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How can I politely end a conversation with a stranger whom I don't want to speak to? Particularly one that seems to interested in sparking some romance?

This happened to me last weekend and it's happened to me before a few times. I'm a 20 something guy who has lived in NYC for many years now. The sit I'll be at some social gathering with my friends in a reasonably public place, bar nightclub etc. I am always there with friends and I never make an effort to speak to members of the opposite sex since I'm happily in a relationship. However, there are usually girls who come up and speak to me, usually interrupting a conversation I'm having with my friends. I don't mind speaking with strangers and am generally a fairly jovial person, but I have zero interest in speaking in a drunk stranger I don't know who started a conversation with me.

I don't want to talk to them for too long since that seems to be equated to interest in that person and alternatively I don't want to tell them to go away immediately. What's the best way to cut these conversations short without any bad feelings?

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You could try using nonverbal cues like repositioning yourself to not face them and to even move away, but if the individual has been drinking it's possible they'll miss those cues.

I'd stick with just saying something like:

"Haha, yeah, (acknowledge whatever they said). Well hey, I need to get back to my friends, but it was nice talking. Have a good rest of your night."

Any reasonable person will likely sense your disinterest and disengage you. However if they still try to talk to you, just insist:

"Sorry, I'm busy right now, no thanks."

After that, continue to face your friends and only acknowledge your friends from this point on. Eventually the drunk stranger will give up and pursue someone more interested in a making a connection.

  • Basically any statement that expresses that you appreciated talking to them and a need to end the conversation to do a thing elsewhere will work. – sphennings Feb 28 '18 at 1:31
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    Why acknowledge whatever they said? Why "it was nice talking"? These are both things which make the person talking to you think you are actually interested. "I am busy right now" is much clearer and leaves no doubt. – user8838 Feb 28 '18 at 6:20
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    @Edgar I included that because for this particular OP, it seems like they are a pretty happy-go-lucky person and don't necessarily hate being engaged in conversation, just want a way to get out of it. – Jess K. Feb 28 '18 at 14:07
  • Unfortunately, drunk ladies in NYC bars might often understand non-verbal cues. – user13148 Feb 28 '18 at 16:12
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I think this one is simple, honest, polite and firm. Something along the lines of "no thank you" is fine. you don't owe her explanation or apology. If you think saying a little more like adding "Sorry I am here to visit with friends" will help them get the message that's fine. Adding insults or personalizing it will tend to have the undesirable result of complicating the brush off.

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When they ask questions, give very short answers and don't ask them any questions. This will make them see that you aren't very interested in them.

Also, casually mention your non-single status--maybe bring attention to your wedding/engagement/promise ring, or if they ask about a place or event just be like "oh yeah, I love [insert concert/museum/hobby], and it's amazing; I just went there the other day with my SO, [insert your partner's name]!"

And in case some girl still doesn't realize that this means you're not interested, just tell them politely, "Hey, you're a wonderful girl. Sorry if you don't get the hint, but I'm not interested."

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You could say something along the lines of:

Not so fast. [for the interruption] We're talking here. [smile] You seem like such a nice or interesting person. I'd be glad to talk to you but I want you to know up front, I'm not looking to hook up. :)

I say this as a person who lived in NYC for 15 years as a single woman who went to bars. If a person comes up to you drunk and interrupts you, it's fine to say: Not so fast. Meaning: Do not be so rude. Also, it is nice to acknowledge the person but be clear.

For those who haven't lived in NYC:

Once, in a bar on a Friday night in NYC, three women approached me and my husband to be and asked if they could borrow him. How about that?

NYC is special and you have to respond right to the point. The point is the young man here is not looking to hook up and it's fine, as I said, in NYC to let others know that pretty quickly.

  • I don't think it's clear from the question that OP knows they are trying to hook up. I'd be wary of accusing them of that when trying to get them to go away. – JMac Feb 28 '18 at 16:43
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    @JMac Accusing them?? What's wrong with hooking up? It's perfectly natural, and, I might add, every women behaving as he describes is trying to hook up. I'm a woman, I should know. I would never try to get some man's attention in a bar in the way he describes if I were not interested in the man. Hooking up does not necessarily mean jumping right into bed with some man.... – user13148 Feb 28 '18 at 16:46
  • @Lambie Accusing may not have been the right word. Perhaps implying to may be a better phrase for what I wanted to say. Either way, I'm not sure if the disclaimer is necessary at all anymore since OP states in the question "I don't mind speaking with strangers and am generally a fairly jovial person, but I have zero interest in speaking in a drunk stranger I don't know who started a conversation with me." The question is specifically about cutting conversations short in these scenarios. Your only real suggestion is to offer the one thing OP is trying to avoid - a conversation. – JMac Feb 28 '18 at 17:57
  • Well, it's not really. It's a way of saying: "I really don't think you want to talk to me but I'm trying not to be a real jerk about it." Anyway, no worries. Most women would scurry away if they heard what I wrote...but would not really feel insulted either. – user13148 Feb 28 '18 at 22:47
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Use "The Brushoff"

The technique you are looking for is known as the "brushoff." The key to a good brushoff is to not make a big deal out of it. Your exit plan should be short, and you will get the best outcomes if you leave room for your unwelcome conversation partner to save face.

The absolutely simplest brushoff is to completely ignore the person as if you didn't hear them. You can often pull this off in a loud club. If they insist on trying to talk to you, just point at your ear and make out like you can't understand them.

The second shortest brushoff is to just smile then go back to what you were doing. This can actually be a little tricky to pull off because the smile could be misinterpreted. You have to be good with your body language. The idea is to convey that you don't dislike them as an individual, but you are just busy.

(By the way, if you're actually not busy, why not talk to them? You can always use the brushoff a few minutes later if something/one more interesting comes up.)

Another short brushoff is to use a positive cliche acknowledgement then go back to what you were doing. For example:

Her: Hey, how are you? I totally love this place.

You: Right on.

(Go back to what you were doing before)

Or

Her: Do you want to meet me at the Roxy some time?

You: I hear that place is the best!

(Go back to what you were doing before)

It helps to have a few of these prepared beforehand, so that they just come out automatically in the heat of the moment.

These techniques will help deal with whatever anxiety she is feeling (it isn't easy for most people to talk to strangers), and help her feel like she got at least a few words out of the conversation. Then when they see you going back to what you were doing before, they will usually take the hint, and it is easier for them to digest at that point.

But don't make a big deal out of it. That's the worst thing you can do.

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