Ending conversations can be tricky. We often assume we’ll hurt someone’s feelings if we leave too soon, so we linger on well past the discussion’s natural conclusion.
Mike Bechtle, PhD, is a senior training consultant with a time- and productivity-management firm, and he teaches his business clients how to artfully exit an exchange. In Confident Conversation: How to Communicate Successfully in Any Situation, he offers the following tips:
- Know your purpose. When you know beforehand what you hope to achieve in a conversation, it’s easier to know when it’s finished. This is actually less calculating than it sounds and applies to more than just business interactions. Maybe your goal was to meet someone new, establish connection with someone dear to your partner, or find out about a friend’s recent travels. Notice when the mission is accomplished, and feel free to wrap it up.
- Use group dynamics. Social functions provide their own natural exits, Bechtle notes. When you’re in a small group and one or two people join the discussion, this is a natural time to slip away.
- Be honest. Bechtle recommends you don’t over-explain or apologize for ending a conversation. Just review and comment on the most interesting points you discussed, and move on. You’ll part on a positive note of connection.
- End strong. Whether you’ve been chatting for a minute or an hour, when you part, make eye contact, shake hands or touch the person’s arm. If it’s appropriate, Bechtle suggests telling someone what you enjoyed or learned from your interaction and thanking him or her for talking. These gestures reinforce connection and leave both parties feeling good.
This was excerpted from “The Art of Conversation” which was published in the July/August 2012 issue of Experience Life magazine.