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Professional conversations are a lot trickier than they first appear. Most of us worry about what we’re going to say to keep the conversation interesting, but the beginning and ending are what makes or breaks it.It’s true, the beginning is important — the greeting, the handshake, the “How are you” or “How do you know so and so?” But the end of the encounter is trickier since whatever feeling is achieved by the end will, ultimately, determine how you’re remembered. It’s the last impression in your companion’s mind.
Olivia Fox Cabane, author of the book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
says “First, don’t wait too long to end [the conversation]. Otherwise, you and your partner will feel the strain and become uncomfortable, anxious, or even bored.”
Yes, not waiting too long is a good strategy, but don’t end it too abruptly either. In order to leave a warm impression, offer something of value to the other party right before you leave the conversation. Here are four strategic approaches to a successful, graceful exit:
1. Information — Suggest articles, books or Web sites you think might be of value to them.
2. A connection — Offer to introduce them to someone you think they should meet. Make sure you are actually able to make this introduction since it’d be very awkward to promise and not deliver.
3. Visibility — Invite them to speak or be a part of something you are already a part of, such as a committee or organisation.
4. Recognition — Discuss an award or recognition you think they should be nominated for.
Using the information strategy, Cabane shares a perfect scenario:
At the end of the conversation, wait for your party to finish speaking, then say “You know, based on what you’ve just said, you should really check out this Web site. If you have a card, I’ll send you the link.” Once they hand you their card, this is the perfect opportunity to close the conversation by saying “Great! I’ll email you soon. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
The bottom line is to always leave them with the feeling that you’ve done, are doing, or will be doing something for them eventually since this creates a lasting good vibe.
If you’ve decided to try the “connection” route, make your exit after you introduce them to the other person. This will make them feel as if you’ve provided them with a service and your departure will not be remembered negatively. If you don’t know anyone to introduce them to, but desperately need to get away, try pulling other people into the conversation, especially those who are walking by or standing nearby. This is a method at parties and gatherings, but make sure you know the people you are pulling into the conversation.
If you’re the one that’s supposed to be breaking up a group, maintain eye contact with the person who is being left behind — not the person you are stealing away. This will prevent the person left behind from feeling excluded. Also, always ask them if you can steal their companion away. Your consideration will make them feel as if they had a choice in the matter (even if they didn’t).
Remember, it’s never about the words that are used, but, rather, the feeling you leave once the encounter is over. That feeling — negative or positive — is your lasting impression.