“I’ll let you go”.

It’s that line you hear to end a conversation. Thinly disguised to sound like they are doing you a favour by not holding you up any longer, but really meaning that they want to end the conversation and get going. It’s kind of condescending.

Now obviously you are a great conversationalist, so people aren’t in a hurry to stop talking to you. But there are times when you want to wrap up a conversation. How do you do it politely?

For instance, you are at a house party mingling with a variety of friends or relatives. You get chatting to somebody, and the conversation has run its course but you aren’t exactly leaving the party yet. So you make some flimsy premise for moving away – I’m going to get another drink, I’m going to the toilet.

We can have the same problem wrapping up a skype session or phone call. We feel we need an excuse to end the conversation when it has simply run its course.

The problem with using a see-through excuse is that it can devalue the whole conversation you’ve just had.

The problem with using a see-through excuse is that it can devalue the whole conversation you’ve just had. You are signalling the end of the conversation and you are doing it in a way that although obviously not hard to detect implies that you think the other person will still fall for it. They didn’t fall for it and you’ve just been twice as insulting.

Try some of these alternatives.

At a party, wrap up a conversation by saying there is something you want to ask so & so about. That way, you aren’t saying you’d rather talk to so & so more than the person you are already talking to, but that there is a reason why you are going to be talking to that other person. It’s objective rather than subjective.

Alternatively, you can suggest you both go together and talk to someone that you want to talk to.

If you are out & about and are having a quick catch-up with someone, be honest enough to say you have to get going rather than suggesting that you will “let them go”. It’s not condescending. And if you do genuinely wish you had more time to talk to the person, suggest a time for a proper catch-up. That way it shows them that you do value interacting with them.

A neat trick to end a conversation that still make the person feel appreciated is what we call the “lay-up finish”. A lay-up is a basketball term where there are a couple of steps leading to the slam-dunk. Rather than just ending a conversation and moving on, lead up to it. Warn the person you have to leave soon but ask about something before you go. Example: “I have to get going in a minute, but before I go tell me what you think about the new Star Wars movie.” You leave and still make the person feel like you genuinely wanted to keep talking to them.

And don’t ever end a conversation just because you aren’t sure what to talk about. Use your Awkward Silence subscription to discover new things about each other instead.

I’ve taken up enough of your time, I’ll let you go.

Let’s talk.

PS: For fun, next time someone says “I’ll let you go”, tell them you have nowhere to be and force them into fabricating another excuse.