How to End a Conversation

Do you know the best ways to close conversations?

Lisa B. Marshall,
November 21, 2008

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What should you do to get away from someone if you're in a hurry or you're not enjoying the conversation?

How to Politely End a Conversation

I’m frequently asked about how to bring a conversation to a polite and friendly close. Like you, no one wants to be perceived as rude or hurtful.

When we want the conversation to end, we also want the other person to think the conversation was enjoyable. If we’re engaged in a conversation and I need the conversation to end, I don’t want you to think that you’re a bore or that you’re an undesirable conversation partner.

Some researchers refer to this as conversational “face saving.” And in order to do that effectively we follow specific conversation-ending strategies to smoothly close the conversation. 

How Not to End a Conversation

Just the other day I was talking on the phone with Get It Done Guy, Stever Robbins. I was absorbed in our conversation when I suddenly I realized I was late for my next appointment. I very abruptly said, “Stever, I’ve got to go.” And he paused for a second, and said, “Yeah, me too.” Then we quickly hung up.

Afterward, I felt bad about the abrupt close. I hadn’t properly followed conversation ending strategies. I think I might have offended him. When people have done the same thing to me, it just didn’t feel right. (Stever, if you’re listening, I really am sorry. I know I should have been more polite.)

Quick and Dirty Tips for Ending a Conversation

People who study conversation endings tell us that proper endings include a few exchanges--not just one quick one--like what happened with Stever. In fact, an exceedingly polite conversation ending can go on for a few minutes and usually includes a few different strategies. 

Again, there are several specific rituals involved or politeness approaches that help us to positively end a conversation. In today’s article we’ll talk about three of the most common approaches: the positive comment, the summary/plan, and the excuse.