How to Avoid Rude
Conversation Endings

Work Friends Conversing

During a recent etiquette seminar a few participants commented they would like to hear more information on ending conversations.  They each affirmed that “Sometimes it just feels rude when a conversation ends.”

Certain situations call for a need to end a conversation before both parties feel ready.  But how do you avoid having these abrupt endings come across as rude?

A Negative Perception

When you end a conversation leaving the person you are speaking with looking surprised, stuttering a goodbye, or displaying awkward body language, you’ve probably left a negative impression.  

However, that impression likely began well before you chose to leave.  Perhaps some or all of the following happened:

  • Your eyes kept drifting away from them.
  • You were clearly not listening due to your own agenda.
  • You forgot why you were in the conversation to begin with.
  • You demonstrated body language that told the person, “I’m out of here!”
  • You interrupted your conversation partner with your departure statement.

Although the negative impression you left was unintended, it happened because you appeared uninterested, or you were rushed and may have come across as abrasive.

It’s helpful to remember that a rude conversation ending is determined by your mindfulness of where you are, who you are with, and what your intentions are.

Make Them Feel Valued

Regardless of how short your conversation is, the most important thing is to demonstrate that you value the person in front of you!  The best way to do this is to make that individual the most important person in the room – because he is the person to whom you are speaking and listening.

Other ways you might make someone feel valued during a conversation are:

  • Meet that person with kind, smiling, friendly eyes.  This is an intentional action on your part. 
  • Face the other person as you express apology that you can’t visit more right then.  This is much kinder than saying the words over your shoulder as you walk away!
  • Let the person know that even with the short interaction, you enjoyed their presence.
  • Extend your hand for a “Let’s meet up later” agreement or whatever message you wish to leave.

Your conversation, however brief, will always remain a friendly exchange when someone feels they were valued during the time you spoke with them.

Side-stepping Rude Conversation Endings

Rudeness is relative and is determined by how you make someone feel.  If you make them feel they have been treated abruptly, as an inconvenience, or that you don’t care in some way, you will be labeled as rude in that person’s mind.

But when that person feels valued, regardless of the length of your conversation, a positive perception is created.  In addition to making someone feel valued as you speak to him, there are other steps you can take to avoid rude conversation endings.  

  • Know why you are at the event, talking to the person you are talking to.  Clarification of purpose will always keep you on-point in your conversations.  
  • When you realize you can’t visit long, a warning is easy to share. 
    “I apologize but I’ll need to excuse myself here, as I’m needed ….” 
    “I need to excuse myself in just a second but I have no intention of being inattentive to you.  I appreciate you speaking with me.”    
  • Actively listen for parting thoughts from the other person.  She may be giving you clues. 
    “Phillip, I’d like to finish this conversation some time.”  Your response, “I completely agree!”
  • Offering a sense of the future is a must.  Shake hands as you leave. 
    “Mr. Jackson, we’re so glad you’re here this evening.  Though I’m needing to make an exit shortly, I’ll be sure to welcome Mrs. Jackson.  I do hope you’ll attend our next event.” 
    “Sam, let’s get together sometime soon.  I’d like to hear more about the project you’ve only begun to tell me about.”  (Follow up on your word.)

Your etiquette-ful observance of what other people might be experiencing on the other side of you can be a part of your personal adventure.  Interactions are sometimes unpredictable, but are always an opportunity to practice mindful communication.

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