drink. At these fringe areas, conversational groups tend to break and reform. So dilute the boring person, and it is far easier to say, ‘Oh, you must excuse me.’
You might open the subject of farewell, indirectly: ‘Please send my regards to your wife…’
Or introduce the sense that you have completed the final item in a checklist with a comment such as ‘Well, I just wanted to check everything was okay.’
Certain phrases can imply that the discussion has its course quite subtly. For instance, you could play act: ‘Now, what did I mean to tell you? No, it’s gone.’ Then that magic bullet, ‘Anyway, it was great to see you.’
If you have a partner in crime, you could always double bluff: ‘Sorry Denzel, I must just go and rescue my wife from that crashing bore over there…’
For a more direct approach, to close down a conversation you could delicately hint that it is already over by talking in the past tense: as in ‘It has been so great talking to you, I wish we could longer, but I must just talk to Gwendoline before she goes…’
But if you want to meet them again, raise that infallibly terminal topic: arrangements. ‘Now, we must do this again. When are you free for lunch?’
The trick with this line is to mean it.