12 Ways to Gracefully Exit Conversations
Updated: Nov 7
By Patty Laushman
Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation just keeps going and going, and you can’t figure out how to end it? Or maybe it's clear that everyone is done talking, but there's an awkward silence no one seems to know how to break.
We've all been there, and if you're an autistic adult navigating social interactions with neurotypicals, these moments can be even more intense! But don't fret. In this blog post, I’ll talk about the subtle art of exiting conversations gracefully -- no matter what kind of tricky situations you find yourself in!
Let me show you some tips and tricks so that ending your conversations goes off without a hitch.
How to Know When to End a Conversation
As an autistic or otherwise neurodivergent person, you may have spent a fair amount of time learning how to start and continue conversations. You probably know all about conversation starters, asking follow-up questions, and how to keep conversations going.
But knowing when to end a conversation is also a valuable skill, and it is one that doesn't come naturally to many neurodivergent people.
It's important to take steps to end conversations in polite, respectful ways. It's not always easy, especially if you've enjoyed the time spent talking, but it can be done.
Generally speaking, the best indicators for ending a conversation are when you start to get bored or notice that the other person looks uninterested, something interrupts the flow of dialogue, someone in the conversation starts repeating things or runs out of topics to discuss, or either one of you needs a break.
Learning social cues and understanding body language can help make this process easier. With practice and patience, most people can master this essential communication skill.
12 Tips for Ending Conversations
Exiting conversations can be a tricky business, especially for people on the autism spectrum. We know that it’s important to end our conversations in a polite and respectful way, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with the right words.
To help make this process smoother, here are some ways to gracefully exit conversations.
1. Wait for a Good Opportunity to Leave
When exiting a conversation, timing is everything! As much as we’d like to leave when we feel ready, it’s best not to cut someone off mid-sentence or interrupt them when they’re speaking.
Instead, try listening carefully to what the other person is saying and wait for an appropriate time when you can politely interject. If you hear them pause or take a breath, that could be your perfect opportunity!
Example: “I think I should head off now. Thank you so much for talking with me!”
2. Exit the Conversation on a Positive Note
No one likes being left on a sour note, so when ending your conversation, be sure to do so with something positive. This could mean complimenting the other person on their ideas or simply expressing your appreciation for taking the time to chat with you.
Not only will this leave them feeling great about themselves, but it also shows them that you value their opinions and thoughts, which can really go a long way in building relationships!
Example: “This was really helpful. Thanks again for sharing your insights! Have a great day/night!”
3. Consider Asking One More Follow-Up Question
Asking thoughtful follow-up questions during conversations is one of the best ways to show interest in what someone has said and to build rapport between two people. It also gives you more time before having to break away from the conversation while still being polite and courteous.
Example: “That sounds fascinating. Do you have any advice on how I could get started?” Then you could say, "Thank you again for sharing this with me. I enjoyed our conversation! Have a great day/night!"
4. Express Gratitude
Don't forget to express gratitude for their time and attention before leaving the conversation.
Showing appreciation doesn't just demonstrate respect; it also lets people know that you value their presence and their contributions to your life, which is always a nice gesture!
Example: “Thanks so much for discussing this topic with me. I really appreciate your input here."
Another example: "I have to go now, but it was nice meeting you."
5. Look for Verbal and Nonverbal Cues That Someone is Interested (or Not Interested) in What You're Saying
Pay attention to the other person’s body language and verbal cues. If they seem unengaged, it could be a sign that they want the conversation to end.
Verbal cues such as asking questions and responding with relevant comments are sure signs that they are engaged in the conversation.
Nonverbal cues can also be an indication of interest. If the person is making eye contact, nodding, leaning toward you, smiling, mirroring your posture, and making an effort to maintain physical closeness, these all show that they probably want to hear more about what you have to say.
On the other hand, someone who is not interested may exhibit signs such as looking around or not responding verbally at all. If their body language is closed off, such as crossed arms or legs, or turning their torso, shoulders, or feet away from you, these may be clues that the conversation isn't going in the right direction or it’s time to end it.
Paying attention to these verbal and nonverbal cues can help you determine when the conversation is ready to come to a close.
6. Bring Up Future Plans or Make a Plan Together
End the conversation by making plans with the other person for the future, even if it’s just an informal plan like meeting up at another event down the line. This helps transition out of the current conversation while still leaving on good terms.
Example: “We should meet up for a hike sometime.”
7. Find Someone Else You Need to Chat With
Politely excuse yourself by saying something like, “I just realized I haven’t said hello to the host yet!” This gives you an easy way out of the conversation without hurting anyone’s feelings.
8. Excuse Yourself
This one is simple but effective. Just say something like, “It was nice talking with you, but I need to get going now,” and then walk away with confidence.
9. Tell "So-And-So" I Said Hi
If you and the person you are conversing with have a mutual acquaintance or friend, don't be afraid to leverage that to help you exit a conversation. Simply saying, "Tell so-and-so I said hello!" is a great way to end a conversation.
10. Give a Handshake
Handshakes are always a polite way of closing out conversations, so offer your hand when ending the discussion before moving on to your next social engagement.
This is a cue to the other person that you are ending the conversation. They will likely respond by shaking your hand and understand you are moving on.
11. Give Your Business Card (or Ask for One) if in a Professional Situation
Exchange business cards if applicable. This signals that even though your conversation has ended, there may still be room for collaboration in future projects if desired by either party involved.
12. Ask For an Introduction to Someone Else
Lastly, if you are at an event and there is someone else there you would like to meet, and the person you are speaking with knows them, ask if they would mind introducing you!
This allows both of you to move onto different conversations while also providing an opportunity for networking between two parties who might not have otherwise had the chance to chat one-on-one!
Finalizing the Conversation
Ending a conversation can be tricky. The way in which a conversation ends can stay with the people involved. Therefore, having a smooth or polite end to a conversation can be important for making sure everyone remains on good terms.
Adding a farewell phrase, such as, “See you later,” or “It was nice talking with you,” can help make the ending pleasant. Using these various phrases and approaches will ensure that conversations end positively and that all parties remain on friendly terms.
What NOT to Do When Leaving a Conversation
We’ve all been there before—that moment in a conversation when neither person knows quite how to leave. Do you say goodbye? Do you wait for the other person to go first? Do you just get up and walk away? In the spirit of exiting a conversation as gracefully as possible, let’s dive into what NOT to do when leaving a conversation.
Leave Without Saying Goodbye
This is a classic rookie mistake. While it might seem like a way to make your exit more subtle, it can actually come off as rude and abrupt. Before you go, make sure to give the other party some kind of farewell such as, “It was great speaking with you!” or “I enjoyed our chat!” That way, they won’t be left wondering if they said something wrong.
Exiting in the Middle of a Topic
Unless you have an emergency that requires your attention, try to avoid leaving in the middle of a topic. It can feel disrespectful and make the other person feel unheard or unseen. If you need to leave midway through a topic, explain why: “I wish I could stay longer and discuss this further, but I have an appointment I need to get to.”
This will show that although you must leave, you still care about their opinion and you value their time and thoughts on the subject matter at hand.
Leave by Interrupting the Other Person
You would think this goes without saying but unfortunately, it does happen! When leaving a conversation, don't interrupt the other person mid-sentence or mid-thought -- it's simply rude. Wait for them to finish talking before making your exit so everyone feels respected and heard until the very end of your conversation together.
These conversation-ending strategies can be useful in a variety of settings and situations. The next time you find yourself wanting to end a conversation gracefully, try one (or all) of these tips. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro at smoothly exiting conversations in no time!