How to finish an Instant Message conversation

Instant Messaging (IM) is great – and there’s still a lot of scope for corporate adoption. It’s particularly useful when you want to ask a quick question to someone who you don’t really know that well. It’s not as scary as calling someone you’ve never met, and it’s a lot quicker than an email which usually has to have a lot of “I’m sorry for bothering you this way but I got your name from abc and I was wondering if you could possibly help me find how I can do …”.

An instant message can look like “Hi – it’s Jon here from accounts. Do you know where I can find the official expense form?” and the reply can be instant, whereas an email may not be replied to for days, if at all (especially if the person you’re trying to contact is on holiday).

However, whereas you can get the answer quickly, I find it can be difficult to actually end an instant messaging conversation, especially if it is with someone you don’t know. Here’s an example:

A : “Hi – I heard you might be able to help me find x”
B : “Sure – it’s here : Once you’ve filled it in send it to
A : “That’s great.”
B : “No worries”
A : “Many thanks for your help”
B : “Sure don’t worry about it.”
A : “See you later”
B : “Bye”
A : “Bye”

It definitely happens more with people you don’t know so well – if you know someone I guess it’s more comfortable just to end the conversation without doing so formally. Anyone else observed this behaviour in themselves/others?

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8 Responses to How to finish an Instant Message conversation

  1. Anonymous says:


    True True.

    We need to invent a universal instant message sign-off. Polite, but short. Maybe using symbols?

    Dr J

  2. rux says:

    Or perhaps start with it – a little businesslike codeword to say that the communication is purely for business and doesn’t need to get overly cordial (reasonable manners and politeness permitting), as it’s an information exchange.

  3. Jon Mell says:

    Thanks guys – a new smilie perhaps?

  4. Zac says:

    A good post with a good point

    When i have to end a conversation at work i normally (lie) and say “ok great thanks for your help, ive got to get back to work now”

    that seems polite, professional and fairly quick

  5. Henry says:

    Maybe using just using “bye” within the converstation to signal that you are ready to finish the chat.


    A : “Hi – I heard you might be able to help me find x”
    B : “Sure – it’s here : Once you’ve filled it in send it to
    A : “Many thanks for your help. Bye”
    B : “Sure don’t worry about it. Bye”

  6. Tom says:

    I encounter this at work all the time. I like to use no closing whatsoever, wait a few minutes until I’m pretty sure that the person is engaged in something else, and they say, “Well, Okay then – bye.”

  7. aravind says:

    when i need to end a conversation what i do is use smilies as a reply for everything. basically, i fill up my end of the conversation with them. once u start doin that the other person kinda gets the hint(hopefully). even if he or she doesn’t, no conversation can last long without two active participants. 🙂

  8. DG says:

    Deaf people have the answer – they have typed conversations all the time. Here’s what they do: Sam says: Do you understand the problem? GA (means Go Ahead)
    Jack says: Yes, you’ve made it very clear. See you later. GA (Go Ahead) or SK (Sign Off)
    Sam says: SK (if he’s done) and leaves. Or he can continue the conversation.

    They both understand when the other is ready to complete the call, even without the “tone of voice” clues that we talking people use without knowing it!

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