Dear June: Looking for Polite Ways to Cut Off a Conversation

December 13, 2020 Updated: December 28, 2020

Dear June,

I am wondering if you can offer some advice to respectfully shorten up long-winded phone calls. My daughter is a veterinarian, married to a great husband, and with a wonderful 18-month-old daughter. At the clinic, the veterinarian must (and should) call clients with a daily update on their patient at the clinic. The only time for these calls is generally once the clinic is closed for the evening. The problem is: getting trapped on the phone with long-winded clients who are hard to cut off, making it difficult for her to get home with less than a 13+ hour workday. I have a similar problem as an artist with art clients. I find myself getting trapped on the phone listening to long client stories.

We value courtesy and politeness, but long-winded clients are hard to cut off politely. Are there some good catchphrases or strategies to use so conversations can be reined in and kept from straying off-topic? And still let clients feel they are being heard and are valued, and their concerns validated? We have both wondered, on numerous occasions, exactly how the head veterinarian can manage to keep these update conversations short, concise, and polite. He’s a master at the five-minute call.

We don’t want to be rude, but we have lives, too. For both my daughter and myself, being caught on the phone for long periods of time greatly impacts our productivity and creativity, and cuts into time for other, more important endeavors. Any ideas are greatly appreciated! Thanks from two gals seeking “polite phone cut-offs”!

Polite Listeners

Dear Polite Listeners,

First of all, I would keep doing what you are doing in terms of not asking leading questions and staying on topic. Perhaps your daughter is able to give updates without asking questions? 

My technique suggestions are very basic: 

Can your daughter listen to the five-minute-call master to learn phrases he uses to conduct client calls? These will probably offer a good blueprint for her calls.

If the conversation does devolve, I would use a very simple, honest cutoff phrase such as: “[Customer name], I’m sorry to interrupt, but I need to wrap this up.” 

The actual words are not as important as a respectful tone and firm conviction. It may help to practice in front of a mirror until you find a phrase that feels natural and that you can say with confidence. 

I think there is a human dynamic whereby people who talk a lot (which is an emotional release for them) can sense people who are kind and willing to listen. So you may have to change something a bit deeper in your attitude toward client conversations—develop a firmer kindness.  

In your question, it struck me that you are very conscious about being polite, which is, of course, good and important and the right way to conduct human interactions. However, politeness needs to be tempered.

For example, while it may be polite to listen to clients, on another level it is not responsible if in so doing you neglect other important duties. 

Your daughter has a great deal of responsibility at the moment—she must care for her animal patients, and her family most certainly needs her care, too!

I would say her responsibilities as a vet do not include any obligation to listen to clients beyond what is directly helpful for improving her care of the animals. For those clients who are not willing to listen, I don’t think you need to concern yourself with making them feel heard, valued, or validated, because they are not seeking your input. 

It may feel awkward or even a bit rude to cut people off, but it is also the most caring and responsible thing to do when you keep the big picture in mind. I think reflecting on this big picture—on what your duties truly are—will help firm up your resolve, and it is the strength of resolve behind your polite words that gives them power. 

Sincerely,

June

_____

Dear June,

I am seeking a new perspective. I am a 56-year-old man. I have never been on a date or had a girlfriend. I have always been rejected, not always nicely, when approaching. I have been on a couple dating sites, but the two women who responded to me only were interested in my income, so I stopped using the apps. I pay attention to online creators for current info on dating, and it is all very negative. Most of what they say is, men are being abused by women and government for financial support and many women get married just to get divorced to take the guy for his resources. All I hear, and my history, makes me want to give up and just be alone. What do you think you would do if you were me?

Forever Alone

Dear Alone,

I think it is true that segments of our society are currently in a very bad state and some women have skewed values. However, this does not mean you won’t ever find a woman of merit—but the quest to find her may be arduous.

If I were you, I would start by asking myself what I really wanted. It is OK to choose a single life; this will, of course, be more lonely, but it can also be satisfying and worthwhile if you focus on helping others or giving in some way.

If you do want a partner, then you may have to accept some new challenges and prepare yourself for some failure and rejection.

At the most superficial level, I would suggest using a higher-end dating service, if you can afford it, as they will screen better and attract more committed women.

More fundamentally, the basis for any healthy relationship is the willingness to acknowledge our weaknesses and work to improve them. This is a process you can start now by assessing your strengths and shortcomings, which might impact a future relationship.

Although we now hear a lot about women’s empowerment and strength, most women still actually want a man who is stronger than they are. This does not mean you need to be an alpha male, extrovert, or athlete, but certain masculine qualities are appreciated.

Below I quote two paragraphs from the book “Man of Steel and Velvet” by Aubrey Andelin because I think they give a picture of manhood that has been lost in today’s culture, and some examples of qualities worth striving for:

“A man of steel is a masculine man. He is aggressive, determined, decisive, and independent. He learns efficiency in the affairs of a man’s world, demanding quotas of himself in reaching an objective. He is competent in a task, fearless and courageous in the face of difficulty, and master of a situation. He has deep convictions and steadfastly holds to these convictions. He sets high goals for himself, goals which require dedication and patience. He is not afraid of strain and diligence. He rejects softness and timidity. When he has made a decision based upon the best of his judgment, he is unbendable as a piece of steel. These qualities of masculinity set him apart from women and children and weaker members of his own sex.”

“The velvet qualities include a man’s gentleness, his tenderness, kindness, generosity, and patience. He is devoted to the care and protection of women and children. He understands and respects their gentle nature and recognizes it as a complement to his manliness. He is chivalrous, attentive, and respectful to the gentler sex and has an ability to love with tenderness. He has, in addition, an enthusiastic and youthful attitude of optimism which defies the press of years. Humility is also a part of the velvet, subduing the masculine ego as his rough nature is refined.”

Sincerely,

June

Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001.

June Kellum is a married mother of two and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.