Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ending Conversation Gracefully

It is very important to close a conversation gracefully. As humans, we need two things when dealing with others—acknowledgment and closure. We need people to acknowledge our presence. That’s why you might not mind waiting when a clerk says, “I’ll be right with you,” or even just looks at you and nods briefly. The need to be acknowledged also explains why you are so annoyed when a receptionist says, “Please hold,” and cuts you off before you can say anything. By the same token, it is annoying when people just drift away after a conversation without some acknowledgment that a conversation has occurred. When you feel a conversation has run its course or you have to move along, wait for a break in the conversation and then say something like “Well, I’ve got to say hello to our host (or George or my aunt, for example).” “That food looks delicious. Think I’ll have some. Excuse me.” “I’m going over to the bar for a refill.” (Don’t try this one while holding a full glass.)
Then say something like “It was good talking with you. I enjoyed learning about Ireland.” If others at a party interrupt and you cannot end the conversation properly, make some sort of parting gesture, for example, brief eye contact and a wave. Giving a talk and holding a conversation have a lot in common. Both work better if you are relaxed and natural. In a way both put you “on stage.” If you try to put on a show or if you are not entirely sincere, your listeners will pick up on it. So don’t say things you don’t believe, even something as trivial as complimenting someone on her hat or dress or telling someone that he looks terrific when you both know he doesn’t.

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