How to End a Conversation Without Being Rude

Three Methods:Ending the Conversation DirectlyBacking Away IndirectlyHelping Someone Get to the Point

Even when a conversation is interesting, you sometimes have to end it before the other person is ready. If someone has been talking too long, you'll need to find a way to tactfully wrap things up. Luckily, there are many ways you can gracefully exit a conversation. You can use your words to convey that the conversation is over. You can also use excuses or body language to indirectly end things. If someone seems to be having trouble expressing his or her thoughts, you can help move the conversation along by trying to guide that person in the right direction.

Method 1
Ending the Conversation Directly

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    End with a positive comment. A great way to end a conversation is to wrap things up with a positive comment. You can thank the speaker for his or her time, dropping the hint that you now need to exit the conversation.
    • When things seems to be going on a bit too long, wait for the speaker to finish his or her sentence. Then, smile and say something like, "I'm so glad that we had the time to talk" or "Thanks very much for you time."[1]
    • In the event the speaker does not take the hint, say something like, "Well, thanks again, but I really have to get going." Most people will not question a vague excuse and allow you to get on your way.[2]
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    Return to the original purpose of the conversation. A good way to push a conversation towards its natural end is to return to the conversation's original purpose. This can help bring the conversation full circle, allowing you to exit gracefully without seeming rude.
    • Almost every conversation has some purpose, whether its something specific, like making plans, or something vague, like sharing anecdotes from the weekend. By looping back to the conversation's beginning, you can force it towards a natural conclusion.[3]
    • Wait for the speaker to stop talking. Then, make a comment about the original purpose of the conversation, indicating the conversation has accomplished that purpose and can now end. This could be something like, "Thanks for that tip. I will definitely try that next time I'm doing laundry" or "Nice to hear you had a great weekend." You can then offer a few closing lines, like, "I'll see you around" and make your exit.[4]
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    Look for a natural transition. In a given situation, you may be presented with a natural transition to end a conversation. If you're in a bar, the music may suddenly become loud, allowing you to offer an apologetic smile and exit. If you're at a conference or networking event, a speaker may begin talking. If you anticipate there may be a natural conversation-ender coming up, you may want to wait for that. This can prevent you from looking as if you want to back out of a conversation early.[5]
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    Wait for a lull in conversation to leave. Conversations have natural ebbs and flows. You may both be conversing gracefully for awhile, and then there may be a natural pause. If you want to get out of the conversation, try to wait for this pause. After a few seconds of silence, try saying something like, "Well, it's been nice talking to you, but I really should get going."
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    Make future plans. A good way to politely end a conversation is to offer a concrete future plan. This shows the speaker you enjoyed talking to him or her, as you're making plans for the future, but you need to leave in the present moment.
    • Simply wait until the speaker finishes talking. Say something like, "Say, what are you doing next Wednesday? Do you want to grab coffee?" If this person does not have your contact information, you can also say something like, "Why don't I give you my e-mail so we can make plans sometime?"[6]
    • Keep in mind you should only use this tactic if you intend to keep your plans. If you say you'd be interested in getting coffee sometime, but never contact that person again, this can come off as rude.

Method 2
Backing Away Indirectly

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    Use a common excuse. One of the easiest ways to end a conversation tactfully is to use a common excuse. Say that you need to run to the bathroom, grab another drink, or are running late for a commitment. This will allow you to leave the conversation without making the speaker feel like you're bored with it.
    • You can use different excuses depending on the conversation. If you ran into someone at the store, try something like, "Well, I've gotta get home and make dinner. Nice talking to you." At work, you can say something like, "Anyway, I have to work on this presentation."[7]
    • At a bar, try something like, "I need to go meet up with my other friends" or "I'm going to grab another drink." At a networking event, you can say something like, "Anyway, I met a guy earlier who wanted to chat with me as well, so I should get going."[8]
    • In most situations, you can say you need to run to the bathroom as an excuse. This usually provides you with a graceful exit.
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    Pull another person into the conversation. At networking and work-related events especially, you can always pull another person into the conversation. Offer to introduce the other person to someone else. You can also bring them along if you get pulled into another conversation.[9]
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    Convey the conversation is over using body language. Oftentimes, non-verbal cues can be used to end a conversation without feeling rude. You can indicate with your body that the conversation has ended. This may help the speaker get the hint without you spelling it out directly.
    • If you've been sitting down, try standing up. This can indicate you have somewhere to go. You can also move towards the door.[10]
    • Keep your responses short and quick. Try something like, "Yeah, yeah" or simply smiling and nodding.[11]
    • Check your phone or watch to indicate your time is running short and you need to get going.[12]
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    Use a prop to end the conversation. You can also make use of a prop to end a conversation tactfully. If you have your phone or laptop out, pretend you need to return an e-mail. If you have a book or magazine you're reading, try to gently get back to your reading. This conveys that you're busy and do not have time to talk.[13]

Method 3
Helping Someone Get to the Point

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    Use active listening. Sometimes, people go on and on in conversations because they genuinely struggle with self-expression. If this is the case, try to listen actively. This can promote mutual understanding, allowing the speaker to figure out his or her words.
    • Simply listen to what the speaker is saying, using non-verbal cues like smiling and nodding to show you are paying attention.[14]
    • When the speaker completes a thought, try to reiterate what was said. Say something like, "So, I'm hearing you're stressed about the work deadline." This gives the speaker a chance to clarify if you missed anything.[15]
    • Active listening can allow the speaker to feel heard early on, allowing the conversation to end gracefully on its own.
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    Summarize what you think the speaker's trying to express. If someone has been going on for awhile without pause, try to insert yourself in the conversation to help them reach their point. Gently say something, "So, I feel like I'm hearing..." and then offer an interpretation. This may help the speaker clarify what he or she is trying to convey.[16]
    • The speaker may resist if you try to interrupt him or her. He or she may say something like, "No, wait. I wasn't finished." You can politely say, "Oh, sorry. I just want to clarify something to make sure I understand."[17]
    • By helping the speaker clarify, you may be able to push the conversation to its conclusion early on. This will allow you to exit the conversation.
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    End the conversation if it gets too long. While you may want to help someone who's struggling to express him or herself, you're not doing that person a favor by listening past a point that's reasonable. People learn to better communicate based on social cues and interactions. If a conversation has been going on for too long, it's okay to politely end things. You can use one of the tactics above to gracefully step out of the conversation.[18]

Article Info

Categories: Conversation Skills