This is part four of four in a series for the ‘socially challenged’ called The Anatomy of a Conversation. It aims to shed light on what a ‘typical’ conversation with a stranger is like. Also check out the Introduction, Part Two: Opening, and Part Three: Threading.
So the conversation is flowing and this new stranger is starting to feel like an old friend, but be it your turn at the cashier or you just need to be somewhere, it’s time to say goodbye. Or maybe you and your conversation partner aren’t vibing at all, and you’d like to hurriedly put the dead-end dialogue out of its misery.
Even good conversationalists sometimes get hung up on what to do at this point (guilty). Fortunately, there are several ways of making a dignified exit that avoid offending the other person.
Ending on a compliment and a call to action: When there is a slight lull or a clear subject change is about to happen, interject with appreciation for the other person and the conversation as a whole. Then, bring everything full-circle by offering to follow up about something that was talked about (if you intend to do so). If the conversation had a clear goal in mind (that was met), rehashing that is another great way to close.
- “Hey it was great talking to you, but I have to head out…let’s touch base about that event soon.”
- “I’m glad we finally got to meet, John has spoken highly of you since you guys first met.”
Introducing someone else: Perfect for parties, introducing people to each other does more than just display ‘social proof’–it also presents the perfect opportunity to exit the interaction. Other people joining a circle of conversation is also a great time to slip away and will almost never be questioned.
- “Oh, have you met Ted? He just started homebrewing as well.” *introduce, wait for them to start chatting, step away*
Ideally, the person you are introducing is in close proximity to you–summoning someone from the opposite corner of the room just to walk away moments later could possibly raise your conversational partner’s eyebrow.
Change places: Also great for parties, outdoor festivals, and anywhere ‘stuff is going on’. The ‘invitation’ does not always need to be a formal one, either; stating you are going to change locations can often be enough of a prompt that the conversation needs to come to a close. And if the other person accepts the ‘invite’, that does not necessarily mean they are going to feel obligated to stick by your side and continue talking, especially in crowd settings.
- “Alright, I’m going to the bar to get another drink, good talking to you.”
- “I’m going to see what’s going on upstairs, I’ll see you around.”
Even if the other person is on a roll, there is no shame in simply saying “well, it was great talking to you but I have to go now.” Everyone has been on this end of a time-capped conversation, and offense is not going to be taken by the other party (if it is, that’s entirely their problem).
No matter the scenario, shaking hands or hugging goodbye (depending on your relationship with the person) allows both parties to gain ‘official’ closure. If it’s a business, friendship, or romantic prospect (and it hasn’t already been done), now is also the time to ask for contact info or a business card.
Following this final exchange, commit to what you said was going to happen and leave the area. Unless it is because other goodbyes are being extended, bidding adieu and then dawdling in the area can be seen as a rude and dishonest avoidance technique.
As with all of the other parts of conversations, however, creativity is your friend, and as long as your actions are underlined with confidence, the realm of what is ‘socially acceptable’ is often a lot wider than you might think.
Well, it’s been great writing this series, thanks for reading, and let’s do it again sometime.