Now that we’re all doing more Zoom calls, Google hangouts and FaceTime sessions, we’ve started to run into that awkward moment where we might be ready to end the conversation, but the other person isn’t picking up the hint—and since most of us are physically distanced and sheltering in place right now, it’s not like we can say “This was fun, but I’ve got to go.”
Or can we?
This week on Twitter, NPR’s Jeremy Hobson posed the question:
How do you end a zoom, politely? You can't say "I have to run" or "I have plans" because they'll know it's a lie!
— Jeremy Hobson (@jeremyhobson) April 20, 2020
Suggestions ranged from “This was SO great” to “I don’t want to take up your day” to simply turning off your device and blaming a bad internet connection. I don’t recommend the latter (in part because the other party may immediately try to Zoom or Skype you back), but I have found a handful of phrases to be particularly successful:
The “I’ve got another task to get to” goodbye
Even though Hobson claims that nobody really has plans these days, the truth is that most of us do still have plans—or, at least, tasks that have to get done before the day is over. This can include anything from “Well, I’ve got to start making lunch” to “Hey, I need to switch focus to a work thing for the rest of the afternoon.”
Many of us are still working, still cooking, still doing laundry, still helping kids with homework, still taking dogs for walks, etc. etc. etc. These are all perfect reasons (or perfect excuses) for ending a video call.
The “I want to go outside while the sun is still out” goodbye
What’s the one thing many of us are still allowed to do, as long as we stay an appropriate distance away from others while we do it? Go outside. If you tell someone that you’d love to keep talking to them but you really, really need to go for a walk while it’s still light out (or “before it starts raining,” or “before it’s time to make dinner”), are they going to deny you that last remaining pleasure?
Say goodbye, put on your shoes, and get out into the fresh air—or say goodbye, look at your shoes, and then curl up on the couch with Netflix. Nobody will know, as long as you make sure to log out of any chat or video call accounts first. (The last thing you want to do is appear as “available” when all you want to do is try to relax.)
The “I have another video call on the schedule” goodbye
I love this one, because it’s nearly always true—a lot of us are managing multiple video calls every day, after all—but it can be deviously unspecific. Your next video call could be scheduled for two hours from now, but you still have to get to it… right after you take a much-needed break from online connectivity.
Yes, this is a variation on the “I have another task to get to” goodbye, but since video calls are often put on the calendar in advance, it gives you a sense of urgency. Saying “I’ve got another call scheduled for this afternoon” gives you a stronger reason to end the conversation than, say, “I’ve got to get the laundry folded” (because nobody really has to get the laundry folded), and it lets your conversation partner know that your time is in demand these days.
The “Well, it was good to talk with you” goodbye
I know some of you might have scrolled through those first three responses and thought “wow, some of that sounds kind of like lying.” Which, ok, fine. If you’d rather not end your Zoom/Skype/FaceTime convos with a polite social fiction, you could just be polite: “Well, it was good to talk with you. We should catch up again sometime.”
And if you really do want to catch up again sometime, feel free to add “How about Friday?”
If you have other suggestions—or useful phrases—to gracefully end what can feel like an unending stream of video conversations, let us know in the comments. I’d stick around, but I’ve got to get outside while the weather’s still good.