How to shut down a never-ending phone call

Do you have co-workers or clients who love to bend your ear on the telephone? Here are some tactics to bring these unproductive sessions to a close.

How to shut down a phone call

Everyone has worked with someone who refuses to pick up the phone, insisting that everything can be solved through email, IM or texting.

You might do it yourself. The name and number of a difficult client appears on your caller ID and you let it go to voicemail. You tell yourself you can call back tomorrow, but the next day, you respond to the voicemail with an email instead.

Many communicators even prefer electronic conversations when it comes to family. How many times has your mom texted you with a request to “please call me when you have a chance” and you text her back instead?

As a communications pro, you know full well the misunderstandings that can occur with electronic communication. You understand how difficult it is to convey intent and tone electronically. Yet many will still opt for texting over an actual conversation. Why?

Perhaps it’s because we don’t always know the best way to end a conversation. How do you politely say “goodbye” when you need to go? What about those clients who love to talk your ear off? Do you wait for a break in the conversation—or do you interrupt? What about the near-impossible task of getting off the phone with your mother?

Here are a few tips and phrases to help you politely and professionally end phone conversations.

1. Close the door. When it’s time to end the conversation, be sure you are not inviting the other person to continue talking. Avoid saying “Is there anything else you need before I let you go?” Instead, try “I’m going to wrap up now. If there’s anything else you need, you have my number.”

2. Use breaks in conversation. Wait for a natural pause and jump in immediately with a transition sentence and a call-ending statement. “Thanks again for calling. It was great catching up.”

3. Interrupt politely. “I’m very sorry to interrupt, but I want to make sure I understand everything before it’s time to hang up.” “I know I’m interrupting you, but can we please go back to . . .”

4. Offer future calls. If the issue can’t be resolved in one conversation, set a follow-up action, along with a date and time that you’ll be back in touch. “Let me make some phone calls on this and get back to you. Can I call you Wednesday?” “My computer is running slowly right now. Can I finish researching this and get back to you?”

Here are some phrases to practice:

  • Anyway, I don’t want to monopolize all your time.
  • Well, I don’t want to keep you from your work.
  • I know how busy you are, I will follow up with you (date, time, call or meeting).
  • Can you send me those details in an email?
  • I have to leave here in five minutes. Can you sum up your most important points?
  • Well, it was great catching up with you.
  • So, just wanted to make sure everything was okay.
  • Well, just wanted to see how the new job was going.
  • I’ve got to get back to work. I have a deadline I need to meet before noon.
  • Listen to me, rambling on. I get off track when talking about collective nouns. You’ll have to excuse me. Thanks so much for your call. I’m glad we got that resolved.
  • I need to finish a few things before I leave for the day.
  • I’m hoping to get on the road before traffic gets too bad.
  • I’m going to let you go now, but here’s my email address if you need anything else.
  • Oh. We’ve been talking for 45 minutes already. I really need to get back to work.
  • So, does this solve the problem with the expense report?
  • I’m going to hang up now so I can get started on this. I’ll talk to you soon.
  • I only have five more minutes before my next meeting, but I wanted to make sure you received my budget documents.

Do you have any tips or phrases to add, Ragan/PR Daily readers? Please add them in the comment section below.

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more from her at impertinentremarks.com.

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