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Conversation Skills: The End

Within a conversation topics usually transition from one to another before the entire interaction ends. Children begin their conversational journeys as rather egocentric but as they gain more knowledge and general experience they stick to topics for longer periods. It takes some time before children learn to use more adult-like topic transitions.

Examples of Adult Topic Transitions:

  • That reminds me of something I wanted to tell you
  • This is off topic…
  • Speaking of funny stories….
  • That’s great….now listen to this one!
  • When we are finished remind me I want to tell you something about….
  • I had a similar experience

Through trial & error over time children begin to learn that it’s rude to change a topic abruptly.

Also, they may notice they lose their audience or need to go back to clarify what they are saying if they change topics unexpectedly. Often it’s quite funny when both sides realize they were having different conversations. It’s not very funny when the breakdowns go unnoticed…then it’s just a weird conversation that didn’t make much sense!

Even for adults, many communication breakdowns occur if someone doesn’t make a smooth transition from one topic to another. Conversational confusion also happens if the listener isn’t paying very close attention and misses a transition. They may end up thinking about the previous ideas even though the speaker has moved on to something else. How embarrassing for the listener (I say, as if this has never happened to me, LOL).

Young children often end a conversation by “just exiting stage left” (sometimes when the other person is still talking)

Adults are usually a bit more savy to exit a conversational exchange. On the phone we would need to make a more formal exit or else it would be perceived as someone hanging up angry. In person, the closing may begin with some non-verbal clues such as gathering personal items, looking at the time, or starting to prepare to walk away.

However, even with non-verbal cues it’s customary to verbally end a verbal exchange with a comment such as:

  • Goodbye
  • I gotta run
  • It was so nice to talk with you
  • I wish I had more time
  • I’ll see you soon
  • Well, this was fun

These types of comments work to wind down the conversation and usually let the other person know you are ending the conversation.

Although there’s always the person who is tough to get away from because they have a lot more to say (I admit it, I’ve been that person…. but I do consciously try NOT to overtalk my welcome).

So just as we need to look at a child’s ability to BEGIN a conversation (Read about that here: https://languagelaunchers.com/2019/10/conversation-starters/) or MAINTAIN a conversation (see previous post) we can also work to help them advance their ability to end or close a topic.

Get a FREE digital download handout about Building Conversation with Babies Click here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Early-Intervention-Parent-Handout-Unit-Conversation-2293932

Pamela Talbot

Pamela is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist dually certified as a teacher of the hearing impaired. She is a Listening and Spoken Language LSLS-AVT. Pamela has extensive experience training parents and professionals at the international level.