How to Leave a Conversation

Leaving a conversation requires skill.
Leaving a conversation gracefully is a skills that can be learned. Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

People with social anxiety sometimes have trouble leaving conversations.

Some of the problems you might experience include

  • abruptly leaving due to high anxiety 
  • staying much longer than you want to because you don't know how to excuse yourself 
  • generally feeling anxious about the etiquette involved in leaving a conversation

Knowing how to leave a conversation can sometimes be just as important as knowing how to join one.

Some of the reasons you might want to leave a conversation could include

  • wanting to excuse yourself to talk with someone else
  • wanting to get away from someone who is rude
  • needing to use the bathroom or move on to some other task
  • wanting to gracefully end a conversation that is winding down anyway

There are also numerous settings in which you could find yourself in conversation including

  • work or school settings
  • parties
  • casual gatherings
  • chance meetings with acquaintances
  • telephone conversations

Below are steps to successfully leave a conversation.

How to Leave a Conversation

  1. First, distance yourself physically from the group or individual. Turn yourself partially away and begin to pull back while still listening to what is being said. Stand up if you have been sitting down and start to use shorter responses to what is being said.
  2. Wait for a break in the conversation and then give your reason for leaving. A trip to the bathroom or to get another drink are good excuses if you don't have another reason to leave.
  1. To more easily transition into leaving, you could first summarize what has just been said before you mention that you are leaving. For example, you could say "Sounds like you had an amazing trip! I'd like to see the photos soon. Unfortunately, I've got a deadline looming and need to get back to work."
  1. Turn and leave. Do not wait for anyone to give you permission and do not look back after you leave.

What to Say

Perhaps you've got a handle on the steps to end a conversation but still aren't sure what exactly to say. Below are some examples of what you might say to end a conversation.

"I've got to get going, but it's been nice talking."

"Well, I'll let you get back to your shopping. Take care!"

"Great chatting with you! I'm going to try and catch Dave before he heads home."

"Thanks for the chat. Talk soon" (on the phone)

"I am just going to excuse myself to use the restroom. Maybe we can chat later?"

Tips

  1. Do not feel bad about leaving a conversation. Someone has to do it eventually, and when done right there will be no hurt feelings.
  2. In a business setting, make concrete plans about when you will be in contact if appropriate and shake hands before you leave.
  3. If you want to leave because of what the other person is saying, consider taking charge. Ask questions that lead to other areas of conversation. If you are in a group, others may be relieved that someone has changed the topic.
  1. In general, it helps to have an idea of how long conversations usually last. While talking with a good friend could go on for hours, most conversations with people you don't know will last less than 10 minutes. Don't feel bad about moving on. 
  2. If you are really stuck in a one-on-one conversation, consider introducing that person to someone else in the hopes that they will hit it off.
  3. Sometimes it is okay to "ghost" or just leave a conversation quietly without saying anything. This works in a group setting with a large number of people.

Research on Social Anxiety and Conversation

In a 2015 study of the conversations of individuals with social anxiety, it was shown that deficits in joint action led to being less well liked. What does this mean?

In essence, people with social anxiety tend to contribute less to conversations, specifically by not sharing in the conversation when another person is telling a story.

Although you may find yourself itching to walk away from a social encounter, try to slow yourself down before making an exit. Be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. Ask questions, tell related stories about yourself, and find common ground with the other person.

Source:

Mein C, Fay N, Page AC. Deficits in joint action explain why socially anxious individuals are less well liked. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 2015;6(50):147-151. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2015.07.001

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