How to End a Conversation and Preserve a Relationship

If you’ve been on a phone call that seems to have no ending, you’ll appreciate these tips for ending a conversation in any business setting.

How to End a Conversation and Preserve a Relationship

There are ways to politely move on.

You're on your way to a conference, meeting, or networking event where you hope to learn about prospective employers or find important business leads. You might be thinking about how to strike up a conversation with the new people you meet. But it's often even more difficult to know how to end a conversation, especially if it seems to be going on longer than usual. You might want to talk with someone across the room or find a seat before the presentation starts. But there you are, listening to another example of how vitamin D has completely changed someone's life.

Above all, no matter how you're connecting—and disconnecting—you want to be polite and professional. Aim to make people feel good about speaking with you, and hopefully they will remember you when you're looking for a new position or want to find out more about a new industry or company. Here are some effective ways to bring a conversation—whether it's in person, on the phone, or in writing—to a friendly end that will leave both parties feeling good about the exchange.

How to End an In-Person Conversation

There are lots of tried-and-true methods for a polite goodbye during a networking event, business get-together, or other in-person meeting. Here are a few of the most professional tactics you can use to gracefully disengage:

  • Introduce the person you're talking with to someone they might be interested in meeting. Then you can slip away having helped your conversation buddy meet someone new.
  • Say that there's someone across the room you've been meaning to speak with, and tell your conversation partner it was nice speaking with them.
  • Offer to exchange contact info by extending your business card, email, or LinkedIn profile or asking for theirs.
  • Leave to get a beverage and ask if your conversation partner wants something. Most of the time, they'll decline. If not, deliver the drink on your way to saying "hello" to someone else.
  • Make the other person feel good by saying, "It's been so great talking to you. I'm going to remember you."

How to End a Conversation at the Office

"Hi, how are you?" is often the most you have to say when passing someone in the hallway. But how do you end the conversation if you find yourself cornered by a coworker who really wants to tell you all about their weekend spent organizing their garage using the KonMari Method?

Having an urgent project to get back to or a meeting to attend is an easy out. You can also make a date to chat later by saying something like, "I'd love to hear more about your trip. Would you like to meet for coffee this afternoon? Feel free to put some time on my calendar." If you're in a conference room, head toward the door. If the conversation continues, open the door with a "you first" gesture.

How to End a Conversation on the Phone

Much like an in-person sign-off, ending a phone conversation because you have another meeting, call, or deadline is perfectly acceptable. First, make sure you've covered the purpose of the call, whether it be to set up a meeting or exchange some information. "I'll see you Tuesday at 2:00," or "I'll look forward to getting that report," ends the call with a plan of action. Saying something like, "It's been a pleasure talking with you," cues to the other person that the conversation is ending.

You can also set up the end of the conversation at the beginning of the call by stating when you expect the call to be over. This is a courtesy to the other participant as well. "I have a meeting at 1:30, so we'll need to wrap up around 1:15," or "how much time do you have to talk?" are great ways to give the call a hard stop time. If a call is getting too detailed, refer back to the time agreement you made at the beginning of the call. Since you have visual anonymity, you can always say your appointment has arrived or you have to get back to your project and suggest exchanging the specifics over email.

How to End a Conversation on a Video Call

It can be tricky to know how to end a conversation on a video call. It's like an in-person conversation, except that you have nowhere to go! Give these methods a shot:

  • Like with a phone call, you can set a time limit at the beginning of the call and signal the end by noting that you're out of time or by scheduling a new meeting to continue the conversation when you're both free.
  • You can try the "someone needs me" move by looking at the imaginary person at the door in front of you and holding up the index finger while mouthing, "I'll be right there."
  • A more genuine tactic is to signal your agenda is complete by reading the key points or action items from your meeting.
  • Try asking if the other person has any other questions. If they say "no," then it's an easy end. If they do, respond and then say, "I'm glad I could answer your questions," along with a goodbye.

How to End a Text Conversation

One of the best things to remember about how to end a conversation over text, Slack, Teams, or any other instant messaging platform is to avoid the temptation to get in the last word. Once you've both said, "Nice talking to you," or "Thanks," the conversation is over. Signal a sign-off by writing a message that wraps up the reason for the exchange, such as, "I'll have the list to you by 3:00 tomorrow." If typing your conversation is getting tedious or the issue is proving too complicated to solve over Slack, offer to meet in person or on a phone or video call.

How to End an Email Conversation

Email conversations can be tricky: Emails to networking contacts or coworkers are similar to texts but a bit more formal. If the email thread is getting too detailed and confusing, suggest taking the conversation to a phone or video call. And if the conversation has devolved into pleasantries and you have an upcoming deadline to meet, make sure your wording is definitive and final: "Well, it was so great to hear about your vacation to Niagara Falls. You sound rejuvenated. I'll definitely let you know if I ever need travel tips!"

Signoffs are also important in a business situation. "Thanks" is appropriate if your email contains a request. If it's a formal email, "Regards" is appropriate, as is "Sincerely." If your email is to a coworker or a friendly contact, try "Cheers" or "Best."

Make Your Last Words Count

Now that you've thought through how to end a conversation when you're ready to move on, it's time to strike up a new conversation about a topic you're a little more passionate about—your career. Complete your Monster profile so recruiters and employers can find you, introduce themselves, and start a dialogue about job opportunities you might be interested in. That's one way to put your new conversation skills to the test!