Conversations are an important part of office life. Not only are they a form of communicating ideas, they foster the social bonds that are necessary to preventing us from killing each other over the last of the pre-packaged sugar portions.
Some people, however, are very busy and feel that they do not have time for the social side of conversation. These people can be seen as aloof and self-important. If you are one of these snobby individuals, do not despair. Help is at hand.
All that most people require from a social conversation is the impression that they are being listened to. If someone is talking at you, nod appreciatively as if you are actually listening. While this is happening you may go through to-do lists in your mind, map a route to the nearest fire exit, or plan your pet's next birthday party.
When you notice a gap in the white noise of the other person's idle chit chat, use this as an opportunity to politely end the conversation or, if you are feeling adventurous ,continue it with a generic encouraging statement. Be careful though. Statements like 'Really?', 'Do go on' or 'That once happened to my uncle' although generic can backfire and show that you haven't been listening:
"I got my paycheck this week..."
"So then the surgeon said that he would have to go in from the other end. I can show you pictures if you like."
"Do go on"
"After my cat's birthday party, she's going to have a hysterectomy"
"That once happened to my uncle"