We’ve talked about the finesse and impact of small talk, overcoming shyness, and not being overly pushy. So let’s now chat about the fine art of shutting up! Sometimes we tend to talk ourselves out of a LifeSale!  

Sometimes that life sale just isn’t there. It’s isn’t going to happen, or at least not yet! Sometimes it’s time to stop talking and back away. In those moments, keying in to someone’s body language, mood and attitude is your best friend.  

There’s plenty of signals if we just watch. Psychology Today and other research suggest human communication is about 50-70% body language and only about 7% the actual message. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation! So, aside from the person you’re trying to talk to throwing on headphones and turning away from you to file their nails, how can you identify more subtle body language signals? There’s an entire field of study devoted just to understanding small micro-expressions in facial communication – but you don’t need to be a researcher to grab some of these clues. 

Start with eye contact. The inability to make direct eye contact may be a reflection of boredom, disinterest, or even deceit – especially if someone looks away and to the side. Are they looking toward the door or at their watch?  

Where are you standing? If the person you’re talking to – whether it’s small talk or a serious negotiation – backs up or moves slightly away when you move in closer, this may mean they aren’t “feeling it.” Keep in mind though that some cultures prefer less or more distance during conversation. 

Mirroring. I have a friend who would yawn in class then watch to see if her crush yawned too – then she knew he was looking at her too! Check to see if the person you’re trying to talk to is mirroring your body posture and gesture. You don’t have to yawn (not the best thing to do when trying to pitch an idea!), but try setting your elbow on the table, or taking a sip of a drink. If the other person reflects your posture, it’s a good sign. 

Heads and tails. Check the person’s head and feet for position. Feet pointed toward you are a good sign. Notice how fast or slow they are nodding. Are they saying, “Hurry up, I’ve heard enough?” with their fast nod, or have they tilted their head in interest? If someone tilts their head backward, it may be that they are uncertain about your idea. 

Finally, have your exit strategy ready! Simply excuse yourself with a polite yet credible excuse like “I need to make a call;” or ‘I see someone I need to say hi to;” or “It was nice talking with you, I’m going to call it a night. I hope I bump into you again some time.” Then walk away, don’t linger hoping they’ll change their mind.  

Like I said, some people aren’t ready to talk, or aren’t interested at that moment. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life or what happened in their day, so one moment of disinterest doesn’t always mean it’s a forever dismissal – it may just mean “not right now.”