Gracefully wrapping up a two-person conversation can be awkward, especially if you’ve had some trouble doing so in the past. You may think it’s the other person’s fault that you’re stuck in a conversation. They are obtuse and completely missing that you’d like to wrap things up.

If you often find yourself stuck in conversations, there’s a possibility that you’re the one causing some confusion with social cues. Exiting a conversation gracefully is a three-step process that needs to be completed without interruption. [click to tweet] 

Grip, grin, and go.

  1. Grip: Start by shaking their hand
  2. Grin: Then with a smile say something nice (e.g. “It was great to see you here.” “I enjoyed meeting you.” “Pleasure speaking with you.”)
  3. Go: Then walk away.

All three steps have their purpose

  1. Grip – your handshake signals the conversation is coming to a close.
  2. Grin – smiling and saying something warm eases the awkwardness of walking away.
  3. Go – walking away disengages you from the conversation.

A common mistake
You shake their hand, say it was great to meet them, then, instead of walking away… you mention a thought or question that just popped into your head. You continued the conversation and interrupted your graceful exit. Now, when you try to employ this simple three-step strategy, you might find that your social cues are being completely ignored. Avoid this by not breaking the rhythm of these three steps.

Stay in control
Know when it’s time to move on and then move through these three steps with confidence. Your hands and feet need to be in sync. Don’t interrupt yourself to ask a question and you’ll find that you're more likely to get to and complete step 3 (Go). Think of something new to say? Don’t interrupt your exit, instead plan to circle back to chat with that person again later on or send a follow-up email.

In the comments
What do you find most difficult about gracefully exiting a conversation at a networking event?

Share what you find challenging about networking. Maybe your question will end up as the topic of a future blog post!

Robbie Samuels has been recognized as a networking expert by Inc. and Lifehacker, and profiled in “Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It” by Dorie Clark.  Check out “On the Schmooze” his new podcast.

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