I'm terrible at phone calls. I don't know how to put an end to them if the other person doesn't take the initiative to put an end to them themselves. This is generally not a problem except with my aunt.

Here is how a phone call with her usually goes:

She calls, and we talk for a while. There is a blank in the conversation, one that usually indicates that the conversation is over. But, with my aunt, the blank stay a little and then she finds something else to say and doesn't end the conversation.

The conversation keeps going until the next blank. If it's long enough, I will say "well.." to try to indicate that it's time to end the conversation. But she will still find a new subject and talk about it.

And then the conversation goes on and on with me feeling trapped and unable to put an end to it.

So, how can I end a phone call with my aunt without sounding rude?


2 Answers 2


The main issue I see from your description is that "well..." is still fairly ambiguous, so while you mean "well, time to wrap up!" she sees it as "well, time for a new topic!". So it sounds like you need to be more explicit about signalling your intent to end the conversation.

I am terrible at ending phone conversations too, especially with my mom, who always has lots of random news she could keep sharing. What works best for me is making polite excuses. Even if the reasons feel a bit weak, it feels less rude than being blunt and less awkward than waiting for them, and it's a pretty common social signal (at least in my circles; I'm from US, and I picked this up in part from noticing how other family members ended phone conversations with me).

Usually these excuses take the form of household chores, since that's an understandable thing that everyone has to do. For instance,

  • Well, I should fold my laundry before it gets too wrinkly...
  • Gotta take care of those dishes before bedtime...
  • I ought to start dinner soon...

Bonus points if you can mention these things earlier in the conversation! Usually there is a natural point, like: "so what'd you do today?" -> "Long day at work, and I have to get some stuff done around the apartment still! Good thing it's almost the weekend, right?"

Another option is to frame it as a favor to her, if she mentioned things that she has to do too. "Well, I don't want want to keep you, sounds like you have a busy day ahead!" is another very strong hint to end the conversation. If she is not good at taking hints, you could take this another step further and just say it straight out:

Well, I don't want to keep you, and I have to run some errands before it's too dark out. It was great talking!

As a last resort, you can also schedule your calls so that you have to go for some external reason, like calling before an event, or strategically starting some task that will need your full attention in an hour. I wouldn't recommend doing this consistently (as she may pick up on the pattern, and feel like you're avoiding her), but it has worked for me in the past when I felt obligated to call home but really didn't want to get stuck on a phone call.


OP here

It's been a while now and EmC answer is really good. However, I have reallized something and I believe it would be good to talk about it in here.

My aunt has very little self-confidence. In fact, she will often be convince that people (her familly included) don't like her and despise her.

I believe now that, when I give away small hint that I want to stop the conversation (saying "well.." and other things), she perfectly understand but, yet, refuse to stop the conversation.

In this kind of situation, proceeding to end the conversation is very likely to hurt the other person feelings. I don't believe it is rude, yet, it will hurt the other person feelings. In the case of my aunt, she would probably feel like she isn't important enough or that I don't love her enough.

Having realise that, I decided that I would rather listen to my aunt endless conversation than hurt her feelings. So now, unless I really have something I must do, I always let my aunt put an end to the conversation when she wants to.

I will still give away some hint (when the conversation is dying down and I don't know what to talk about anymore), but I won't force things like I use to.

So, EmC advices are good if you want to put an end to the conversation. But you should also consider not doing it because, while being polite, you might still hurt the other person feelings.

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