Getting off the phone…when you don’t have anything to do


Remember going places?

While much of the world remains paused in a new space, one of the biggest changes has been working from home. Companies like REI, Twitter, Facebook, and more are changing over to work from home environments where time that used to be part of your silent commute to listen to NPR, podcasts, or music is now seemingly incorporated into the workday. This might be ok if you didn’t like your commute…but what happens to the excuse you had to get off the phone?

  • “Oh, just running into the office! Gotta go!”
  • “Pulling up to the gas station, talk to you later!”
  • “We’re about to leave for dinner; I have to let you go!”


Now what? How do you get off the phone when you don’t have anything to do?

There are a few ways, both assertive…and not…that can get you off the phone if you struggle to end the conversation. These can work with either professional or personal connections, so see what fits your personality best and give them a try!

“I Need” Statements

An easy way to get off the phone is almost always offering an “I need” statement. You have something difficult to debate – you need to do something – and followed by a need. This could be, “I need to get on another call” or “I need to check on something outside” or “I need to go to the bathroom.” This statement is similar to the one you use in networking and small talk situations – when you would like to exit a conversation, a need is a solid way to do it.

Set The Time

This one needs to be done at the beginning of the conversation – if you know you’re hopping on with someone who talks a lot or has a hard time ending conversations or picking up verbal cues, you can set the time in the beginning. Saying something like “I have to be off the phone by 2:30” or “I only have a half-hour” will get you off the phone and on to your next thing. While this can also be used in the center or end of a call, it’s often most effective at the beginning, as a lot of people like to talk through any time boundaries that you might attempt to put up.

Be Honest and Plan

Saying that you have to get going isn’t negative – you can add time to set up a follow-up call to continue the conversation. When you’re working with a person that doesn’t seem to breathe between sentences (a common place to jump in and comment), you can excuse yourself, say that you would love to continue talking, but have to get going and suggest another time to connect. This addition of “next time” often helps the person understand that you aren’t bailing on them, you are looking to continue the conversation.

Interrupting is Ok!

Sometimes it’s hard to get the other person to either stop talking or to give you a moment – this is especially true when someone is excited or nervous about whatever they are talking about. The person that doesn’t often offer space for another to talk is usually either caught up in their own story or feelings, or just relieved to get information out – and in that case, isn’t always even very aware of the other people in the conversation, or needs they might have! Find a place for you to choose to interrupt, apologize for interrupting, and use one of the strategies already mentioned.

Remember, if you need to leave or end the conversation, you aren’t helping anyone by staying in it and getting more and more anxious as time goes on. Help everyone and be honest!


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