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 feeling slighted or offended?
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.
Reasons for Ending a Conversation
Just because you're having a conversation with someone doesn't mean you should or must stay in it forever. Even if you're enjoying the conversation, there are reasons to stop talking and move on.
Here are some common reasons for ending conversations:
- The other person is particularly boring, rude, or offensive.
- You have a deadline or another engagement that requires you to leave.
- There are other people at the event or party you want to talk to.
- You're struggling for things to say, and it feels increasingly awkward.
- You're practicing a little strategy with a potential romantic interest and don't want to appear too eager or available.
- You are tired or don't feel well.
- You've had too much to drink and it's showing.
- You get an emergency call or text.
Whatever the reason, you have a right and often a need to get out of a conversation, but you want to do in a way that isn't rude.
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.
If you have good reason to help your conversation partner form a connection with someone else in the room, introduce him or her to someone with a shared interest. This 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 or offering to reach out again for another chat.
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.
8. Mention you have another engagement or commitment.
If you're ready to leave the get-together or social event, tell your speaking partner that you need to be somewhere and must leave.
But if you're just trying to get away from that particular person, mention you have a later commitment and want to speak to more people before you go. You don't need to reveal the time of the other engagement or what it is.
9. Say you want to find your spouse or date.
If you've attended an event with a partner, and they are in another part of the room, mention that you need to check in with them.
Most people understand that you don't want to leave your date alone for too long without connecting. Of course, you shouldn't try this idea if you are alone. Your conversation partner might ask to meet your significant other.
10. Ask about an event in the future.
Say something like, “Are you going to the marketing meeting next week?,” or “Will I see you at Jim's Super Bowl party?” If the other person answers yes, you can extricate yourself by saying, “Fantastic, we'll get another chance to catch up and talk. I'll see you then.”
If the other person says no, follow up with, “Oh I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm so glad we got a chance to talk today. I hope I'll see you again soon.”
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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. Tell them that someone is at the door.
If you are ready to end the conversation but the other person is chattering on, say, “I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's someone at my door. Can we talk another time?”
You don't need to explain much more than that. Someone banging on the door or ringing the doorbell is a conversation ender for most of us.
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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Tell them you're getting an important call.
You can say that you're getting a call beeping in from someone you've been waiting to hear from — a doctor, a service person, your child's teacher.
Let the other texter know you can't miss the call but that you'll get in touch later.
How to End a Conversation with a Talkative Person
All of the above suggestions work well with someone who takes a breath between statements and pauses to let you talk. But what about those people who talk so much you can never get a word in edgewise?
You don't want to just walk away mid-sentence, but every time you try to excuse yourself, the other person keeps yammering on. So how do you cut in and skeedaddle without causing hurt feelings? Here are some ideas.
21. Smile and make the “time out” signal.
Raise your hands in the time out signal (hands forming a T) while offering a warm smile so the speaker sees you aren't being rude but just need to speak.
He or she will likely apologize and give you the floor to make your excuse for ending the conversation. Leaving to use the restroom is a good reason because of the urgency involved, especially if the speaker tries to keep talking. You can say, “I'm so sorry, but I must excuse myself.”
22. Say, “I'm so sorry to interrupt, but . . .”
If no pauses in the conversation are forthcoming, then you may need to butt in. It's not the best option, but you can soften it by saying, “Please forgive me for interrupting, but I have another engagement in 15 minutes.”
Over-talkers are often nervous talkers and feel the need to fill any possible gaps so they aren't uncomfortable. They may be relieved to have a break from their own flow of words.
23. Make the “Do you want a drink?” signal.
Hold your hand to your mouth like you're drinking from a cup and raise your eyebrows like you're asking if he or she wants a drink.
Hopefully, your signal and expression will make the speak stop talking long enough to say, “I'd like a drink. Would you like me to get you one?”
How to End a Conversation with a Girl or Guy You're Interested In
If you're having a conversation with someone who might be a future date or potential romantic partner, there's an art to ending it while still signaling your interest.
You want this other person to know how much you've enjoyed chatting, but for whatever reason, you have to go. An abrupt ending or lame excuse definitely sends the wrong message. Give these ideas a try instead.
24. Ask, “Can we talk again soon?”
Tell him or her that you hate to end the chat and would love the opportunity to pick up where you left off.
If you get a positive response, make a point of setting up a casual meeting for coffee or a drink to continue the conversation.
25. Let the person know how intrigued you are.
So you have to leave the party or event because of a time constraint, but before you say goodbye to this person, let them know how interesting and amusing they have been during your talk.
Say something like, “You are really fun and interesting to talk to. I hope we get the chance to talk again soon.” This statement leaves the door open for the other person to ask for the next meeting.
26. Show appreciation.
Say something like, “Thank you so much for ending my evening on such a fascinating and fun note. I've really enjoyed talking to you,” or “It's so refreshing to talk to someone who doesn't get stuck in small talk. You're the most interesting person I've met all night.”
These kind of remarks let the other person know you've been paying attention and recognize the art of good conversation.
27. Express disappointment that you have to leave.
You wish you could talk with this person all night, but you have to move on. Let them know you're disappointed that you have to end the chat. “I'd really love to talk with you more and learn more about you, but I'm riding with a friend, and he's leaving.”
Ask if you can continue the conversation by text later on. A text conversation might lead to a date.
Now you know how to leave a conversation.
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.
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.