how do I get away from clingy networkers at events?

A reader writes:

I am fortunate to be fairly well-known in my field and attend a lot of professional events. I try to meet as many new people and existing contacts as possible during these events, as part of my purpose in attending is to make the contacts I need to do my work. At the last few events, though, I’ve met individuals who really monopolize my time and are resistant to social signals that I want to end the conversation. For example, I’ll say, “Sorry, there’s Bob, I’ve been wanting to talk to him!” and they’ll follow me and join that conversation too. Then I’ll say, “I got to use the restroom, see you later,” and they’ll follow me there and wait outside.

Usually these are people I’ve never met who are in the same industry and are familiar with my work, but sometimes I have a minor professional connection with them (for example, my old company was their current company’s customer, and we were in the same meeting once two years ago). Occasionally they have a purpose for the the conversation, such as wanting a job at my company or needing help with a project, but usually they are just fans of my work who want to hang out with me but don’t have anything specific to say about it.

Even worse, people have started to approach me when I’m walking somewhere nearby the event, ask me where I’m going, and then join me. This gets awkward if I’m doing something personal. I even once ended up not getting something I needed at the drugstore because someone had followed me despite my protests, and I didn’t want them to know about the medical problem I needed it for. I’ve also had people sit down with me at an empty seat at a restaurant I’m eating at without asking, including once when I was celebrating my anniversary with my boyfriend!

Can you think of some polite but direct ways to say “please stop following me,” “I want to end this conversation right now,” and “I want to do what I’m doing right now alone”? I don’t want to be rude, as it’s a small industry and word gets around, but this is really impacting my ability to do my work.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. mreasy*

    This happens to me as well. I know it’s an old letter but… “I should probably circulate, great catching up with you!” then move on. Ostensibly you’re at this event for professional reasons which aren’t served by too much time with one person. If they need something else they can email you.

    1. Antilles*

      As a general thing, sure, that works perfectly fine. Most people will catch the hint and go elsewhere.
      But when someone is following you the restroom (!) or to the pharmacy (!!) or sitting down uninvited at your table while you’re celebrating your anniversary (!!!)? Nope. Anybody that brazen isn’t going to stop based on your polite hint.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        That restaurant one was really a doozy! I can kinda see doing something like that at the networking event itself (Is this seat free? Mind if I join you?) But assuming OP isn’t doing anniv dinners at business events, just plopping oneself down at dinner with like, literally anyone you didn’t prearrange to meet is brazen beyond recognition.

        1. SixTigers*

          Aaaaaand people do it anyway. So the problem is how to dislodge them politely without grossly offending them. Which is what OP is asking.

          I got nothing. That situation is way past my level of expertise. If it was just me and I didn’t have to worry about a public reputation, I’d say something like, “I beg your pardon, this is a private dinner” in a rather stiff tone and stare at them until they went away. If they didn’t go away, I’d get the server to escort them elsewhere.

          But if it was important that I don’t get trash-talked by a boor with hurt feelings after I told to go chase himself? Not a clue.

      2. mreasy*

        Yeah I feel like no policy will be helpful in this case because this person is a weird edge case. But I suppose saying “It’s been great catching up but I need to go have some other conversations, or this won’t be a valuable event for me,” and if they follow you’ll have to do the hard thing of saying “Hey, I can’t really have casual chats with other folks so I’m going to have to ask you to go elsewhere” – but keep it breezy? It’s a real tough one.

        1. fposte*

          I once, to somebody I knew slightly, did a mock somber “No, this…is a solo mission.” It actually worked pretty well.

      3. Candi*

        I’m pretty sure someone that brazen also already has a reputation for boundary overstepping and not listening to soft no’s, so professionally telling them where to shove their caboose would probably get the general reaction of “yeah, that’s what it take with Mary/Steve.”

        (Yes, I used caboose on purpose, for both the “trails around after” and “rear end” meanings.)

  2. Murfle*

    This is where I admit that, nearly a decade ago when I was freelancing and desperate for work, I *was* the clingy networker.

    Please rest assured that most people, with time and distance, will feel mortification about not picking up your obvious clues.

    1. lost academic*

      Sometimes we’re all hit with the awkward stick in certain events. It can happen at any time!

  3. lost academic*

    If you need to be particularly direct (and we should all be better prepared to be) I have used the “If you want to discuss XYZ later, we can set up a time after this conference to talk one on one, feel free to reach out to me to set that up next week. I need to use the time I have here to connect with other people and I can’t spend a lot of that time with any particular individual. Thanks!” (and then deliberately walk away and keep walking until they have chosen to do something different. Sometimes I offer a business card, but sometimes I don’t really want to – telling them to reach out puts the onus on them later.

    1. Sleepy cat*

      That’s a bit wordy! I’d go with: “I need to chat to some other people now. Enjoy the event!”

      1. lost academic*

        It is, but once you’ve exhausted your soft options, this should truly be the last thing you have to say. And if it’s the kind of person who hasn’t taken the repeated hints… you need to be both direct and explicative in my experience. It seems to take that much to jolt some overeager people out of their bubble and into the world with you.

        1. Lydia*

          Exactly. The OP has already tried the “Oh, there’s someone I need to chat with over there” and people aren’t getting the hint. At that point, wordy and direct is all you have available.

    2. anonymouse*

      I like the idea of putting the onus on them, for the secondary purpose of giving the person something to do. The person can choose to think, “yeah, right. You’ll never reply.” Or think, “I can do that. I will do that. Obviously, it’s OK to do that. I should meet other people, doing something interesting here to refer to when I email…”

    3. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      I’d be hesitant to say “reach out to set up time with me next week” – someone this clingy can become a barnacle on your calendar checking in regularly, pestering you for so much “advice” that you seem to be doing their job for them. Unless networking in this manner is part of your job – or you can charge for it (the suggestion below of “we can talk about rates”)

      I really hated conferences because I was a woman in a technical field, and my barnacles often were looking to hook up. Nary a conference went by when I wasn’t propositioned – and also frequently had people just sit down when I was out for dinner at a table alone….my conference badge was apparently enough of an opening. I removed the conference badge if I wasn’t at the conference, and always brought a book.

      1. lost academic*

        Same here in terms of the dudes and barnacles. If someone really wants to talk to me professionally though and it’s something I should be talking about, that’s the point of the response. If it turns out to be too much – well, that’s what not responding to the calls and emails can be. Once we’re out of physical contact it’s easier to ignore them and prevent them from disrupting networking, which is the point of this.

        Always take the badge off the minute no one needs to see it! And I usually pull off my jacket too. Once I’m truly off from an event or conference, I don’t usually want to talk to anyone else.

    1. Heidi*

      I’m guessing the person doing the following did not know that OP was going to the drugstore. I’d like to think that I’d just go in and buy tampons, wart remover, laxatives, and earwax drops without caring what the other person thought, but I’d probably do what the OP did. If I had great presence of mind, I would say, “Would you mind if we separate here? I have an errand I’d prefer to do alone.” But I don’t have great presence of mind.

      1. Lydia*

        I’m guessing that part of the protests the OP mentioned was having to go to the pharmacy hoping they’d take the damn hint.

        1. Dr glitter*

          A male colleague once followed me into the drugstore where I was going to buy a portable breast pump, which, even in a bag, is very noticeable. It was mortifying and I’m not someone who embarrasses easily.

  4. DG*

    Assuming the clingy person is genuinely well-meaning, not creepy, and has a relevant background for the event, there’s a third option, which is to introduce them to someone else. I witnessed a colleague do this masterfully a few weeks ago. “It was great meeting you Jane! Have you met Bob from Teapots Unlimited yet? You two have a very similar background – I think I saw him by the bar a minute ago.”

    Conferences and professional events can be really anxiety inducing for people who aren’t naturally social, and I think that’s where much of the awkward/clingy networking comes from. Plus people often attend all or part of these events solo, so it’s harder for a boss/mentor to guide someone on the unspoken etiquette of these situations.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Bob might not thank you for siccing Clingy McRestroom on him, but I agree that’s nice to do for less egregious people.

      1. Memily*

        Best thing to do is stick two clingy people together. With luck, neither will be able to leave the conversation and you’ll get a whole conference of peace!

        1. wendelenn*

          This literally was a plot in an episode of Star Trek: TNG at an ambassadorial reception. (though I believe it didn’t end in peace, lol)

          1. Koalafied*

            I was just thinking of that exact episode! Data was annoying half the crew by practicing small talk on everyone, and an ambassador who was known for his small talk – which was mostly only tangentially related trivia and anecdotes, but for which he never lacked material – was annoying the other half. One of the crew rescued another by introducing them to each other and as I recall everyone got a real kick out of the their ability to sustain a conversation about nothing on and on without a single pause.

        2. R*

          In the case of the drugstore I’d be so tempted to just hand the guy a list and tell him to meet me “at the Starbucks in 15 minutes,” as the first test of his competence. Of course I would not *be* in any Starbucks, but if I ran into him later I could chew him out for his stupidity a la “Why would you go to THAT Starbucks? I obviously meant the OTHER Starbucks, can’t you even follow a simple direction?”

    2. Things that make you go hmmm*

      One of my most mortifying experiences was entering an event and having the younger organization bring me over to a table of elderly people saying “you should have a lot in common with these folks”. I did not.

      1. Things that make you go hmmm*

        Ugh, the younger *organizer*. It was a social event, not a work event, and despite my best efforts at socializing with the people at my table, they were already a close-knit group and the fact that I was older than the organizer did not automatically make me someone they wanted to talk with.

  5. Cj*

    And if they are trying to get you to help them with a project, don’t forget to add “we can discuss my rates at that time”.

  6. Remember when*

    Anyone remember the episode of West Wing? An important person’s daughter and husband was attending a White House function but for some reason he flagged and had to be escorted by someone with clearance i.e. Donna all night. They wouldn’t explain or tell the couple that he flagged so Donna became this weird third wheel and ignored all their hints to leave them alone. Josh said she had a future as a stalker.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I was trying to remember which sitcom rerun I watched yesterday, Superstore? the main people put two outside sales people together. They spouted sales terms at each other like ambulatory robot wars until one of them conceded, “well, I guess I should be heading out” or something.

      1. Miss Betty*

        That reminds me of the Star Trek Next Generation episode where the crew, at a rather boring reception, paired Data with someone everyone else tried to avoid. That person was a past master and small talk and Data was fascinated by it and got up to speed immediately. I don’t think the two of them parted company during the entire reception.

    2. UpperLearning*

      This is exactly what I thought of! As someone with a strong socially-awkward streak, I keep Donna in mind as an extreme example of what not to do in networking situations where I only know 1 or 2 people.

      1. Hazel*

        I finally decided to try just walking up to a small-ish group of people and smiling. Every time I did this, they said hello and brought me into the conversation! My worst fear of a roomful of people brought together specifically to humiliate me never happened. (I know that’s obviously not happening ever, but try telling that to my lizard brain.) I’m not saying there weren’t awkward moments. There were – like when I’ve mistakenly tried to join a group that was actually a small clique. When that happens, I think to myself, “well, that’s not a good group to talk to, so I’ll move on.”

        I’ve also discovered that I can just walk away. I don’t need to explain where I’m going or make a big deal about it.

        I sometimes have to make myself move on to the next person or group, which can be hard when I’ve found someone/people I’m comfortable with. On the other hand, when I was at a multi-day conference, I found a group that I really clicked with, and they liked me, so it’s go to the workshops by myself and have lunch with them. I also tried sitting with strangers at dinner (big tables), and that went fine. It was all very helpful to prove to myself that I could and should keep trying these things.

        I think these are “normal” things that some people seem to just know, but I’m fairly certain there are a lot of us who have to learn them in adulthood.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Smiling in the vicinity is honestly a good method. It helps you look approachable/friendly. I use it all the time. Tbh I hated being so very shy and awkward in college so much that I have now 180’d and am that person who just smiles at anyone, esp if they seem shy/awkward because 1) I’m all out of f*cks to give at this point, honestly and 2) we can be awkward together! Join the table, just be prepared for random animal facts!

          However I’m also perfectly fine just….sitting alone. Worked nice in one restaurant because the waitress must have made up some tragic backstory of why I’m eating dinner alone and gave me a free slice of cake telling me that she hopes I have a better day.

          1. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

            Taking myself to dinner or lunch is one of my favorite little pleasures in life. I will take a book or my Switch, eat leisurely, and keep myself entertained. It’s lovely. People often ask me if I’m okay or if I got stood up lol.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I very much enjoy dinners w/books! Especially in a nice quiet corner. But yeah, everyone seems to assume that you’re stood up, lol.

        2. SixTigers*

          The first time I went to a big conference, I was really intimidated, and then I decided, hey, I don’t know anyone here, they don’t know me, just start talking with someone! If I embarrass the life out of myself, fall face-first into a flower arrangement, or end up with a bucket on my head, no one at work will know.

          I was scheduled to attend a “topics” luncheon, where there’s a speaker on a certain topic after everyone eats, and I found that the table-talk was a lot more valuable — and interesting — than the speaker. And all you have to do is ask, “What is it you do?” I attend as many of those luncheons as I can, whenever they let me go to that conference.

  7. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Wow! I realize some people aren’t very good at reading clues that it’s time for a convo to end (me!). But I wouldn’t dream of following someone to the restroom or drugstore, or just plopping myself down at lunch.

    I like this list of polite conversation enders, and will keep them in mind to listen for. Good reminders for everyone! Having been to two conferences recently, many were out of practice.

  8. Katherine*

    This reminds me of the hilarious show Impractical Jokers- one episode they forced Q to go to networking event, glom onto one person, and not leave him alone no matter what. It was cringey ;-)

  9. Alexis Rosay*

    As someone who is usually too hyper-alert to signals that I’m not welcome/wanted, it’s always fascinating to see people do the opposite. It seems unlikely that these interactions would make OP think well of people, destroying the point of networking.

    In a non-networking context, my former employer had a board chair who was told point-blank by outside consultants that his racism and sexism was a problem and people wanted him gone, and he just dug in heels heels and fought to stay. I would have died and crawled under a rock if I got even a hint that people didn’t want me on a board.

    1. whistle*

      Haha, yes. I will make polite excuses on behalf of my conversational partner at the slightest hint that they are ready to move on. I’d like to become just a touch less sensitive to such hints, as a little persistence can certainly pay off, but I’m too scared of being the one who can’t take a hint.

    2. Spearmint*

      I’m hyper alert to such signals too, but to the point where I often pick them up when they’re not there. So I could see myself trying to push past those feelings at a professional event and then going too far in the other direction accidentally (not “waiting outside the bathroom” bad, but maybe following someone to a new conversation?).

    3. Meep*

      Me too. I will literally hyper analyze the pseudo-embarrassing things I did – wondering if I came onto strong, said something that could be construed as inappropriate, etc – to the point I couldn’t understand how my former toxic coworker could sit there with just enough self-awareness to realize someone didn’t like her, but brazenly equate it to “jealousy”.

      We were at a career fair together promoting our company when another recruiter who I knew from another company came up to talk to me. We had graduated together so we were just catching up. Former TC stood literally BETWEEN us to the point her hips were touching ours on either side, smiling creepily the whole time until my former colleague gave me a panicked look and fled. I don’t know what she thought we were going to be talking about that was so important that she needed to be there for, but she is extremely paranoid so probably about her. I don’t think she realized that at that point the conversation did turn about her – and what an absolute creep she was!

    4. Anon Supervisor*

      Me too…I often fantasize about having that ability to be completely oblivious to how I think people are perceiving me…

  10. Connie-Lynne*

    As a reasonably well-known woman in tech, this is a constant problem. Particularly the dudes who wait outside the restroom.

    I’m with Alison: sometimes bluntness (“I need to talk to other people right now. Thanks!”), delivered in a cheery tone of voice, is the only solution.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yeah, LW didn’t say their gender, but I strongly suspect it’s female and that a man in her position would get much, much less of this kind of behavior.

      1. Batgirl*

        I would put money on OP being a woman. It’s not that this never happens to men, but the odds go way up.

  11. autumnal*

    So I guess, “Back off, you clueless ninny!” would be inappropriate? Lordy, let this never be me (other either side).

  12. Ermintrude*

    I’m thinking of the effort I’ve put into being friendly, talking about my stuff but also being genuinely interested in what other people have been doing. It’s been a long time I hope since I’ve been that oblivious.

  13. Green Goose*

    Pre-pandemic I used to go to a fair amount of conferences and network-y type events. I am very extroverted and one of my Strength Finder strengths is WOO so I love these type of things. I enjoy talking to new people and small talk doesn’t bother me. I know this is not the case for everyone, and I have some colleagues who get very stressed and uncomfortable in these settings. One of our board members is a very kind and well connected person and I’ve gone to some conferences with her where a person will be glued to her all night.

    But for people getting followed to the bathroom or if someone won’t leave, I’d say give one or two polite opportunities for them to go before being direct. Unless if they are super boundary stomping they should quickly realize they are being inappropriate.

    1. MsM*

      I’ve done my fair share of time as the staffer assigned to keep an eye on the executive director and politely extricate them from situations where they can’t escape a conversation themselves: either by taking the blame for needing to pull them away, or jumping in and serving as a new target for the chatterbox while the boss waves a quick goodbye and relocates to a new corner of the room. Which is also stressful for me, as an introvert, but it’s taught me a lot of useful ways to say “so sorry; must circulate now!”

      1. Green Goose*

        She could have used your support! This one guy literally would not leave her for the multiple day conference.

      2. File Herder*

        I’ve done that job at science fiction cons. Official guests (and possibly other high profile attendees) get a personal gopher (“go for this, go for that”). Primary job is indeed to go for something, and if a UK con this often features beer :-), and to make sure guest gets to where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. Secondary job involves knowing guest’s signal for “oh god please rescue me”…

        1. Hazel*

          When I volunteered at gala fundraisers, we called that – getting people where they should be at the right time – wrangling. The speakers were clearly used to being wrangled.

        2. Formers ops manager*

          My instinct reading the letter was that this is what the writer needs.
          Doesn’t have to be super formal. It could be someone else from their own office or just a tag team buddy at the networking event. Someone in the room who will step in and rescue when needed.

  14. Anon (and on and on)*

    I can only imagine the look I’d have on my face if I emerged from the bathroom and saw the same person waiting there for me! If that didn’t give them the hint right there, they’d need to be pretty dense.

    1. CR*

      Ooh! Can we get bathrooms with double exits – like one goes into the hallway, and one goes into the meeting room??

  15. Maxie's Mommy*

    “Listen, enjoy the event. There are a number of people I need to say hello to. Maybe I’ll see you at the dinner.”

  16. NP*

    This was really helpful for me! I’m in a new role that is somewhat public facing. On a regular basis I’ll run into someone while I’m outside of work who wants to talk to me about work or request funding. Recently, my daughter was learning how to ride a bike and my neighbor came out to chat about my work. I wasn’t assertive enough to end the conversation quickly and ended up missing my daughter riding her bike for the first time. I’m mad at myself for not shutting down the conversation. I’m glad to have this language now!

  17. TheRain'sSmallHands*

    My husband (pre-Covid when they did conferences) was a featured speaker at big conferences. He’d give four or so presentations, have a bunch of one on one meetings, go to dinner with a salesperson and a client (or clients) – basically be “on” from nine am to nine pm as a representative of the firm giving the conference. I’d travel with him and we’d get weekends together. Even for an extrovert its an exhausting couple of days….and companies often sell the conference as access to people like my husband (and possibly the LW)….so attendees feel entitled to have conversations about cloud storage while at the urinal.

    1. Killiara*

      And here I was giggling to myself at the thought of spritzing the offenders with water like they were naughty cats who wouldn’t get off the kitchen counter.

      I mean, I KNOW that’s not professional but it’s nice to daydream, isn’t it?

  18. Varthema*

    To add to these, I also like, “Well, it’s been great catching up… guess we’d better go mingle though, huh? *conspiratorial wink* conferences, amirite? See you around!”

  19. idwtpaun*

    For the curious, I found the original letter. It was from early 2018, so OP probably had some opportunities to put the advice into use before the pandemic took care of their problem in a more decisive manner.

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      I’d love to hear an update on this if they’re still a reader! I remember this from my first year or so reading AAM. :)

  20. justabot*

    My partner’s boss is a semi-public figure (former pro athlete) and actually does get followed around like this at different events, from fans, agents, people trying to network, look for jobs, etc. I’ve seen him at some corporate event and it really is a thing! It’s definitely a skill to be gracious, personable, make everyone feel heard, but not get stuck talking to someone who won’t take a hint to move on. I think the trick is to be friendly, but keep a clear boundary. And be very assertive about the exit… this guy is the type who’s going to clap someone on the shoulders and be all, “Hey buddy, great talking, catch you at the next meetings!” and walk away with purpose. Or if he sees someone coming he doesn’t want to talk to, he’ll grab one of his colleagues or friends from another company and be like, “Oh geez, this guy again, keep talking to me!”

    You can always pull out the cell phone too and pretend you need to step away for an important call.

  21. BritChickaaa*

    Oh these things can be so awkward.

    Once I attended a theatre conference in a city a couple of hours away by train, and noticed the (very famous female) director who was leading the conference on the same train. There was only one path from the station to the venue so I hung back so as to avoid looking like I was trying to walk with her, but because I’m a fast walker I accidentally wound up looking like I was following her. When we got to the venue I desperately needed to pee, and she walked into the lobby and straight into the loo, and I had no choice but to follow her in – not because I was “following” her but because I really needed to go! She was so freaked out and I’ve avoided her ever since.

    1. Things that make you go hmmm*

      In a situation like that I will sometimes say a cheery “Don’t worry, I’m not following you!”

    2. Despachito*

      If she was freaked out in the situation you are describing, it was more of her problem than your problem.

      Given you were both obviously going to the same event, had only one means how to get there (same train, only one path) and that it is only natural to want to pee after a long journey, and you did not do anything to contact her, let alone pester her, I do not see anything you did wrong.

    3. Gracely*

      Sometimes it can’t be helped!

      One time my spouse was driving back from the airport, and ended up following the same car for awhile before he realized it; the driver in the car apparently realized it sooner than he did. They turned, apparently trying to shake him, but it happened to be the road we lived on (at the very end of), so of course he turned, too, and followed them to the end of the road, where he pulled into our driveway as the other car sped off. He felt really bad, but there was nothing he could do–he was just driving home!

      1. SixTigers*

        I’ve had that happen time and again — find myself following someone who’s driving the same specific route that I am. I’ve pulled off and circled through a parking lot or gone around a block to let some distance develop between our cars if I thought the other driver was getting creeped out.

  22. Delta Delta*

    I was once at a wedding, and chatted with a relative of the bride. Out of the blue she said, “the people over there are really the sort of people i should be talking to” and walked away. Her brazenness was hilarious, and often quoted by people who heard it. So, yeah, maybe find a nicer version of this.

  23. Aunty Fox*

    Crikey sounds exhausting. I was at an event once talking to a business colleague and someone sidled up to us, I said ‘sorry this is a private discussion’, he just said ‘yes that’s why i’m interested’. We stopped talking, I mean, what do you do with that.
    I also know at least one author who has been asked for his signature at a urinal.

    1. ThisIshRightHere*

      So I may have done something like this unintentionally. I was at a networking event and needed to set down my drink. So I walked over to the nearest cocktail table where two or three women were chatting. I greeted them out of politeness but did not attempt to engage beyond that. One of them informed me pointedly that they were all members of a certain organization. I thought that was a strange response to my greeting but said, “ok great to meet you all” and proceeded to do whatever I was doing. She then informed me that they were discussing something internal, and I said “ok, don’t let me disturb” as I truly just needed to use the table and wasn’t interested in joining their conversation whatsoever. They abruptly stopped chatting and then dispersed. I guess those two extremely vague comments were meant to let me know that I wasn’t welcome to stand around “their” cocktail table. However, I wasn’t embarrassed at all as I thought *they* were the ones being weird (plus I was senior to all of them, so if anyone were going to school the other on business etiquette it would have been vice versa). If you’re having a private conversation (such that no one is allowed within 5 feet of you), then go do so in private. The handful of cocktail tables at a crowded networking event are fair game, imo.

  24. the ninny*

    oh no, I totally would NOT have gotten that going to the bathroom means the convo is over. I’m reading these comments mortified. Thankfully I’m early in my career and have not been to many networking events yet. Just imagining being this dude has me blushing at my desk. I would have just assumed the conversation would pick back up after the bathroom break, as it would have with friends or colleagues. SMH. Thank god I read this page!

    1. Claire W*

      If it helps, I think a good rule is just, don’t follow someone to the bathroom (unless it’s a friend and that’s something you both already do). If the conversation isn’t over they can and will find you again :)

  25. Tom - The SysAdmin*

    I think at some point, remaining polite should come second.
    Especially with people following you on PERSONAL tasks??

    Turn around – face them – and ask WHY are you following me? Point blank – and clear – and in a tone that conveys THEY are ridiculous. If they have no answer, a vague one, or a nonsense one – tell them “go away”!

  26. MCMonkeyBean*

    Wowww, that took a wild turn at the end I was not prepared for that much entitlement!

    (And I always try to keep this in mind when I see a comment about someone famous online that just says something like “I met them once and they were really rude.” Like maybe the famous person is a dick, or maybe the person calling them rude had been acting extremely entitled to the famous person’s time to the point where the famous person had to tell them flat out to leave them alone!)

  27. Egmont Apostrophe*

    “Assuming the clingy person is genuinely well-meaning, not creepy, and has a relevant background for the event, there’s a third option, which is to introduce them to someone else.”

    Yeah, we call that “I’d like you to meet Jagdish.”

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