The Art of Exiting a Conversation: How to End Conversations Gracefully

Check out the full Building Rapport: Communication Skills to Surpass Small Talk course here:

Ending a conversation can make all the difference between a healthy friendship and a sense of neediness; between a good date and an a date that ended badly. Your last impression with someone is the most memorable – the Recency Bias means that how you end a conversation is what you’ll be most remembered for. In this video, we explore how to close interactions gracefully and honestly, so that you don’t stay too long but also don’t offend someone with your desire to leave. You can end conversations without people pleasing and making up excuses.

Full transcript

The following video is an excerpt from my course building rapport, how to go beyond small talk with advanced communication skills. If you’re interested in learning more about the course, or seeing the full version of this video, check out the link in the description or comments below.

We’ve talked a lot about building rapport and building conversation skills. Now we’re going to talk about how to end things. This videos about the art of ending a conversation gracefully. It can seem very hard in certain cultures especially to end things without seeming to be so called rude. But this fear must be faced and it must be overcome, you must take the risk of being seen as rude. Because if you stay in a conversation longer than you really want to, you’re now being fake. And you now risk undoing some of the good work that had happened before.

You know, part of a healthy conversation is knowing when to cut it off this time, so that it doesn’t get burned out. And if you make them end it out of sheer necessity because you won’t, they’re going to resent you. And that’s going to be their final memory of talking to you.

Understand that this isn’t necessarily a rejection, we’ll talk about rejection in the next one. This is just about a closure of this session, right, this moment in time of our ongoing relationship is coming to an end. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, there’s nothing bad about doing that. It’s actually very healthy. Food can taste great, but you still get full. It can be a favorite song to listen to but at some point you need silence. You’ve got to get over the idea that there’s something wrong with having had enough socializing. Nobody, not even the most extroverted extrovert wants endless socializing. And if you’re introverted, or you’re on the autistic spectrum, or something like that, you’re going to want even less than that. So there’s nothing wrong with saying, This is enough for me right now.

It’s actually a way of preserving your enjoyment of socializing. If you end it before you’ve had too much, you’ll be more enthusiastic about having more later, you’ll enjoy it more. If you get into a conversation worrying about when it’s going to end, it’s going to kill the conversation for you. So if you know that you’re good at ending things, and that you end them before you’ve had too much, You don’t need to worry or lose focus during the conversation.

So like being full of food, you got to understand this is not an insult to the person you’re talking to, you’re not saying I’ve had enough of you forever, you’re saying I’ve had enough of socializing right now. And that’s not personal. Now, if they take it personally, well, that’s on their side of the fence. That’s their problem, they’re going to have to deal with it. But you can’t manage that problem for them.

Now, you might be thinking that I’m going on and on about the mindset about this. And that’s because the practical is actually very simple. You just be directly honest about wanting things to end. That’s it. There isn’t some magic way to end a conversation that gets all the best possible outcomes and so on. Or at least not one that’s better than just saying I’ve had enough right now.

You got to think long term think about becoming known as the person who just ends things when they’ve had enough. This is how you get past being judged as rude or inappropriate culturally, or whatever it is, eventually they’re like, when Dan wants to leave, he just leaves.

I had a friend when I was growing up a guy named Nick, and he was the only person to do this. We would be mid conversation and he’d just be like, right, I’ve had enough of you guys, I’m out. And he would just leave. And we knew him like that. He was just the guy who did that. So after he did it a few times, he was fully accepted as the guy who did that even though nobody else did this, even though on paper it was socially unacceptable. Nick got a pass because he always did that. And we’d always see him again later. So we knew it wasn’t personal. We knew it has nothing to do with us. It’s just when he’s had enough, he goes.

If you become known as that person, then the judgments and the negative reactions ease up and you get a pass, you get allowed to do something that’s socially inappropriate. The key is to be direct, be concise, be unapologetic, and make it about you.

What I mean by that is be direct, there’s no doubt about what you’re saying. There’s no doubt that you want to leave. You’re not using any kinds of excuses or workarounds that could be argued against. There’s nothing like I’m being forced out of here. Say No, I don’t want to be here. There’s nothing to argue against here.

Being concise is using the least amount of words possible so that you’re not over explaining yourself, justifying and getting defensive, trying to manage other people’s emotions, giving them too much time to think about this. In fact, when you over explain yourself and justify yourself, the person will start to suspect that there’s something they should be taking personally. When you’re clean and concise it’s clearly not about them. You can feel it if I’m trying to manage you, trying to manage your reaction. “Look, I gotta go, I’m so sorry. But you know, I’ve got this thing” the way you explain this to me is suspicious. Do you think I’m weak? Or fragile? Are you hiding something? Is this really about me? Right? But when a person is just like, right, I’ve had enough I gotta go. I’ll see you next time. You don’t really have much to work with. You don’t have something you can turn into something it’s not and catastrophize.

Being unapologetic is how you start setting the frame that this is okay to do. If you’re like, Sorry guys, I’m going to shoot off now, what you’re saying is, it’s not okay for me to leave right now. When you’re like, Alright guys, I’ve had enough. I’ll see you next time, all right. There’s no sense that you’re doing anything wrong, they will feel that you’re doing something right. They’ll assume, Hey, if he’s like this about it, that must be the right thing to do. And that kind of skeptical questioning, suspicious paranoia won’t come over them.

When I say make it about you, you speak about why you want to leave for your own sake, as opposed to blaming it on anyone else or anything else. That being said, We’ll talk in the next video about how to reject a person because they’re not right for you, and it is about them. But when you make it about you, it’s about saying, like, I’m tired, I’ve had enough, I can’t handle any more music, whatever it is, it’s about you. I find that people generally accept whatever it is you’re going to do if you show that it’s your own preferences, tendencies, personality traits that are causing this and you don’t place the blame on anyone else.

So let’s say everybody’s talking all night long, and you’re gonna leave even though they clearly want to keep talking. You can say, Look, I’ve reached the limit of talking that I can handle, you guys carry on without me. Right? You don’t say, You guys talk too much. Because that’s not actually true. They seem to be fine with the level of talking, you’re the one that can’t handle this much talking. So you speak about it like that. Say are the music’s too loud here. You say, I’ve had my full of music for today, I can’t handle anymore, I’m over stimulated. Or like, That’s about as much dancing as I can handle on one night, rather than like, You guys are dancing too much. Right? So you make it about yourself, it’s far less likely to be taken personally. And it’s actually more accurate.

And you need to just slowly wean yourself off excuses, right? Stop pretending that you got to get up early for work tomorrow. You might have to get up early for work tomorrow but that’s not why you’re leaving. If this was an awesome time, you would stay. You wouldn’t care about work. So don’t make it about work. Don’t make it about some excuse about how you’re tired or sick or whatever. If it’s not true.

In fact, just don’t make excuses. You wanting to leave is enough information. They don’t need to know why. You say, I’ve had enough, I’m going now, and if they ask why, you say, Because I don’t feel I being here anymore. I’ll catch you tomorrow. But don’t explain yourself.

You don’t need to give them something that they’ll accept. If they can’t accept you drawing a boundary about when you’ve had enough of something, then you need to seriously question about whether or not you should be keeping these people in your life, which is something we’ll cover more in the next video. But look, nobody believes your excuses anyway. You’ll say sorry, I can’t make it to the party. You know, my little sister got sick, and I’m going to drive my brother to the airport. Everyone knows you’re lying. Now they just hate you because you’re lying about it.

But if you’re saying something like, Look, I just cannot do a party tonight, I’m not up to it. Maybe I’ll see you next week. At least then when you say that you like them, they’ll believe you because you show when you don’t. When you say you’re interested in something, they’ll believe that you’re not pretending because they know that you’d say so if you weren’t interested.

So this is about building that kind of long term rapport where a person can trust what you’re saying. If you excuse yourself from events and in conversations with weak excuses that they can see right through, then when you’re actually being positive towards them, they’re going to doubt you.

So some classic lines, something like

  • Alright, that’s enough socializing for me today. I’ll see you guys next time.
  • All right, guys, I’m getting a bit tired. So let’s wrap this up.
  • You know, I love to end things on a high note. And this is going well. So let’s cut it off here so that I end with a good memory.

And when it comes to events of many people, like parties or concerts or anything like that, I really prefer what’s called the Irish goodbye. Just leave.

I saw a study recently, I’d have to dig up the citation, where people save like hundreds of hours in their lifetime when they don’t say goodbye at parties. Because when you add up all the minutes of dragging it out and making sure you’ve given everyone the right amount of goodbye that matches their status level and so on, you just waste days and days of your life doing this. And nobody would notice if you just walked out anyway. And even if they did notice, they’re not going to hold it against you. So I generally just back out like a secret agent when I’m done at as major social event. Because that going around saying goodbye to everyone thing – that’s just people pleasing.

And it’s also something kind of disingenuous, it’s like, I’m never gonna see them again. Why do I need to say goodbye? It’s like going silent in a conversation. You’re going to speak again later, you wouldn’t say like, Okay, I’m gonna go quiet for now. Sorry, I’ll come back later. Just be silent. Right? It’s the same thing leaving an event. You can just go. I’m done now, so I’m out. I don’t need to explain this to anyone. They’ll survive without me. There’s plenty of other people here.

It’s really only in a one to one environment that you need to let someone know you’re going, so your date doesn’t come back from the toilet to an empty table.

If you liked what you saw on this video and you want more support to develop your social skills, get in touch and we’ll talk about coaching

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