How To Say Goodbye

“I have to go.”

Why are those words so hard to say sometimes?

Occasionally I’m on the phone and have to get off for whatever reason. Sometimes I really need to go to sleep because I have work very early in the morning. Other times I have to do work right then- maybe I’m in the middle of packing for a trip or doing my taxes or getting ready to go out.

I’ve never gotten much better at cutting off long conversations gracefully, even though I’m in my 30’s. I still find it super difficult.

If I was talking to someone I didn’t really like, then it’d be easy to get off the phone with them. I’d wait for the quickest pause, and then interrupt with ‘I’m so sorry, I better go to sleep because I have to wake up at 6am tomorrow” or “Sorry, I’m going into a subway tunnel,” or whatever. But why would I be talking on the phone to someone I didn’t really like? Usually, I have the opposite problem- I’m talking with somebody that I really DO like, and I know I have to go, but I don’t really want to. However, I’m getting more and more anxious about the time. Then I can barely concentrate on a conversation I really like, because I’m distracted by when I need to end it, and I don’t really get to enjoy the end of the talk anyway. And then I’m late.

This happens to me in person too. Sometimes I know I have to be somewhere or do something, but I’m just having the best time hanging out with someone. Then it starts getting later and later and anxiety creeps in. I’m worried I’m going to be late somewhere and I get distracted and can’t enjoy myself as much.

I wish I was better at figuring out these situations. Not only am I fighting myself with my obligations versus fun friend time, but I’m also worried about hurting another person’s feelings by cutting them off in the middle of a great conversation.

Jane, my lovely co-blogger, is way better at finagling this than I am, so I ran the issue by her. Even though I’ve experienced her gracefully end conversations with me numerous times because she had to run, she told me that even she feels like she has major problems here and feels anxious about it.

I’m trying to recount how she, and other friends of mine, are able to end conversations so tactfully and without hurting my feelings. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Find the quickest pause and then start with something nice.

In order to end the conversation, start with telling the other person how much you’ve loved talking to them so far. For example: “This has been so great, …but I have to get home and pack or I’ll get no sleep. I’m so sorry!”

2. Start the conversation with an end in mind.

If you know you have to end at a certain point, preface with that. For example, “Just so you know, I can’t talk too long because I have to pack for my Tahiti trip tomorrow. I apologize!” (Darn those Tahiti trips.)

3. Make a new plan

You can always end with a raincheck. For example, “This was great. Sorry I have to run…maybe we can catch up again tomorrow? You around?”

That’s all I’ve got. I’m going to try implementing these strategies and see how I feel. What do you guys think? Are you good at ending conversations gracefully? Do you worry about hurting others’ feelings? Or missing out on something great?

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