Breaking Out

As a corollary to yesterday’s question on breaking into conversations, today’s question comes from Claire R. who asked,

Do you have any tips for politely bringing a networking conversation to a natural close?

Oh… this one is a toughy! I have good news… and less good news.  First thing’s first…

The Good News.  When you are at a networking event, it is fair game to want to visit with more than one person or group of people.  Additionally, it is possible and appropriate for you to learn how to end a conversation without offending the person you are talking with.

The Less Good News.  It ain’t easy!  It almost always feels a little awkward or uncomfortable to tell someone you are moving on – we simply don’t like hurting people’s feelings!  Here are my top three suggestions for moving on:

  1. It’s been a pleasure. The best, most honorable, most honest way to end a conversation is to simply say, “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you.  There are a few other people I’d like to say hello to before the event ends.  Hope to see you again soon.”  Then, move on.
  2. I’m going to refill my beverage. Maybe a little less honorable, but still effective, is the line about going to get another drink, or going to get food, or going to the restroom, or going to make a call… you get the idea.  You might even offer up, “May I get you another drink while I’m at the bar?”  Usually, the person will decline, and you can take your leave.  Sometimes, he/she will say, “yes.”  In that case, get them another club soda, deliver it, but with body language, indicate that you are not staying, thank them for the conversation and walk away.  This can work even if he/she comes with you to the bar!
  3. Allow me to introduce… A third approach to exiting the conversation exists, however, it is my least favorite and even feels a little grimy to me.  I call it “the hand off.” It’s where you spot someone you know, pull them into the conversation, and leave him/her to talk with the person you were originally visiting with!  Essentially, you are passing along the person you were talking with to an unsuspecting colleague or friend… who may not consider you a friend for long if you abandon them with someone with whom they have nothing in common!  I caution you to use this approach judiciously and with a degree of empathy you would want them to have for you in a similar situation.

How do you effectively end conversations?  Please share your advice with us all to make this slightly difficult scenario a little easier for everyone.

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