When McGraw Hill asked me if I was interested in writing Perfect Phrases for Icebreakers, I accepted, partly because I had come to realize how much the way you open a conversation matters. Openings set the stage for good interaction.
Closings matter, too. You know this if you’ve ever been on the phone with someone who ended abruptly or clearly left you (in terms of attention) before the conversation had been mutually concluded. It feels odd.
Sometimes I’ll be ending a conversation when someone else will call, show up or otherwise invite my attention. Since the conversation is all but complete, it’s tempting to rush off to take the next call or tend to the visitor. What I prefer is to ask,
- Can you hang on just a sec? I want to ask this person to wait a moment so we can say a proper good-bye.
Most people appreciate the effort to close the conversation with the grace it deserves. I’ve yet to have anyone object to the short wait.
This isn’t a rigid rule. For example, I might cut my assistant off mid-thought for an interruption and not concern myself with a graceful closing. We both know we’ll pick up where we left off soon.
However, even with people we interact with regularly, it’s important not to take license. Courtesy is important close to home, not just with people we don’t have that kind of relationship with.