I was riding in the car with a friend the other day when he got a phone call. He glanced at the number and gave an exasperated look. He waited a couple rings and answered the phone with as much enthusiasm as an anticipated visit to the dentist.
The conversation quickly became a soliloquy on the other line. Detailed answers turned to monosyllabic yeses and no’s. After three painstaking minutes of listening to this nails-on-chalkboard conversation, he gave the classic line, “I’m losing reception. Can I call you back later?”
He delivered the line well. He conveyed some semblance of remorse that the conversation would have to be reconvened a later time, and he left me believing that he actually might return the call once he had some free time and better reception.
I looked over disapprovingly, but he assured me that he in fact had lost reception.
But the fact that he had used an excuse to leave a conversation made me realize just how important that skill set is.
Having one bulletproof “Conversation Ender” or being an accomplished “Conversation Executioner” are skills that we will come to value at a premium. People communicate in more mediums now than ever before — face to face, on the phone and on instant messenger. So it stands to reason that people have more frustrating conversations they need to weasel their way out of now, too.
A bad Conversation Ender can ruin a relationship and is emotionally crippling to both parties involved. The receiving party of a bad Conversation Ender knows that their time and input is not valued at all, and worse yet, feels like their intelligence has been insulted by the Conversation Executioner. On the other hand, the Conversation Executioner must realize that he or she is an idiot that can’t make a good excuse.
Good Conversation Executioners do not lie. Excuses and lies are different. An excuse is something you can follow through with, regardless of what lengths you might have to achieve to attain your excuse. A lie is less defendable than an excuse.
If, after the Conversation Ender has been issued, the receiving party confronts the Conversation Executioner about the Conversation Ender, he or she must be able to prove the validity of the Conversation Ender.
Complexity is a good thing as long as the Conversation Ender is true. Everyone has a high opinion of themselves. The more complex and outrageous the Conversation Ender, the more likely someone is to believe it. Who would voluntarily spill boiling water on themselves while making spaghetti and talking on the phone to get out of a conversation? A good Conversation Executioner.
For face-to-face interactions, it’s good to have another possible future activity at all times. At parties, I make sure I always have an empty cup. That way I can always say, “Nice seeing you. Wait one second while I get another drink.” While this method may have some negative unintended consequences, it is a perfectly reasonable and believable Conversation Ender.
Everyone has the ability to become an accomplished Conversation Executioner. Remember, don’t lie, feel free to make your excuse as complex as you want, and ignorance is bliss. If you feel like you’re on the receiving end of a good Conversation Ender, give credit where credit is due and respect the Conversation Executioner.
David Bierer is a junior business major from Charlotte. E-mail him at email@example.com