Several years ago, I was inspired to write a series of tips based on my experiences navigating Los Angeles as a young person with ambitions of changing the world. In my writing, I’ve often found myself adopting various voices and personas separate from myself. For this series, I created a character I called “the good girl” to write relatively innocuous but somewhat precocious advice that I wished I could have received.
Below is a sample of the writing from this project. I’ve included here the Preface and a Guide to Ending Conversations, but I also wrote about getting dressed (and the importance of comfortable shoes) as well as tips for handling business cards and how to navigate alcohol at events when you aren’t of legal drinking age. (This is, after all, a good girl’s guide.)
Ultimately, I never finished the project. I’m not sure why entirely, but I think that it was at least in part because I was worried I wasn’t qualified to give such advice. Looking back, I wish I’d written more of them. They were tremendous fun, and now I have a little more experience to back up my recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy!
As a budding professional, a young lady may find herself in foreign territories faced with unprecedented challenges as well as unforeseen opportunities. This brave new world is burgeoning with unmentioned and sometimes bizarre rituals and rules. Navigating (and sometimes subverting) these standards is essential for getting a foot in the door to the most powerful parts of the world. This guide is intended as a companion for up-and-coming trend-setters and world-changers who are navigating networking and weird grown-up stuff in their quest for world domination or, you know, a rockin’ story to tell.
Some of the stories in this guide may include material that is dangerous, illegal, or both! As such: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Readers are urged to use caution and their brilliant brains if emulating any of the actions depicted herein.
With that! What I goofed, what I wish I knew, and what I know now: a good girl’s guide.
Good Girl’s Guide to Ending Conversations
When it comes to networking, talking to people is a must. You’ve got to put yourself out there to make meaningful connections and build strong relationships. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t work out. With some practice, you’ll come to recognize pretty quickly when a conversation with someone isn’t going to be pleasant, helpful, or both. Ending a conversation with someone, even if for a good reason, can feel rude or risky. Here are some tips for exiting conversational timesucks and saying goodbye to douchebags with grace.
Especially when you’re a fresh face, you aren’t always familiar with the who’s-who of industry events and after parties. As such, you might get stuck talking with that guy who gets hammered before showing up or that over-eager sales manager who won’t shut up about the new product that just shipped. Yeah, yeah, you can learn something valuable from every person you meet, but let’s be real: sometimes it’s just not worth the time. You’ll need to learn how to excuse yourself these conversations. Think of it this way: the valuable lesson you can learn from these people is how to say “no.”
It should go without saying that explicitly expressing disinterest in someone is a generally a bad move. This strategy often doesn’t actually get the point across to your conversational captor, and it may come back to haunt you. You want to leave someone hanging, wanting more, but avoid giving the impression that it’s personal, if possible. While you do want to exude the impression that your time and attention are valuable, if you act like a snob about it, you won’t make many friends. A little sweetness goes a long way.
Instead, an appropriate excuse for cutting your time short will do. Don’t be afraid to interrupt if necessary, but a conversational lull or story’s conclusion is the optimal place to take your leave. Depending upon your situation, there may be any number of legitimate reasons for you looking to move on. You can, of course, excuse yourself to the ladies’ room or to get another drink. Be aware, however, that these are common excuses to leave a conversation and will likely communicate that desire to the person you were talking with. In some cases, this is absolutely fine. However, I’ve found that there are even better ways to excuse yourself.
Assuming you’ve done your research, you should have some idea about the hosts of the event you’re attending or the guests of note. A great excuse for leaving a conversation is in order to talk to someone that everyone recognizes as important. It explains the time-sensitivity of your action and also opens the door for an introduction, on the off-chance that your Chatty Cathy knows the person in question. Lucky you! Another way you can deflect ownership of your leave is to pin it on a friend who accompanied you to the event. Rescuing a friend from an uncomfortable situation (not unlike this one) is commendable and won’t raise argument. Just make sure that any reason you provide for leaving a conversation you actually (attempt to) follow through on.
I wasted a lot of time early on worrying about hurting people’s feelings when I said goodbye. After all, I knew why I wanted to leave. If they knew that I found them boring, annoying, or worse, wouldn’t they feel upset? The answer is: maybe. But that’s no reason to shy away from standing up for your space. At the end of the day, no one wants to spend time talking with someone who isn’t really interested. If you can get over the initial discomfort, you’ll find that everyone is better off talking with the people who are interesting to and interested in them.
With that, get out there and get networking! xoxo the Good Girl