Remember the last time you were in a conversation that didn’t end well?
Maybe neither of you had anything left to say. Or the conversation dragged too long and you started counting the times she mentioned her cat?
Perhaps it went well, but Jimmy Fallon would be on in half an hour and you didn’t know how to leave without seeming rude?
So, how to end a conversation positively? It seems simple (and it is), but if you do it well, you increase the chance for future meetings and leave the other person feeling listened to.
Also, getting better at ending conversations can help you start them in the first place.
First, if you find yourself often running out of things to say, be sure to check out my post on how to keep a conversation going.
When to End a Conversation
Some places in conversation are better for ending chats than others. This is usually during the natural pauses between topics once the conversation has run its course.
With practice, you can tell when the energy of a topic is dying down.
Let’s say you were discussing a movie and you both gave your opinions. There’s the back and forth about the director, special effects, acting and so on.
At some point, the enthusiasm (energy) for the topic dies down and that’s the moment to begin your exit.
How to End a Conversation
It’s good to start by making a “final” comment on what you were just talking about. It just sums up or caps off the subject.
In the movie example above, perhaps you say:
“That’s interesting! I never noticed that about The Labyrinth before. I’ll have to watch it again now.”
Then just follow this 3 step process:
1. Give a reason why you have to leave. It really is that simple. Even if the reason isn’t entirely true, it’s fine. It’s all part of the “dance” of conversation and social interaction.
“Well, look. I have to run because I’m meeting a friend in a bit…”
“Hey look, I need to get home, it’s getting late and tomorrow I have to…”
“Well I’m gonna go mingle around some so I’ll have to catch you a bit later…”
Or if those seem too abrupt for the situation, begin first by saying:
“Look, I’m so sorry, but I have to go because…”
“Y’know it really has been good talking to you, but…”
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re feeling these sound like you’re just trying to “get away,” then you’re thinking of them in the wrong “tone of voice.” In other words, say these with true sincerity and it won’t seem harsh.
2. Be Gracious. After giving a reason for leaving, express you enjoyed the conversation. This helps transition to leaving and ends things on a positive note.
“…it was really nice talking to you, though.”
“…it was really nice meeting you.”
“…I’m so glad we got to hang out for a bit.”
3. Restate one or two of the main points you talked about. This is the magic of ending a conversation well. Most people don’t do this, but it makes the other person feel you actually listened during your talk. This can make you stand out in their mind.
“Have a great time on your vacation; I’d love to see the pictures when you get back.”
“It was good talking with you about Science Fiction novels. Not everyone is into that…”
“Good luck with your new career move. I hope it works out like you want.”
Optional: Suggest a future meeting. This is the perfect time to suggest a future meet up if you truly enjoyed talking to the person. But be specific. Don’t just say, “let’s meet up sometime.”
Instead, say something like:
“I really did have fun talking; how about we get together for a coffee next week? I’ll give you a call.”
Of course this means you’ll need their phone number. So if they seem positive to the suggestion of meeting next week, go ahead and ask for it.
Knowing How to End a Conversation Positively Can Help You START Conversations
Knowing how to end a conversation positively gives you power. It gives you the power to control WHEN YOU LEAVE.
Personally, that helped when I was working at getting better socially. I knew if I started to feel anxious or like I was running out of stuff to say, I could make up a reason to leave. That way, things ended on a high note instead of awkwardly.
I could regroup then talk to the same person or group later. Just feeling that little bit extra control (in a situation as chaotic as conversation) gave me more courage. It can do the same for you.
When you’re alone, practice going through the different steps of how to end a conversation listed above. It may sound silly, but that’ll help burn it in your head and make the process smooth.
Then, next conversation you’re in, be the one to end the conversation so you can put the new skill into action.