6 Polite Ways to End a Conversation
Bound by manners and common decency, you can find it difficult to walk away from a conversation without seeming rude. Next time you feel trapped, remember these six tips.
Bring someone else into the conversation
No, this move doesn’t have to involve throwing one of your friends under the bus. You can introduce your conversational partner to an individual with a common interest or quality and hope that they hit it off. According to etiquette expert Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith and author of From Clueless to Class Act, “the simplest way to leave someone who is monopolizing your time at a party is to pull someone else into the conversation. After a brief introduction, you are able to excuse yourself.” She gives us this conversational example of the technique in action: “Bob, have you met Suzy yet? Hey Suzy, Bob was just telling me about his pet ferret. Didn’t you have a ferret growing up? If you will excuse me.”
Tell the person you’ve enjoyed speaking with them
If your acquaintance can’t tell that you’re eager to leave, try summarizing your conversation in hopes your exchange will come to a natural end. According to Jennifer Grant, a certified Business Etiquette, Personal Branding, and Image Coach, you can politely say: “Beverly, I have so enjoyed speaking with you and if you will excuse me, I have just seen a colleague/friend/another person that I need to speak with.” A farewell such as this one will make the other person feel appreciated and respected. It’s simple enough to have good manners, which is why you should stop making these etiquette mistakes when you’re a houseguest.
It’s important to remember that your time belongs to you, not whoever happens to be dominating a conversation with you. Jennifer L. Scott, New York Times bestselling author of Lessons from Madame Chic, suggests that you seize a momentary lull in the conversation to excuse yourself. “Use the refreshment table, the restroom, or the need to speak to the host/hostess as a reason, if you feel you need to supply one,” says Scott. “Just make sure that after you leave the person, you actually go do the thing you excused yourself to do.”
Find out the rude conversation habits you should avoid at all costs.
Ask for the major plot points
When you want to speed up a conversation, you can politely move the speaker along by asking questions like “how did it turn out in the end?” or “what was the final outcome of the situation?” Wait until natural pauses in the conversation to interject in this way, and be sure not to sound irritated. This tactic will shorten any never-ending anecdote—it’s a good alternative to telling an acquaintance they’re boring you to tears, and actively asking questions implies that you are interested in the other person’s story. Want to avoid being a boring monologuist? These interesting conversation starters will come in handy.
Give the other person a task
If you’re speaking with someone at a party or networking event, you can suggest activities to your conversational partner. For example, say, “Hey, you should go try the jalapeño poppers in the kitchen—they’re delicious!” Or ask, “Have you seen the ballroom downstairs yet? I was down there earlier and it was so ornate. You should go take a look!” This method of ending a conversation will work best at events with many interactive elements, such as wedding parties or conventions.
Speaking of which, these are the wedding etiquette rules brides and grooms need to stop breaking.
At networking events, hand over your business card
“Asking for a business card can sometimes be a good way to conclude your conversation,” says Grant. “As an alternative, you can offer yours, which is a customary signal to close out a conversation.” If you don’t have a business card, Grant suggests that you ask to connect with them on LinkedIn or another social media platform that fits your comfort level. Regardless, telling someone that it was a pleasure to meet them is a surefire way to be polite. Grant also implores that you conclude your conversation with a smile and handshake before leaving. And you don’t necessarily even have to end an awkward conversation; these magic phrases can save an ungainly chat.