Small Talk 3: Ending a Conversation

Sometimes it can feel awkward to end a conversation, even more so here in Minnesota where we have “the long Minnesota good-bye,” which drags it out further. However, you can certainly develop skills to make ending conversations easier and smoother. There are many reasons for ending a conversation, including running out of time, needing to go somewhere else, running out of things to say, or the other person seems bored or distracted. When you feel like it’s time to end the conversation, try these suggestions:

  1. wait until a pause in the conversation or the other person is finished speaking
  2. use a nonverbal gesture like standing up, moving toward the door, looking at your watch or picking up your coat or glancing away
  3. do a verbal summary of what you’ve been talking about, like, “I’m glad your sister is feeling better,” or “yeah, I’m tired of watching the Vikings lose, too”
  4. make a closing statement, like, “Well, I have to get going” or “Anyway, got to get back to work” or “Well, it’s been fun talking,” Make sure they understand the conversation is ending, like they wind up what they were saying or say “Ok, see you later.” If they don’t, be more direct and say something like, “It’s been fun talking, but I have to go now.”
  5. say “good-bye” or “see you soon” and start walking away
  6. sometimes people will miss these cues or will do the long Minnesota good-bye and keep talking and even follow you while still talking—at this point, make sure to keep walking, somewhat slowly, end eye contact with them, and don’t start any new topics. Eventually they’ll realize the conversation is over.

Other helpful resources for small talk skills are:

http://www.succeedsocially.com/endconversations

http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/work-life-etiquette/manners/10-big-rules-small-talk

http://www.ou.edu/class/bc2813/ConversationTips/MasteringSmallTalk.htm

a productive meeting