How to End a Conversation Without Making Up an Excuse

Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic:

A vintage French postcard illustration featuring a sophisticated, stylishly-attired mature couple seated on opposite sides of a banquette, in Paris, circa June, 1909. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Later this year, if all goes well, Americans will be awash in social interactions again. At offices and schools, on sidewalks and in coffee shops, we’ll be bumping into one another like it’s 2019. The resulting flood of conversations will be extremely welcome. But less front of mind, at this still socially stifled moment, are the awkwardness and discomfort that will return along with day-to-day interactions. The co-worker who yammers on, the chatty subway seatmate who keeps you from reading your book, the friend of a friend who bores you at parties—they are all very excited to see you again, and have lots to catch you up on.

Perhaps this period before social life fully resumes is an occasion to revisit what we want from conversations and, more to the point, how we end them. In this regard, people generally have a poor sense of timing. “Conversations almost never ended when both conversants wanted them to,” concluded the authors of a study published earlier this month that asked people about recent interactions with loved ones, friends, and strangers. About two-thirds of them said they wanted the conversation to end sooner; on average, that group wanted the conversation to be about 25 percent shorter, Adam Mastroianni, a psychology doctoral student at Harvard and a co-author of the study, told me.

More here.