Have you attended a party where you were enjoying (or maybe not enjoying) a conversation with the people around you, but you needed to remove yourself to speak to someone else? How do we graciously extricate ourselves without seeming rude. Here are a few tips to help you exit a conversation with style.
1. You can use your body language to end a conversation. In the United States we have a typical “conversation range” between 18”-36”. To end the conversation with your body, begin stepping outside this “conversation range.” The other person will read your physical cues and know it is time to move on. Use this tip carefully, though. Pulling away can come across as rude. I much prefer to use my words with a few of the examples below.
2. One thing not to do with your body: do not start looking around. This sends the signal you are bored. Remember, your goal is to exit gracefully.
3. Hand off to a third party: This is probably my favorite thing to do, especially when I am the hostess. I love matching people so they can increase their social capital. The best way to do this is have a conversation with someone for a few minutes, then say, “I would love for you to meet Debbie. Her son will be attending the same high school as your son next year, and you will be a great help to each other.” Then, grab Debbie and put the two together. At this time, you graciously say, “I am going to let the two of you talk while I check on my other guests.”
1. When I end a conversation verbally, I let the other person know I enjoyed our time together. Examples of easy and polite exit lines might go like this:
a. “I enjoyed getting to know you. Please excuse me while I run to the powder room.”
b. “This was a very enlightening conversation, and I look forward to more. I need to catch my friend before she walks out the door.”
c. “This has been delightful. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and we get to see each other in the New Year.”
2. Offer something before you leave. This is important in business settings, but also a kind thing to do in social settings. I enjoy attending gatherings with the goal of trying to improve someone else’s day during my time at the event. This can occur in endless ways, but two examples might sound like this:
a. “I enjoyed our conversation about social skills. I am going to send you a copy of my favorite “go-to” book that I use for research. I think you will really enjoy the contents.” You have now improved their day by the promise of a gift (just make sure you follow through in a timely manner!).
b. “This has been a delightful conversation. Since I grew up with the CEO of the company where your son just applied for a job, I am going to give him a call on Monday so he can be on the lookout for your son’s resume.” You have politely ended the conversation but also extended a helping hand by your willingness to use some of your social capital to help her son.
3. Have sensory acuity. Knowing at what point in a conversation to exit is important. If the person you are speaking with is about to share something important, it is probably not the best time to walk away. There is an unspoken rule that the person who starts the conversation should be the one to exit the conversation. If you are attending an event, and someone approaches you to talk, that person should also initiate the exit. If they approach you, and then you exit, it can make them feel dejected. If the person that started the conversation does not know to exit, then you may employ some of the tips above to remove yourself.
Remember, the bottom line in all conversations: treat others as you want to be treated!
Together with you,