Have you ever wished you could cut short a conversation that never seems to end, but you dread offending the other person and as a result you just keep listening? Tedious and one-sided conversations and phone calls can be draining and exhausting. These sorts of vent sessions, complaining, and gossip can leave you feeling wrung out and empty.
Yet many people find it difficult to end these encounters because they fear offending the other person. Whether the other person is a co-worker, family member, friend, or acquaintance, it’s helpful to know how to enforce boundaries without being rude. The same techniques can be used for ending worthwhile conversations at times when you have time constraints.
Here are some ideas:
1. Mention your time constraint. Often you can give the talkative person a warning at the beginning of the conversation about your time constraints, e.g., that you only have a few seconds, a minute, or 15 minutes. “Hi. I only have a minute.” One minute later, “I have to go. Have a great afternoon.” End it promptly and you will not have the problem.
2. Interrupt. It may be necessary to interrupt the talker, but you can do so without sounding angry or impatient. A matter of fact, polite tone of voice, without being apologetic or unsure works best. “Unfortunately, I have to get going. Talk to you soon.”
3. Be diplomatically honest. If these types of conversations with a particular person are an ongoing problem that you’d like to address, speak of your own feelings without attacking or judging the talker. “I’m sorry not to be able to help you, but I have to tell you that it is exhausting when we talk about these problems so much. I’d prefer to talk about something more uplifting.” Or, “I like to connect with you, but I don’t have much time to talk with all of my commitments to work and to the kids.”
Time is valuable. When you waste time waiting anxiously for a conversation to end because you are trying to be polite, you are not helping the perpetrator or yourself to live a more fulfilling life.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD