Now THAT Was Awkward

CNN has a story on “Easy ways to exit awkward situations”. As usual, they have missed the mark. Thanks to the Dad In The Headlights Manners Department, we have some additional hints for you.

Here are some tips on how to gracefully and painlessly remove yourself from sticky social situations.

Escape a dull conversation at a party

“Politeness requires seven or eight minutes” of conversation, says Letitia Baldrige, a former social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy and the author of “Taste: Acquiring What Money Can’t Buy.” After that, you can say good-bye to the bore.

You’ve got to be kidding me. 7 or 8 minutes? I’d be ready to commit murder or suicide by then. How about I give you 10 seconds to be interesting before I bolt?

At a cocktail party, it’s fine to excuse yourself to get a drink or food, help the hostess, or make a phone call.

Or my personal favorite: “Oh geez, I need to run and change my Depends.”

Another tried-and-true tactic? Introduce the bore to someone else, excuse yourself, and scram. This way, you avoid leaving the bore stranded, and he becomes someone else’s problem.

Well isn’t that sweet.

Escape a telemarketer

A polite “Thanks, I’m not interested” is your best response to unwanted calls.

This jerk interrupted my dinner and I’m supposed to be polite? I don’t think so. Below are some better ideas. Have some fun with it!

  • Ask them, “Why don’t you get a real job and stop annoying people?”
  • Put the phone on the table and walk away
  • Blow an air horn into the receiver
  • Talk with a think accent and pretend to have difficulty understanding

“The caller will probably come back with a benefit statement or a probing question” — such as Are you aware this will cut your insurance bill in half?

I like to respond to this with: “I have more money than I can ever hope to spend, so this would actually be harmful to me. I actually burn $100 bills in my fireplace.”

Escape a stumper

How do you say “I don’t know” without sounding, well, dumb? Especially in a nerve-racking setting, like a job interview? Be direct, says Sue Shellenbarger, a career-advice columnist at the Wall Street Journal: Just say, “That’s a great question. I’d like to think about it and get back to you.

“If putting off the question isn’t an option (you’re a keynote speaker at an event; you’re being interviewed on TV), employ the Ted Kennedy strategy, says Anne Fisher, who writes Ask Annie, a career-advice column for “Say, ‘That’s a good question, but an even more interesting question is….'” Then talk about what you do know. “It’s worked for Kennedy,” says Fisher. “He’s been elected eight times.”

So now I’m supposed to take my cue on manners from a drunken, lifetime politician that was involved in the questionable death of a passenger in a car he was driving? I don’t think that’s very good advice.

How to escape a spat with your significant other

So now you’re advocating avoiding problems rather than working through them? I’m not so sure that’s good advice.

He started it. Well, maybe you did. Either way, you don’t want to talk about it anymore.

That’s correct. Pipe down, because I don’t want to talk about it.

“When we’re in a ‘flooded’ emotional state, access to the part of the brain where logical thinking resides is inhibited, and IQ drops noticeably — perhaps by as much as 15 points,” says Ransburg. “This is when we say things we wish we could take back.” So call a time-out. Typically, your logic will return in about 20 minutes, at which point you can resume the discussion in a productive way.

What kind of twisted mess is this? So I’m as dumb as a box of rocks when I argue, therefore I need to push the pause button on my argument and I will be smarter in 20 minutes? I think this writer is the one with IQ problems.

If you can’t call a time-out mid-spat, practice with tiny disagreements, suggests Ransburg, when you’re both less likely to take things personally.

So they want me to get in “tiny” disagreements with my wife so I can practice how to pause an argument? What variety of meth are you on?

How to escape a story repeater

Your father-in-law is telling you that story about foiling the pickpocket in Moscow — for the fifth time. Do you let him know you’ve heard it before and can tell it better than he does?

Absolutely not. I just let him rattle on. I nod and say “mmm–hhhhh” when appropriate and think about something else. And hope that he doesn’t ask a question.

“If the story is longer than a minute and the two of you are alone, do interrupt to tell him that you’ve heard — and enjoyed — that story once before,” says Margaret Shepherd, a coauthor of “The Art of Civilized Conversation.”

I really don’t think this is a good idea. It will only hurt his feelings.

Try: “You had everyone in stitches when you told that story last Christmas.” No need to add that you’ve heard the story for the last four Christmases. “Segue to a related topic,” suggests Shepherd, and if possible, draw in another person to freshen up the conversation.

So I can’t say what’s really on my mind? “Shut the pie-hole you senile freak!” Oh yeah, that would contradict my goal of not hurting feelings.

With older people whose memory may be slipping or when you’re in a group, though, it can be cruel to interrupt, says author Letitia Baldrige: “Patiently listen and wait for a chance to change the subject. If they’re thrilled to be telling the story, dismissing them too suddenly is like smooshing an ant.

“Like smooshing an ant? Ummm, that would kill the ant. I don’t think dismissing them will actually kill them.