There is a subtle art to ending a conversation smoothly, just as there is to starting it and keeping it going. Sometimes you instinctively know how to end a conversation and trust you will do it well. Other times though you may find yourself stuck in a discussion you wanna get out of, but you don’t know how to do it.
Drawing from my social experience and my communication coaching practice, I wanna cut to the core of this issue and give you some key ideas for ending conversations effortlessly in a variety of situations.
Realize That Most People Will Understand
When I talk with coaching clients about ending conversations, they often express serious concerns about what the other person will think if they end the conversation. They fear the other person will think they don’t enjoy talking to them, they will feel abandoned, or they will find their action rude.
I will tell you what I typically tell them as well: in my experience, most people are really very understanding when you end a conversation. They don’t take it personally, they don’t get offended. Even when you end a discussion because it’s utterly tedious, rarely will the other person think that is the reason (unless you actually say so, which, as we’ll see, is not advised).
Keep this in mind whenever you wanna finish a conversation. It will make it much easier to do it without second-guessing yourself.
Give a Real or a Relatable Motive
It’s good to give a brief explanation when you end a conversation, as a polite way to excuse yourself out of it. Usually I recommend that you get clear on the true reason you wanna end the conversation, and you state that reason candidly. Honesty works wonders most of the time.
However, there are situations where the real reason is likely to offend the other person. In such situations, an exception applies. “Excuse me, this conversation is boring me to death” is rarely a smart way to exit a discussion, even if that is the true reason.
In such situations, I suggest that you close the conversation giving a motive the other person can relate to but has nothing to do with them. A reason they’ve likely had in the past as well, and they can understand. For example:
- “Well, I have to go. I have a meeting to get too.” – works great when you run into somebody on the street.
- “Excuse me, I wanna make sure I say hello to somebody.” – useful for most social events where you know at least one other person.
- “Excuse me, I promised myself to mingle a bit at this party.” – who can’t relate to trying to be social, right?
- “Excuse me; I wanna go grab another drink.” – and then you don’t have to return to the same person.
- “I have to go to the restroom.” – a classic.
Use Conversation Pauses to Make Your Exit
Most conversations have moments when they run out of steam, and thus brief silences occur. If you wanna finish a conversation, such a moment is an excellent opportunity to do so.
A pause in a conversation is like the end of a book chapter. And just like if you’re gonna put a book down for a while it’s best to do it at the end of a chapter, it’s good to end a discussion when a break in it appears. You don’t even have to say much in such a scenario. I usually end it with something like: “Well, I’ll see you around”, and then walk away.
Of course, some people are so talkative you hardly get a good break in the conversation. In such cases you’ll have to be more sudden in ending it, when the smallest break occurs, and then you many wanna give a reason.
Introduce the Person to Someone Else
One common concern people have about ending conversations at social events has to do with leaving the other person hanging. You move to something or somebody else, while the other person just sits there, sucking on their finger or whatever.
That’s why a good way to get out of a conversation is to introduce the person you’re talking to, to somebody else in the room. Just say something like “Hey, let me introduce you to somebody you’ll really love to meet”. Then take them to the other person, make the introduction and try to get a conversation going between the two of them.
As that conversation picks up, you can gently extract yourself from it. Provided they really get into the conversation, often they won’t even notice your exit. Thus you connect two people, and you get out of a conversation without leaving anybody hanging.
But, Why Do You Wanna End a Conversation Anyway?
It’s worth addressing one more thorny issue, which involves the usual reason why you wanna end conversations in the first place.
Coaching others in improving their conversation style, I often find that they wanna learn how to end a conversation, not because they wanna be able to switch conversation partners, or exit a discussion when pressed for time, but rather because many conversations make them anxious, so ending them is their way of coping with that anxiety.
However, when a social interaction makes you anxious or self-conscious, it’s actually a very bad idea to end it. It may give you some momentary relief, but it also perpetuates and reinforces your social insecurities. So it keeps you struggling with having long, meaningful interactions with people, and it makes it very hard to build lasting relationships.
Instead of seeking to end conversations when they make you anxious, what you wanna do is learn how to soothe your anxiety, and how to keep conversations going. The best strategy is to remove your nervousness, not to remove yourself from conversations.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Anxiety in social situations is not something you can get rid of just like that. You need an effective strategy to soothe social anxiety. So going further, I wanna give you such a strategy, in the form of a free instructional video.
Go here and make sure you watch this video, where I will show you how to overcome your nervousness in social settings and make effortless conversation, using a proven formula that my coaching clients have been using successfully for years. You might wanna join my free social advice newsletter as well.
When you can be at ease conversing with anyone for as long as you want, and you can also excuse yourself elegantly from a conversation whenever you want, you are in the possession of two very important abilities.
With them you can navigate conversations effortlessly, be more social, meet new people and connect with them in a meaningful way.