1. Always take the stairs

Elevators are a breeding ground for unwanted conversations, so avoid them at all costs. It might start out innocently enough, but next thing you're high above the ground in a metal coffin with some guy telling you about how he got a good deal on a plasma television over the weekend and the time his dad gave Paul Newman the finger while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. And with the obesity rate being what it is, you can almost guarantee that your trip up the stairs will be a peaceful one. Even if someone were to join you on your trek up the stairs, you could always blame your inability to provide decent banter or a correct answer to “What's up?" on shortness of breath. Also, shoe farts are much more likely to occur while one walks up stairs and will likely go unnoticed.

2. Wear headphones

This is a go-to move for many who don't want to hear the sound of other people's voices (besides the ones supplied by their iPod) and with good reason. Not only will your headphones spare you from an otherwise obligatory awkward conversation, the soft, cushiony material will keep your ears nice and warm in the winter months. You may be tempted by the sleek look of earbuds, but it is often difficult for others to see you have them in. When you don headphones, people can tell from a mile a way that you're not interested in chitchat. If anyone dare try and penetrate your audio barrier from society, perhaps to see what you're listening to, slowly slide the headphones off your ears until they rest comfortably around your neck, look that person in the eye, and yell “Slayer." If you're such a curmudgeon that you can't stand to hear the musical stylings of even your favorite recording artists, just wear the headphones. There's no rule that says they have to be plugged in to anything (and if there is, just break it and yell “Slayer").

3. Know everything about current events

What's the point of reading the paper, or anything for that matter, if you can't use that newly acquired information to show everyone how much better you are than them. People may try and hide their true intentions with some friendly wording, something that makes it sound like it's a tidbit of information you'd enjoy hearing about, but don't be fooled—they're just trying to show off. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid a conversation about something someone saw in the news is to know, or at least appear to know, more about it than they do. A person who's eager to share their wealth of current events knowledge has no problem lecturing an uninterested party, so any attempt to politely ignore them will be in vain. The last thing an “Informed Ivan" wants is to be the bearer of old news or one-upped by someone who actually knows what they're talking about, so next time someone asks if you heard about that thing, just snicker pretentiously and nod.

4. Don't pay attention to the weather

For some reason, people love talking about the weather. Maybe it's because unlike politics, sporting events, and some reality television, it's something that directly affects us all. Or maybe it's the result of some deep-rooted survival instinct that will come in handy once the End of Days is upon us and Nicolas Cage comes back from the dead only to spare those who can correctly identify whether it was the heat or the humidity. Whatever the reason for talking about it may be, you can avoid the boredom that comes from discussing atmospheric conditions by not having a strong opinion on them. It's hard to talk about “this crazy weather we're having" if one side of the conversation isn't quite sure if it's sunny or cloudy. That being said, you should pay just enough attention to the weather that you know how to dress—there's nothing worse than a conversation that starts with “I can't believe you're wearing that. You must be freezing/sweating your buns off."

5. Pretend you're on the phone

Hello, annoying person I went to high school with, I'm currently pretending to talk into a phone right now, so if you'd leave this Bed Bath & Beyond without talking to me, I'll get back to you as soon as I find a shower curtain that keeps the water from getting all over my bathroom floor (never). While staging your fake conversation, it's imperative that you don't actually dial someone's number, especially the number of the person you're trying to ignore—so watch those clumsy fingers and keep a safe distance between your phone and cheek. Also, set your phone's ringer to silent, a ringing or vibrating phone during your charade would be quite embarrassing (especially once people find out you actually paid money for the Crazy Frog's rendition of “Axel F"). If your acting skills are lacking or you find yourself in a setting where a phone call would be inappropriate, writing a pretend text message should suffice.

6. Look crazy

Despite the fact that they tell the most interesting stories and know exactly what time the local Dunkin Donuts gives out their leftover baked goods for free, not a lot of people will go out of their way to talk to a crazy person. But you can't just talk crazy to avoid conversation, if someone needs to hear what you did last night to find out you're bonkers, it's already too late. The most important thing is that you look the part. So, if you can grow a beard, grow it. If you can cross your eyes, cross them. And if you can somehow get your hands on one of those shiny outfits that Puff Daddy and Mase wore in the “Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" music video, then by all means, see if you can exchange it for something a little more understated like a grimy old sweatshirt. You don't want to be wearing a conversation piece.