When to Exit a Conversation and
How to Do it Gracefully

Exit a Conversation

There are many reasons to exit a conversation but all of them are because you need to place your focus – or your physical presence – somewhere else.  There are situations that allow you to walk away and easily leave a positive impression, and other situations that make this far more difficult than it should be.

However, the most important element to remember when you need to exit a conversation is that you do it as kindly as possible.  But your level of kindness will also depend greatly on the etiquette of the other person or people involved.

When You Should Leave

Have you ever looked back on a conversation or a meeting and thought, “Why did I stick around and talk to that person?” or “Wow, that was really a waste of my time.”  Your reflections on those situations should be your barometer for when to walk away in future conversations.

You may wish you had left a conversation when you felt . . .

  • There was no point to it.
  • The person made you uncomfortable.
  • You couldn’t emotionally handle it in that moment.
  • You literally should have been somewhere else.
  • You weren’t safe speaking to that person.

Deciding to Stay or Go

If you’re ever on the fence about whether you should start or continue a conversation with someone there is one question you can ask yourself that may make your decision an easy one: Will having this conversation be helpful for me?

There are many ways to approach finding an answer to this question, but it comes down to what you feel in that moment.  Do you have an agenda or obligation to fulfill by speaking with this person?  Does the person have information that you need or might find helpful?  Will having this conversation make you feel better about yourself?

The decision to continue a conversation is always yours. Unless the other person decides to end it first. Then the decision is made for you.

Exit a Conversation Gracefully

While the decision to stay in conversation rests with you, leaving it involves the feelings of the person or people with whom you are speaking.  A graceful exit, one that leaves all parties feeling positive about the interaction, is always best.

Your graceful exit will typically have:

  • An apology for leaving so soon, or quickly.
  • A reason for leaving.
  • A “thank you” for the conversation and, perhaps, the forgiveness for making an exit.

An example of the above exit strategy may look like this:

  • “Mike, I’m so sorry to cut you off, but I see our CFO heading down the hall and I need to give her a heads up about the meeting she’s going into. Thanks, I’ll circle back to you this afternoon.”
  • “Trudy, I really want to have this conversation with you, but I am just not ready to right now. Could we please talk about selling Dad’s home in the next month or so? I appreciate you understanding that I need more time.”
  • “Annie, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, but I promised myself that I would leave this event with at least five business cards. I’m going to need to mingle a bit more to make myself a successful networker. Why don’t we meet for coffee later this week? . . . Great! Thank you.”

The grace and kindness with which you are able to exit a conversation depends on how etiquette-ful the other party is.  Some people take immediate offense to being left during a conversation.  Others are more understanding.

Situations vary but it is important to understand that all you can do is your best.  Of course, if you feel threatened, a fast exit is necessary, kindness aside.  But when you can, leave on the most positive note you are allowed.  And if you promise future contact, keep your word.  Even if you aren’t the best conversationalist, people will know they can trust you.

You may also enjoy reading . . .