It's happened to everyone. You're at a business luncheon or a social gathering listening to some tedious bore when you'd rather be anywhere else. Or you're at a party that you'd love to stay at but you can't. Too often, people stay in a social situation they don't want to be in because they are too polite, too afraid or just don't know how to get out of it. How do you excuse yourself politely? It may take a little practice, but you can extract yourself if you really want to.
Take charge. The human brain craves security. When you are confident and absolute in your actions, other people will tend to accept your departure without question. Whether you are excusing yourself from a conversation you are not really a part of or you are trying to escape a conversation you don't want to be a part of, speak clearly and confidently, apologize if appropriate and make your exit graciously and with intention.
Be honest. Do not make up a lie to get out of the situation -- you run the risk of getting caught. If you claim a headache to leave a party, you'll have a headache when you run into your hosts later at a club. A tactful truth generally works as well as any lie and doesn't run the risk of embarrassment later.
Keep it simple. If you're leaving a wedding before the cake is cut, you may feel better offering an explanation. In most situations, however, explanations are unnecessary. For example, when leaving a table to go to the restroom, leaving a conversation in which you are not participating or walking away from a friend who has been talking on the phone for more than one minute, a simple "Excuse me" and a smile will suffice.
Make a commitment. If you are leaving earlier than you think is appropriate but you simply must go, leave with a commitment to resume things in the future. If you must leave a business meeting, for example, shake hands firmly while saying, "I have your business card, I'll give you a call tomorrow so we can talk more." Be sure you follow up as promised.
Introduce someone else. If you need to slip out of a conversation but don't want to leave the person you're talking to hanging, grab someone else as she is walking by and say "Hey, have you met so-and-so?" Introduce the two of them and offer information about something they have in common. Once they get talking, you can politely say "Excuse me" and leave.
Prepare in advance. If you know you must leave a dinner party or other special event early, let your host know in advance. As you are leaving, make sure you say good-bye and thank you to your hosts and apologize again for leaving early.
Value your own feelings. If you are not comfortable with a conversational topic, do not just stand there awkwardly. If several people are involved in the conversation, simply say "Excuse me" and leave the circle. If it is just you and another person, politely say "I'm sorry, I'm just not comfortable with this conversation," and either change the topic or excuse yourself.
Plot your escape plan. If you are out socializing with someone you know well, agree on a sign to let the other person know when you are in a situation you would like to get out of. Catch your husband's eye and then pull on your ear, for example. He could sweep in, grab you by the elbow, smile politely at the loquacious loser and say "So sorry, I simply must whisk her away for a moment!" as he guides you out of the room. You'll both get a giggle and the chatty guest will think nothing of it as he searches for his next victim.
- "Excuse Me, But I was Next . . .”: How to Handle the Top 100 Manners Dilemmas; Peggy Post
Sherry L. Huckabee graduated from the University of Miami School of Law. Although much of her career has been in the law, her BA in psychology has also served her well through raising birth, step and adopted children, and in endeavors including managing, teaching and traveling. She writes regularly on law, health, yoga, fitness, relationships, psychology and travel.