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Leave Them Wanting More

 

Techniques > Conversation techniques > Building rapport > Leave Them Wanting More

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When talking with people, always leave before they start getting bored, fed up or want to do other things. A good sign when you leave is that they look a little disappointed that you are going.

Watch for little signs they want to end the conversation and do so quickly (and gracefully) if you see these. Indicators that they may not want to be with you any more include:

  • Not paying full attention.
  • Not asking you about things you have said.
  • Fidgeting.
  • Looking at their watch or phone.
  • Looking at the door.
  • Feet pointing towards the door.
  • Sitting forward as if they are about to stand up.
  • Picking up their things.

Do not take these personally. Just accept that the connection has broken and it is better to stop early than stay late. You can even leave before they have got what they want from you. This will keep them wanting to meet you again.

Make a reasonable excuse when you go, such as:

  • Needing to speak to somebody else before that person leaves.
  • Having to make an important phone call.
  • Saying you have taken up too much of their time.

You can even be creative, such as getting someone to phone you at a prearranged point and then blame that phone call. All you need is for it to be credible. If you cannot think of anything or want to be assertive, you can just say 'Right. I must go' and not explain why.

It can help to set expectations up front, for example by saying you have five minutes. Another way of keeping things short is to approach them and ask a 'quick question'.

You can also soften your departure by methods such as:

  • Thanking them for their help or company.
  • Paying them a compliment before you go.
  • Ask if you can call them again (or even set up another meeting).

Example

Right, I must go. Sorry but I have a ten o'clock meeting and I'm chair, so I must be there.

That was very helpful. Thanks. Now I can't take up any more of your time. Maybe coffee next week some time?

Discussion

Stopping the conversation can be an awkward thing to do. If you find the other person's company good, then you may want to stay longer. However, when they are no longer feeling connected to you, when they are fed up or want to do something else, you just become an annoyance, and the longer you stay, the greater the irritation you cause. People do not like asking others to leave and this can result in an awkward situation for them. The simple answer is not to be a 'hanger on' and leave before they want you to go.

Leaving a conversation requires that the person leaving feels empowered to do so, to break off the conversation even when the other person wants them to stay. Breaking off is hence an act of power. If you feel you are the subordinate, junior person in the relationship, then you may worry that breaking off will cause the other person to take revenge somehow. A similar effect happens when the power relationship is unclear or assumed to be equal. This fear can be the cause of many people staying too long.

Leaving before they have got what they want from you creates something of the Zeigarnik effect, where something that is not complete remains in working memory for longer where it takes up time as you think more about it.

See also

Excuses, Steering the conversation, Zeigarnik Effect, Completion principle

 

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