A Guide to Ending Conversations Strategically

December 21, 2022

People holding conversation bubbles

Every so often, we might encounter people who continuously talk without allowing the other person any input. If you encounter this during a busy workday where you’re struggling to meet your work quota, dealing with this can be mentally exhausting and time-consuming.

We need to find creative new ways to ensure that we don’t end up being locked-in conversations for longer than we can afford.

How to End a Conversation

Of course, the question is not simply how to end a conversation but rather how to do so politely and without having to hurt anybody’s feelings. Especially important in professional situations — nobody wants to jeopardize their opportunities by stopping a conversation. The art of concise communication can be an effective and professional tool to enlist.

Set a Time Limit from the Get-go

Something that can be extremely helpful is to be clear about how long you can afford for the meeting from the beginning. You can do this politely by saying, “I wanted to make you aware I’m on a strict schedule today. My next meeting is in 30 minutes. Would you like to get us started?” It establishes boundaries for you and your time, but it shows that you are communicating with them about why it’s important to you to get down to business. By offering to let them take the lead, you show you still respect the time and attention you give them in this meeting. You are cutting out unnecessary and unclear assumptions about the intent of cutting a meeting off and set intentions for both parties.

colorful conversation bubbles

Intercept and Take Control

If the other person is taking the conversation off its path and taking it down irrelevant alleyways, try to find a moment to intercept and take over. Saying, “I just wanted to bring your attention back to . . .” or “Considering the time, I think it might be a good idea to discuss . . .” statements such as these reaffirm your boundaries and keep lines of communication clear and focused. It can also be helpful to signal to the other meeting participants when the meeting is nearing the end of its allotted time. Usually, whoever is talking will take it as a cue or realize that they’ve been going off track.

Make the Most Out of Gestures

While online meetings don’t offer much room for non-verbal or body language communication, there are still some things that you can do. If you feel it would be inappropriate to cut in midway through the person’s monologue, you might consider using the icons to signal that you’ve got something to say silently. You can also gesture with your actual hands, perhaps gesturing a “T” shape to signal your concern about the time.

End by Planning a Follow-up

When you need to leave and the person you’re speaking with shows no signs of stopping talking, it can be helpful to end by planning a follow-up. Actively listening and making sure the other person feels heard is paramount to building solid professional relationships. You might consider ending by letting the person know that you value what they’re saying and would like to follow up later.

Bottom Line

We encounter highly extroverted people who love to talk from time to time. Learning how to end conversations tactfully is essential to maintaining healthy business relationships. Remaining clear on our purpose and boundaries allows communication to stay clear, effective, and satisfying for all involved.

Last modified: December 12, 2022

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