Business Etiquette: How To End A Conversation At A Reception

Word Power: What You Say When You Want To Move On To Other Guests At A Reception
By Gene Griessman,Ph.D.

Have you ever felt trapped at a gathering with a bore, wanted to escape, but didn’t know how to extricate yourself gracefully? You might even have been with someone you like, but you needed to speak with another individual–perhaps make a strategic contact– at the event?

Knowing what you say can save time and avoid wounding feelings.  If you break off the conversation clumsily, you can create resentment. You do not want the other person to think you think he or she is not worth talking to.

The difference between doing it clumsily and doing it skillfully can be one word–circulate. 

Here’s how you might use it. “It’s good to see you,” or “I’m enjoying our conversation, but I guess we both need to circulate a bit. I hope we can pick up our conversation later.”

Nothing else need be said.  You have not made a commitment to return.  And it leaves you with the opportunity to resume the conversation at a later time.  (In which case you might say, “I’m sorry we never got to continue our conversation….Can we do that now?”)

I use these power phrases all the time, and never have had a negative reaction.  Using the word “circulate” in this manner simply brings into focus a social obligation that you both have.

The next time you’re at a reception, or a cocktail party, and want to break off a conversation and move on to other guests,  use the magic word “circulate.”

—Gene Griessman is an award-winning professional speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or Learn more about Gene Griessman at and

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