If you’ve ever wanted to get out of a situation or relationship, you know it isn’t always easy.

Despite our best intentions to end things gracefully and avoid burning bridges, things can get messy.

So it may be tempting to do things abruptly without a good conversation.  

Yet when you end things well, it allows you to feel a sense of closure or completion, and helps you keep the door open for something in the future.  It also helps both you and the other person feel better about the ending, and builds skill for future endings.

So the goal is to have “a good goodbye”.   The word “good bye” originally meant “God be with you”.  It was meant as a kind farewell, and that’s exactly what a good ending is all about.

Here are 5 tips for ending things gracefully:


1)  Find the right time to have the conversation

Don’t end things when emotions are running high and you may say things you might regret.   Make sure you’ve had a break from the situation and have thought things through rather than reacting in the moment.  Choose a time when the other party involved can really hear you, and you can speak calmly and clearly. And make sure you actually hold a conversation rather than just never call back, send them a text, or email.

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2)  Honor whatever good you had in the relationship or situation

Remember, that no situation and relationship is all bad or all good.   Even the most troubled situations had something good about them at one time, or else you wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.   Try to think back to a time when things were going well, or think about the best qualities of the other person, so that you can have this positive frame of mind going into the conversation.


3) Avoid negativity or placing blame

Remember, at this point you don’t really want a debate or argument, you just want to end it and move on.  It’s not about making the others involved wrong or pointing out all the issues.

Take the high road and remain neutral in your language.  Even if the other party tries to heat things up, keep things light and avoid saying things you might regret later.       

The best way is to state what you feel honestly, but avoid getting into too much detail.   Try using general phrases like “I don’t think this is working anymore” or “I think we’re moving in different directions”.  If appropriate, you can make it about yourself, saying something like “I’ve decided I need to make some changes” or “I need to focus on some different areas of my life right now”.  If things start to turn negative, you can try something “I just don’t think our situation is resolvable.”


4) Listen and show empathy if needed

Anticipate that once you’ve told the other party that you want to end things, they will usually have something to say.  Be prepared to listen, take any feedback, and if they are upset, show some empathy. 

You can say something like “I know this is hard, but I feel it is for the best”, or “I know this is going to take some time to think about”. 

Keep listening, but when you find the right break in the conversation, acknowledge their words and keep coming back to message.  You can say something like “I hear what you’re saying, but I just think we’re moving in different directions”.  

If they ask for details or examples, use your judgment about how much to give.  Obviously, if it’s a long-term relationship, you may feel you owe the other party some more explanation.   Just be ready to get the conversation back towards your main point. Many times, you can use something like “I can certainly go into some of the specifics, but at the end of day, I don’t think that would change anything.”


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5)  Thank them for whatever you gained or learned

This helps move the discussion along toward completion, especially if it seems stuck or has started to go negative.

You can say something like “I want to thank you for all that I’ve learned from you” or “I’ll always be grateful to you for helping me.”  

Now, this may be hard if there are a lot of negative feelings going on, but the idea is to find some good in the person or situation that you can refer to that can soften the message and help both parties maintain some positive regard for each other.  They key here though, is to make sure that whatever you say is genuine.

At the end of the day, although ending things on a graceful note may feel like more effort at the time, you will be glad you did once the conversation is complete.

DIVE DEEPER:  Gain more perspective and clarity during this time in your life here so you can feel better and move forward.

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