The other night, I found myself rounding hour two of texting on and off with a friend. We were having the kind of aimless conversation that was more about feeling connected to another person than communicating anything meaningful, something I’ve found myself doing a lot for the past six weeks, thanks to the strain and isolation of social distancing.
As much as I love my friend and truly value our conversations, I was getting tired of talking and wanted to bring the never-ending text thread to some kind of conclusion. Still, I felt guilty about wanting to drop off. It’s something I’ve experienced a lot lately: an inability to tell a friend “I have to go” or “I can’t talk right now,” even though the conversation has clearly run its course. “Well, it’s not like I’m actually… doing anything right now,” I tell myself whenever this happens. “I wish I had a good excuse to stop talking.”
And then it hit me: A lack of excuse didn’t matter. I could just tell my friend I had to go, without explanation. It was an extremely obvious epiphany, I’ll admit, the kind that could only seem brilliant after six weeks of social starvation. But this period of isolation has forced everyone to rethink how we communicate and draw boundaries with our loved ones. I might be spending my days alone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be more intentional about my alone time, and I know I’m not the only one.
If you’re anything like me—and my deepest condolences if you are!!!!—you might be finding it hard to tell people when you’re conversationally tapped out for the day. Here are some methods you might try to draw those conversations to a close.
1. If you’re not in the right headspace to talk right now, just tell whoever’s texting you that.
If you don’t want to talk, you don’t want to talk. If you’d rather be alone, you’d rather be alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t really have room to take on someone else’s problems right now, you, well… that! These are all valid reasons why you can’t keep talking to people ad nauseam, even if you’re technically stuck at home with nothing else planned. Try:
- “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I’m feeling really overwhelmed by everything that’s happening and I need some alone time. I’m going to go do that, but I’ll talk to you later!”
- “I love you and I’ll look at all these videos later, but I’ve had a really long day and I kind of just want to zone out for the rest of the night.”
- “Is it OK if we talk about this later? I could use a little alone time to stay focused and sane.”
Your friends and loved ones will probably understand.
That said, we’re not all in the mood to process every little thing right now! Which is why I might humbly suggest that you…
2. Just lie!!!!
Be smart here; you shouldn’t end a conversation with a big, obviously fake lie like “Can’t talk! I got the COVID!!!” But telling a little white lie is totally fine right now if that seems like the easiest way to get out of whatever conversation you currently find yourself trapped in.
If you’re looking for a few harmless little lies or mostly-truths to add to your holster, why not try:
- “Gotta go make dinner!”
- “Well, I need to get in the shower!”
- “Sorry, my roommate needs me!”
- “Was just about to take a nap :/"
Of course, you shouldn’t have to make up a “good” excuse to get out of talking to someone, and the fact that you don’t feel comfortable offering a simple “no” probably means there’s something deeper here that’s worth interrogating. But everything sucks right now, and telling a harmless lie to give yourself some alone time is a deeply forgivable thing to do.
3. Say nothing! Just stop talking!
I know that we often talk about ghosting like it’s some unforgivable sin that only nightmare boyfriends do because they’ve been cursed to suck ass from birth. And… yeah! Cutting off contact with your partner of a few months or more without warning is a pretty shitty thing to do to someone you claimed to love and care about! But gradually slowing your response time or letting the conversation drop when it reaches a natural end point is not the same as ghosting.
Obviously, you should probably be there for someone you love if they’re going through a particularly difficult time right now. But if a text conversation’s dragging and you’d rather be doing something else, try slowing your response time down and then just letting the conversation end.
4. Embrace “g2g.”
A lot has changed about the way we communicate online over the past few decades, but perhaps there are some artefacts from that earlier digital age that we should bring back. I’d humbly suggest “g2g,” the tri-lettered abbreviation for “gotta go” that we’ve let fall by the wayside as the advent of texting and social media have made it so we’re always on and available to chat. Maybe throw in a “ttyl!” too, just to make sure your “g2g” lands as kindly as possible.
The beauty of g2g is that it’s direct and simple, and its meaning couldn’t be more clear. What do you have to do? Go. Why? Because you’ve got to. Got to what? Go. Go where? Doesn’t matter! Gotta go! It’s direct. It’s self-evident. And no one will hold it against you.
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