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5 Tricks for Politely Ending Phone Calls

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Meg is a freelance web developer, designer, and writer. She has learned how to politely end calls due to the nature of her work.

How to gracefully end a phone call.

How to gracefully end a phone call.

“Closing a call” is not a skill limited to sales. In sales, the term refers to the final step in a sales presentation where the sales representative elicits some form of confirmation or agreement from their customer. The same tactful skills to navigate a ‘closing’ can help you end unwanted conversations.

One of my first jobs was “customer support” in a call center, better known as a telemarketer. The first day was comprised of six and a half hours of being yelled at and hung up on. Hour seven was spent on the phone with a very gracious woman who answered the phone and was thrilled to talk to me about drip sprinkler systems, home security, the stock market, and her little dog "Chewie".

I learned a valuable lesson from that call: I had to lead the conversation or it would lead me.

Here are five tricks for getting customers, in-laws, or ex-boyfriends off the phone, politely, professionally, and without resorting to faking the bad phone line.

1. Say "Thank You"

Thanking your caller is a great prelude to saying goodbye. It is an effective social queue for closing a conversation. Simple psychology: people like to be validated.

A “thank you closing” allows you to respectfully validate that their time and input, but also indicate that the dialog is now complete.

Find the phrasing that works best for your situation. Here are a few examples:

A Customer, co-worker, your boss:

  • “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate the feedback/input.”
  • ”Thank you for following up/the input on this issue, I’ll get back to you as soon as I have an update/more information/etc.”

The relative, the ex, the long-winded friend:

  • “It’s been great catching up with you. Thanks for calling.”
  • “Thanks for calling. Really enjoyed talking with you. Bye.”

2. The Follow-Up Method: “Let me get back to you…”

There are many situations where the topic of conversation just isn’t going to be resolved in one sitting. Suggest a resolution or solution and give yourself an escape route so you can solve the problem and perhaps your sanity.

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Be direct, let the caller know the action you’re taking, and tell them how you intend to follow up with them (i.e., another call, an email, etc). Setting a time/date for follow-up can help transition the conversation to goodbye.

Here are a few examples:

A Customer, co-worker, your boss:

  • “Let me look into this and get back to you by this afternoon.”
  • “When I get an update from ____, I’ll let you know.”
  • “I’m going to give ___ a call about this, I’ll email you the details as soon as I know more.”

The relative, the ex, the long-winded friend:

  • “When I get home, I’ll have a look for that phone number/grandma’s recipe/our vacation photos/etc. I’ll fax/email a copy of it to you tonight.”
  • “I’ll talk to _____ about your concern. I’ll give you a call as soon as I talk to her.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear your dog ate your sofa! I have the number of a great dog trainer. I’ll email it to you when I get home.”

3. Let the Clock Talk

It’s not rude to observe the time. It is a constant in our busy lives to be mindful of the clock ticking away. Politely mention the time already spent on the phone or the impending real lifetime constraint.

“Oh, we’ve been talking 45 minutes already! I really need to get back to work.”

“It’s 4:45. I need to finish this report.”

4. Keep It Short and Sweet

Some callers will not appreciate sugar-coated responses or will only dig if additional information is given. Take the example above,“… I really need to get ready for dinner.” This additional information can be used as a lead into a new discussion if the call isn’t closed quickly enough or the caller is particularly determined.

Sometimes you have to just get to the point without apology or excuses:

“I must run/go/hang up. Great talking to you, goodbye.”

5. Stop the Conversation Before It Starts

If you know you have a long-winded caller on the line and you truly do not have the time or the patience to deal with them in a polite manner: let the call go to voicemail or answering machine. Call them back when you are ready.

If the caller is truly unwelcome and has bypassed your caller-ID: Hang up the phone.

I hope this guide helps a few of you stop faking bad phone lines! Remember to stay calm and don’t make excuses. Take the lead in the conversation and make it go where you want it to.

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