15 Phrases to Politely End a Conversation, According to Psychologists
15 Phrases to Politely End a Conversation, According to Psychologists
Everyone knows this scene all too well. You’re standing and talking to someone, but you need to go. Or your attention span has waned. Or you’re exhausted. Or the chat has become downright awkward for a variety of reasons. You don’t want to just cut them off. And you can’t find the words to finally put an end to the conversation.
Luckily, there are ways to go about it that are not only polite but will also make the person feel valued.
“Many people feel anxious about ending a conversation and sometimes will avoid starting a conversation for fear they won’t be able to make a graceful exit,” says Dr. Charlynn Ruan Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Thrive Psychology Group. “We also may struggle to end a conversation with someone we know well and who we know lacks boundaries in either the subjects they bring up in the conversation or who monologues in a way that a natural stopping point is hard to find.”
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge simply says that in our buzzing, chatty world, figuring out how to hit the “off” button on a conversation is just as essential as knowing how to hit “play.”
“There are times when, for our sanity or schedule, we need to wrap up the chat and politely and tactfully exit the conversation,” she explains.
If you don’t want to cut someone off at the knees mid-sentence and want to end the conversation on a polite, thoughtful note, there are some key phrases you can try.
Why Is It Important to Be Polite When Ending a Conversation?
Essentially, a polite phrase will replace any words that may come off as rude to the other person. Think of it as a “graceful exit.” And these boundary-setting phrases can also help you talk with people without fear of scrambling to find a way to end it.
“A graceful exit ensures we have the confidence to take some conversational risks and we might be surprised at the unexpected and fulfilling conversations we have with a wider range of people,” Dr. Ruan notes.
She even thinks of these conversation-ending phrases as “a gift we give the other person.”
“They may also be anxious about ending a conversation and then you can end up in one of those painful social situations where both people want to move on, but neither can make it happen, so you make increasingly awkward small talk for far too long,” Dr. Ruan says. “Or if you are with someone who is a marathon talker, you will start to dread conversations with them and avoid them. Which, ultimately, hurts the relationship.”
And then there’s the fact that we all have busy schedules, and as much as you might wish you could sit and gab away the afternoon with a friend, you need to move on to your next commitment. Or perhaps the talk has just lost its luster.
“We’re all juggling a million things, and sometimes we need to slide out of a chat to keep up with our busy lives or bow out of a yawn-inducing conversation. That is perfectly okay, as long as someone does so in a thoughtful manner,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge says.
Maybe you’re feeling drained from a particularly tough conversation.
“Deep or intense discussions can make you feel emotionally spent, so setting boundaries that protect you from ‘the drama’ is a healthy way to protect yourself from energy vampires,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge says. “Conversations may take a wrong turn into offensive or inappropriate territory, so shutting down the conversation may be necessary, especially when things get heated.”
Polite phrases can end a chat with grace showing both respect and empathy to the other person. As Dr. Capanna-Hodge points out, “Being polite not only preserves relationships but also shows you value the other person’s feelings. Being abrupt or rude when exiting a chat is a fast track to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.”
How To End a Conversation: 15 Polite Phrases, According to Psychologists
- “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to talk long, but I’ve loved our chat.”
Dr. Ruan says that for a phone conversation with a marathon-talking relative, you can start the conversation with: “Hi! I only have 15 minutes between appointments, but I was thinking of you so I wanted to give you a call even though I can’t talk long.” The person feels special, and at the 15-minute mark, you can decide whether you want to go longer or end there. When you’re ready to wrap up, you can say, “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to talk long, but I’ve loved our chat.”
- “I need to head out, but let’s catch up soon.”
Dr. Capanna-Hodge says that this phrase is simple, effective, and gets the job done in any situation. Think of it as your go-to phrase for a wide variety of conversations.
- “I want to talk about this with you, but I’m exhausted.”
Let’s say that your partner or someone else who’s close to you wants to have a long, in-depth conversation, but you just don’t have the emotional bandwidth at the moment. Tell them that you’d like to schedule another time to give them your full attention. According to Dr. Ruan, you can then say something like, “I want to talk about this with you, but I’m exhausted, and my brain is just not computing at the moment. I have time tomorrow morning before breakfast, can we talk then?”
- “I’d love to chat more, but I’ve got to run to my next thing.”
“This line shows you appreciate their insights but are on a tight schedule,” says Dr. Capanna-Hodge.
- “I’ve loved our chat, but I should let you get back to your day.”
If you’re nervous to end the conversation by centering on yourself, simply put the focus back on their time, Dr. Capanna-Hodge says. This shows your respect for them.
- “Can we save this for later? I don’t think I can do it justice right now.”
One of the worst things you can do to end a conversation is to reveal your total disinterest in what someone is saying, and maybe that disinterest is because you need time to mull it over. Instead, say the above phrase, which, according to Dr. Capanna-Hodge, will show your interest but signals your need for preparation.
- “I have to get going now, but it was great to meet with you and chat.”
This is a great phrase to turn to when you’ve met someone new.
Dr. Ruan says, “If you start a spontaneous conversation at a party or on the sidewalk with a stranger and don’t get a chance to set up your exit at the beginning, then you may need to make a more abrupt exit. First, signal with your body language, like leaning forward or standing up. Then say something direct like, ‘I have to get going now but it was great to meet with you and chat.’ And if you feel like you want to make a more personal ending, reference something like, ‘I hope everything goes well with XYZ.’ Or, ‘Thanks for telling me about XYZ, I’ll check it out.’”
- “Always a joy chatting with you, but I’ve got to dash.”
Nice and to the point! Dr. Capanna-Hodge says that this phrase leaves a good impression and ends the conversation on a high note.
- “I appreciate your thoughts, but I need to get to a meeting, pick up the kids, etc.”
Tell the truth about where you need to head next with this phrase that keeps things positive while signaling the end, as Dr. Capanna-Hodge shares.
- “This topic’s given me food for thought. Let’s continue when I’ve had time to chew on it.”
Is your brain on overload by a heavy conversation? Dr. Capanna-Hodge says that this phrase is ideal for “weighty subjects that need digestion time.” This will show that you care about the topic as well.
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