I just listened to the podcast on Micro Communication and the question I have is whether there is a way to help a conversation draw to a close without diminishing the relationship building aspect?

I understand the importance of developing good relationships and can see how being a good listener can help with this, but I often find myself in conversations I don't have time for that are not useful to me (beyond the relationship building). How do I allow for the appropriate amount of conversation to build the relationship, but then get the conversation to wrap up in a reasonable time frame? It seems like the smiling, nodding, and taking notes encourages the speaker to keep talking.



Mark's picture
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This is a solid question.

I just wish it wasn't that all of the people who ask it weren't incredibly high D's who constantly interrupt and have short attention spans.  (Not casting aspersions - it's true of me too).

Literally, I have NEVER met someone who has asked me this question who, when asked for an example, didn't want to end a conversation after an abruptly short period of time, after having appeared to have been tapping their fingers in irritation within seconds.  I've seen them expect conversations to be over ("okay, I've built this relationship, now let me go do IMPORTANT STUFF, BYE!") within 30 seconds.

In the context of this posting, they would define "reasonable" as that 30 seconds.

But maybe that's not you.  ;-)

So, if you think you've spent enough time:


1.  Spend a little longer.

2. Look at your watch, smile, and say, "would you please excuse me?" 

DO NOT say "I have to go." 

DO NOT say, "I'll let you go." 

The latter two are power moves, and the recommended one is a polite request which almost no one refuses.

3.  As you say #2, engage in subtle body language that suggests an ending.  Close your notebook.  Stand up slowly.  Turn slightly away.  Move slightly away.  All of these work, sometimes by themselves, sometimes in pairs.

4a.  If the person declines, you can pause slightly longer, while completing all the disengagement body language and waiting politely a brief period.

4b. If their declination of your request for excusal appears to be turning into a lengthy denouement that is of low value to you, it's appropriate to now STATE rather than ASK, "I really must excuse myself."  (part of the reason it's appropriate is because they ought to know enough to honor your ask, which is simply a polite of communicating that you have other obligations, rather than to continue the conversation.)

The word to remember is excuse (pronounced with a Z and not an S) and the subtlety is in first asking and then stating.

We have a podcast about this coming out at some point, I'm pretty sure...




PS: The watch helps.  So, wear a watch.  Professionals wear watches.


thebeezer's picture

I run into a similar situation when I have an appointment and am in a conversation.  I'm a high-C with some S tendencies and feel like I'm being rude when I try to wrap up a chat.  I appreciate the recommendation!

asteriskrntt1's picture

I was chatting with a mentor the other week about this issue exactly.  He suggested that if you are aware that this person is a perpetual over-engager, you can set some parameters when the conversation starts. 

"Hi Bill, nice to see you.  Unfortunately I only have a couple of minutes and need to get this done ASAP."  Or language of that sort.

At first I liked this suggestion, but now it sounds more like a power play that Mark described above.  Is there a downside to setting a parameter for the conversation?

acao162's picture

I have used (and have had it used on me) the short time frame "trick" - it is useful to relay some brief information but don't think you are building relationships.

Example:  Hey Direct, I've got 5 minutes - can you get me up to speed on the budget?

or Hi Boss, do you have 10 minutes to go over a problem?

It does not work for the casual "water cooler" chat - saying to someone, please summarize YOUR personal stuff to suit  MY schedule doesn't exactly make them want to share.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 ...but if someone says to me they only have a certain amount of time I will view that as just setting an expectation of how much time they can spare for me at that time.  If I think we can deal with what I need to talk to them about in that time then I'll carry on.  If not I'll ask for some time later (setting an expectation of how long for how long I'll need them for) or pitch them why they need to talk to me rather than do whatever it is that is constraining their time (e.g. they need to work on a report for project A and I've just found out that the information the team on project A supplied is complete fantasy, this happens a lot).

I'd probably only see it as a power play if they had a track record of making such plays, and would treat them accordingly



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