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Hi and Goodbye: 4 Ways to End a Conversation

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| November 23, 2021

How to skillfully walk away from an in-person or digital conversation with anyone (friends, family, co-workers or complete strangers) on your terms.

Conversationalism is a science. Not only does it require a balance of active listening, showing nonverbal attentiveness, asking questions, injecting thoughts and avoiding small talk, it also requires conversationalists to be open-minded and absorb different perspectives for civil discourse.

When the balance is struck, you may leave a conversation feeling energized, inspired and ready to engage with the same person again. If not, you can run into situations that leave you feeling uncomfortable, disengaged and ready for an out.

Whether speaking with acquaintances and friends, co-workers, strangers or even your family members, there are instances during a conversation where: 

  • You’ll run out of things to say.
  • Another person is dominating the conversation and draining your energy.
  • You’re in a situation where civil discourse isn’t possible, and it’s best not to engage at all.

Maybe you know it’s time to wrap up a conversation, but you’re unsure how to end the conversation elegantly. You’re not alone. Here are some strategies for ending a conversation when it’s time to be done.


How to End a Conversation With Confidence

According to research by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), conversations almost always drag on too long, with participants claiming the average conversation should be about 50% shorter. And that ending a conversation is typically a coordination problem: Conversations almost never end when both conversants are ready.

Conversations are a slew of mini tasks (like those detailed in the intro—attentiveness, active listening, etc.), making ending a conversation one of the more difficult tasks required during a conversation. Here’s how to check the task off your list:


1. Bring Others Into the Conversation

Conversations are important. Communication with other people is one of the most humanizing things we can do. So, maybe the first step in making your exit isn't ending a conversation entirely but ending a chapter of the conversation by adding new characters into the story. 

Can another perspective revitalize the interaction (or diffuse a situation) depending on the context of your conversation? Adding someone else into the mix can inspire new perspectives and add new energy into a conversation. Or, at the very least, allows you and the other conversationalist an option to exit the situation more naturally as the dynamic of the conversation shifts.


2. Use Kindness as an Out

One way conversations can start to feel uncomfortable is when someone provides unsolicited advice. Adding insights to a conversation is one thing, but if the advice impacts your mental health—or makes you feel inadequate—it’s time to walk away. We often think of these types of conversations being prevalent during communication with family members and friends. “Thanks, Mom, I know I’m not getting any younger, and you want grandchildren.” But, it’s also common at work, the gym, while shopping—or really anywhere people “people.” 

Despite the emotions we might feel while receiving unwelcome advice, it can be a great setup for an exit from the conversation. Saying something like, “Thanks for the advice; that’s a great suggestion. I need to go, but I’ll definitely keep this in mind.” You’ll leave the other person basking in the glow of a compliment as you bid adieu.


3. Be Direct and Learn Your Boundaries

When we’re fully present, actively engaging in a conversation, we learn new experiences and develop characteristics like our ability to be emphatic. But when conversations aren’t fueling you, or are pushing the bounds of what you feel comfortable with, there is power in saying “enough.”

If you feel uncomfortable or don’t think civil discourse is possible during a conversation, simply say, “Thank you, and goodbye.”

However, having the strength to be direct also boils down to how well you are at setting boundaries. It can be difficult, especially for empaths or people pleasers to have direct dialogue. Yes, conflict can be scary. 

If directness is a challenge for you as you learn your boundaries, there are always default excuses you can use for support. For example, when speaking with co-workers, you can let them know you’re about to start a meeting and need to prepare for it. If you’re at a party, using the “I need to refresh my drink” line is always an ace. Or, if you’re lacking an excuse at the moment, there’s always the tried and true “I need to use the restroom.”


4. Set Up Your Exit With a Final Word

Setting up your exit with a quip, food for thought or final remark can be effective and a way to indicate you’re interested in chatting in the future. For example, if you sense the conversation is reaching its end, instead of prolonging the inevitable, add, "One last thing before I go..." or, “Before I head out, I wanted to say...” Or if you’re interested in continuing the conversation in the future, adding something like, “Next time we meet, remind me to tell you about…” or, “When we see each other next, let’s talk about…” to leave the door open.

The final thought is a subtle way of indicating you’ve enjoyed the conversation, you want to keep contributing and while your time today has come to a close, you look forward to keeping in touch in the future.

Conversations Can Be IRL, or Not

Ending conversations aren’t restricted to only in-person occasions. Conversations via text message or social media are also important to address, especially as research indicates that as far back as 2010, people already showed preference towards texting versus talking.


Texts and social media conversations can be pervasive, often without a clear exit from ongoing communication. If you’re like Pavlov's dog, checking your phone at every “ding,” setting quiet hours (especially when you have a particularly busy day or need a mental health break) is important.

Let your textees know, “Hey, I’m going to be tied up today, but have a good day. I look forward to talking later.” Or if you’re trying to unplug for the evening, something like, “I’m winding down for the night; talk to you tomorrow!”

Next time you’re engaging in a conversation and it’s starting to go stale, we challenge you to implement one of these four tactics for a strategic exit. And if you like this personal challenge, don’t forget to subscribe to The Doe’s blog newsletter and get more articles like these delivered straight to your inbox!


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