Meeting new people and striking up a conversation is an important part of life in general, and it’s vital to your professional life.
But do you know how to end a conversation without leaving the other person with a bitter aftertaste?
Socializing and networking are essential for creating and nurturing connections with people — specifically those who could benefit from something you do well and who could likewise help you in some way.
But when it comes to having conversations that create and maintain those strong connections, you might wonder how to extricate yourself without sounding awkward or impatient to get away.
If you’ve ever struggled with the question of how to end a conversation politely — whether you’re face-to-face, talking on the phone, or texting — you'll be happy to review the helpful tips that follow.
Some you might have used before, maybe because someone (or something) gave you the idea, or because something your conversation partner said triggered a natural closure in the dialogue.
Not all conversations end so naturally, though, and if you’re hoping to avoid awkward partings and make the ending of a conversation as gratifying as its beginning, read on.
How to End a Face-to-Face Conversation Politely
When you’re talking face to face, you have the advantage of using body language to convey interest and engagement.
But the impression you build with thoughtful questions and encouraging nonverbal cues can still be undone by ending the conversation badly.
Don’t sabotage the rapport you’ve built by botching your exit. Try one of the following tips to strengthen the connection between you and your conversation partners.
1. Introduce the other person to someone you know.
Especially if you have good reason to help your conversation partner form a connection with someone else in the room, introducing your new connection to someone with a shared interest is a great way to leave a lasting positive impression.
In any case, it never hurts to end a conversation by helping the other person in some way.
2. Ask them to suggest someone else you should talk to.
You can also end a friendly conversation by letting the other person know of your intention to connect with a certain number of people and asking for recommendations.
3. Excuse yourself to make a call.
It’s perfectly natural to feel a need to call home — to check on your kids or talk to your spouse or partner — and most people will understand your need to do so.
If you notice the clock has struck a certain hour, and you let your conversation partner know you’d previously agreed to check in with someone at that hour, they’re likely to appreciate the fact that you honor your commitments to others (and particularly your loved ones).
4. Excuse yourself to use the restroom.
All that coffee (wine/water/etc.) has to go somewhere, so no one should blame you for asking about the location of the restroom.
Just don’t forget to thank the other person for the conversation and, if appropriate, exchange contact info before heading straight for the restroom.
5. Offer to get the other person a (free) drink.
If the social event you’re attending provides free drinks, and you’re reaching a natural lull in the conversation, it doesn’t hurt to tell the other person that you’d like to get something to drink and to offer to pick up something for them.
In many cases, the other person will politely decline, and you’ll be free to get your drink and strike up a conversation with someone else.
If the other person gratefully accepts your offer, you can bring the drink, graciously thank them for the conversation, and use one of the other polite conversation endings (other than the bathroom exit; too soon).
6. Exchange business cards.
When you’d like to end a particular conversation, ask for the other person’s business card to signify your interest in contacting them at a later time.
You can also offer one of your own business cards as a gentle way to end a conversation while inviting the other to contact you at a later time if they have any other questions or would like to talk some more.
7. Plan a follow-up conversation (meet for coffee, exchange emails, etc.).
With or without business cards, you can arrange to meet this person at another time and place to continue the conversation or to discuss a beneficial exchange of products or services.
If you’re exchanging business cards, you can write the date, time, and location of your next meeting on the back of one or both cards.
How to End a Phone Conversation Politely
If you’re not a phone person, it’s all too easy to send the message that what you want most of all is for the conversation to end so you can hang up (and possibly cancel your phone service).
But even phone-averse networkers can learn how to end a phone call on a high note.
8. Thank them and say goodbye.
Don’t forget to thank the other person before finishing with a polite expression (like “It was great talking to you”) that tells them you consider the minutes that passed during your conversation to be time well spent.
Whatever your reason for ending the conversation, leave the other person with the sense that you enjoyed the chance to talk to them and would likely enjoy talking to them again.
9. Excuse yourself to get back to work or attend to an urgent family matter.
Everyone has work or other duties to get back to, so it’s not rude to tell the other person on the line that you need to get back to work or back to an urgent matter — possibly one involving someone in your family.
No need to be dramatic or to share details; just make it clear that while you’re enjoying the conversation, you have to break away, for now, to deal with something pressing.
10. Ask to connect on social media.
If your conversation partner has an active presence on a social media channel you also use, this could be a great way to stay in touch and remind the other of your existence and your interest in their work.
Related: Do You Think Before You Speak?
Don’t forget to ask them how they prefer to be contacted on their favorite channels.
11. Ask if you can continue the conversation over email.
You can also ask to continue the conversation over email. If you have an urgent need to get off the phone, at least you’ll leave the other person with the impression that you plan on keeping in touch.
12. Tell them your phone battery is getting low and offer to get back to them.
We do so much with our phones, it’s no surprise if you find your battery is running low.
It doesn’t have to be near death to justify ending a call, but since everyone using a mobile phone can relate to this, chances are your conversation partner will cut you some slack.
Don’t forget to offer to pick up the conversation later on — either by calling, texting, or sending an email.
How to End a Text Conversation Politely
When you’re talking face to face or over the phone, the other person can sense genuine interest and warmth from your body language or tone of voice.
They get nothing but words and emojis in a text message, and they might wonder if they’re getting a real sense of who you are and whether you’re truly interested in what they have to say.
And you might wonder the same about them.
In spite of that limitation, though (which can also be a blessing), you can learn how to end a text conversation while conveying genuine interest and appreciation.
13. Thank the other and allow them to get back to their work/family.
If you’re running out of things to say in your text conversation, there’s nothing wrong with thanking the other person and adding something like, “I’ll let you get back to your work (or family, project, etc.).”
Related: 27 Small Talk Topics
They’ll likely appreciate the thoughtfulness, and the conversation will end with a favorable impression.
14. Offer to finish answering their questions in a follow-up email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting.
If you want to mix it up a bit and would like to pick up the conversation later over the phone or in an email, you can tell them you have to get back to something but would like to send them an email or call them later, if that’s all right with them.
Again, you’re thinking of their convenience, and in this case, you’re also giving them the chance to opt for a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting, so each of you can get better acquainted with the other’s nonverbal tells.
15. Thank them and excuse yourself for an errand that involves driving.
If you’re about to head out the door and drive somewhere, it only makes sense to point that out.
Your text conversation partner will no doubt appreciate your refusal to text while driving, and you’ll get the chance to process your conversation while running your errands.
So what's next?
I hope this article has helped you improve your conversational skills so you can connect meaningfully with more people and end each conversation with thoughtful consideration and grace.
What happens between the beginning and the ending is up to you and your conversation partner/s. If your interest in what they bring to the conversation is genuine, your body language and tone of voice will probably reflect that.
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So be real, and focus on being fully present for the people you talk to. Give them your full attention, and offer thoughtful feedback to let them know you’ve been listening.
However you choose to end the conversation, this is your chance to show the other person that, while you need to step away (or hang up/stop texting) for the moment, what they’ve said interests you enough that you’d like to stay in touch.
So, keep practicing, enjoy becoming a natural conversationalist, and may your empathy and resourcefulness influence everything you do today.
One final thing . . . do you know anyone who might benefit from these ideas? Please share this post on your preferred social media platform so others learn the best way to politely end a conversation.