Do you love to engage in conversation for hours and hours? Or do you prefer quality versus quantity when it comes to conversation? Do you prefer to talk only with people you already know? Or are you happiest talking to complete strangers and getting to know new people? As someone who enjoys quality conversation—although I am happy to talk to both people I know and also enjoy getting to know strangers—I had to learn early how to exit out of conversations graciously. And if you are happy with unlimited quantity of conversation and enjoy talking with anyone who will listen, you may not think you’d benefit from these skills, but you also don’t want to be the conversationalist who sends people frantically Googling for this article! The reality is, most of us could work on improving our conversation skills as a gateway to improving our personal and professional relationships.
What Makes for Good Conversation
Ping-pong is the simplest way to explain how a good conversation should go. Questions and comments on what was just said should go back and forth like a ping-pong match. To genuinely make good conversation, you must also be curious about the other person and interested in what they have to say. When you meet someone new, have some ideas to spark conversation and get beyond small talk. One person should not monopolize the conversation, just as one person should not serve ping-pong ball after ping-pong ball with no chance of a return shot.
When it comes to wrapping up the conversation, the goal is to ensure you end it graciously and with the other person eager to talk to you next time. Whether you’re speaking to a coworker, potential client, or a new neighbor, or just trying to wrap up a phone call with a relative, these four tips are a game changer!
How to Graciously End a Conversation in Four Steps
A few lulls in a conversation are natural and shouldn’t make you feel like you’re boring or not holding up your end of the banter. But when awkward silences start becoming sentences of their own, it’s time to end the conversation in a way that leaves the other person still finding you as interesting as when the conversation began.
1. Summarize the discussion or restate something they said
Recounting part of the conversation shows you’ve been actively listening and you’re interested in what they said. It also uncovers any possible miscommunication that may need to be clarified. When appropriate, you’ll also want to thank the other person for any information or news they have shared with you. Everyone appreciates knowing their words have been helpful, so taking a moment to acknowledge this shows they have been able to impact you in a positive way.
Words to try: The conversation begins by talking about a great business book you recently read. Then the other person tells you about a book she just finished. Here’s how you might begin to wrap the conversation: “Jennifer, thanks for your recommendation! You made the book sound so informative that I’m going to read it.”
2. Acknowledge that you enjoyed your time together
We all wonder about the impression we make on others. When you acknowledge you’ve enjoyed talking with someone, they’ll know they made a good impression, they’ll appreciate your acknowledgment, and they should feel your sincerity.
Words to try: “It’s been a pleasure meeting you today. I’m so happy you came over and introduced yourself.”
3. State the next time you hope to connect
This offers more positive reinforcement that you enjoyed this person’s company and that you’re open to talking again. Note: When chatting with someone you doubt you’ll ever meet again (or pray you’ll never meet again), leave out this step!
Words to try: “I look forward to seeing you at the next monthly meeting. We’ll compare book notes!”
4. Smile, use their name, and shake hands (or give a head nod during COVID times) as you say good-bye
Using the other person’s name in conversation, especially when saying good-bye, shows you’ve been paying attention, you want to remember them, and you no longer consider them a stranger.
Words to try: “Good-bye, Jennifer. Have a great rest of your day!”
How to Graciously End a Conversation, In Conclusion
One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is to be genuinely interested in or curious about them. The above four-step formula will work to graciously end conversations while leaving the other person feeling good and eager to talk to you again. And if you promise any kind of followup, please ensure you do it. The positive impact this will create on the other person is huge!