How to Exit a Room Like a Man

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 22, 2009 · 49 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills


You’re at a party. Maybe someone made you go, cornered you at work or school and you couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough to dodge the invitation. Or perhaps you showed up to a social event that held the promise of being a fun shindig, but after listening for 20 minutes to a lady explain the pros and cons of buying an Accord over a Camry and being forced into a conga line against your will, all you want to do is make like a baby and head out. A lot of men find themselves trapped in these kinds of situations, wanting to stick a pencil in their eye but afraid to make an escape attempt.

We’ve discussed how to command a room like a man, but how do you leave a room like a man?

While you’ve surely heard about the importance of making a dynamite first impression, leaving a classy last impression is just as important. Studies have shown that people most clearly remember the end of an experience, not the beginning. Thus, you want to be able to exit a social event on your own terms, but you also want to leave the host and fellow guests saying, “Dang, I like that guy!”

So how do you leave a social event without being awkward and offending your host? And how do you make sure people remember you fondly?

Below, we set out some guidelines so you can leave a social event with confidence and class.

1. Know when to leave. No matter how smoothly you do it, it’s impossible to leave a social event politely if you exit at the wrong time. Even if you know the party is a disaster from the minute you walk in, you have to put in minimum cameo time. For a come and go kind of function, this minimum is about an hour. At a dinner party, this comes after the after-dinner coffee has been served. If you need to leave before these times for an important reason, tell the host or hostess as soon as you arrive. But generally, if you can’t make it for the minimum cameo time, it’s better not to come at all. It’s awkward to leave in the middle of dinner or to circle the room once before exiting back out the door. Your first and last impression will be one in the same, and not a very good one at that.

Once the minimum time has been met, either wait to make your exit as the party starts winding down or, if you’re having a terrible time, simply make the executive decision to get the heck out of dodge.

2. Stand up. When they feel it’s time to leave, most folks start to squirm in their seat and say things like, “Weeelll…. it’s getting late.” Then they just keep on sitting on their duffs looking awkwardly at their watch. Don’t dilly dally. If you’re ready to leave, then show that you are. Standing up shows you’re committed to leaving.

Now, don’t be abrupt about it. That’s just as awkward as squirming in your seat and looking side-to-side for a means to escape. Stand-up smoothly and confidently. While you’re standing, simply say, “Well I must be leaving.” Never give an excuse for why you have to leave. An excuse can make your hostess feel unimportant and force you to sheepishly explain yourself all the way to the door.

If you want to be particularly suave about your transition from sitting to standing, try this trick. When you’re ready to leave, wait for a pause in the conversation and start a short story. Make it an engrossing, entertaining story. You want to leave them laughing. As you tell the story, start standing up. You can even start putting on your coat and hat as you spin your yarn. Walk next to your host when you reach the story’s climax. Give a quick wink to the group, and…

3. Hold out your hand. Alright, you’re standing up. What do you do now? This is a crucial moment. If you don’t continue on your path towards the door, your host and the other guests will likely start wrapping their tentacles around you to hold you hostage for another round of Parcheesi.

As soon as you’re on your feet, offer your hand to your host. Give a good firm handshake. If appropriate, offer a man hug or kiss on the cheek if it’s a lady or a European dude. Most people who are socially adept will see that you’re serious about leaving and will usher you to the door and see you out. However, some people will still try to get you to stay.

4. Say “Thanks!” and “Goodbye.”As you’re shaking hands, thank your host or whoever you’re with for the hospitality and the conversation. Look them in the eyes, give them a big smile, and compliment the host on something specific you enjoyed about the evening. “Thank you for dinner! Your pumpkin pie is the best I’ve ever had!” Give a pleasant “goodbye” or “see you later.” Also, direct your goodbyes to the other people in the group.

5. Gather your things. You don’t want to leave anything that will cause you to come back after you’ve left. This only opens up the chance of getting sucked back into social purgatory. And it bursts the warm memory the host and remaining guests started forming about you as soon as you left. Grab your coat and hat and your wife’s coat and clutch. Make sure you have your cell phones. If you do happen to leave something, wait until tomorrow to come pick it up.

6. Walk to the door with confidence. Inertia can get the best of a man at this point. If you don’t start walking towards the door, you might find yourself sitting back down. Once you make your move to the door, do so with confidence and determination. Don’t stop to admire Grandma’s china cabinet or you risk getting a 10-minute lecture on the cabinet’s history from the Civil War to the present day.

7. Open the door.You’ve reached the door. You’re almost there, but you’re still at risk of having your departure needlessly delayed with awkward chatter. A well-mannered host will open the door for you and see you out. However, some people have either not been taught this bit of courtesy or if they have, they’ve forgotten it. The individuals in the latter group also seem to be the type that will strike up conversations in the doorway for another 15 minutes. If you don’t take matters in your own hands by opening the door, you’re doomed to listen to your wife’s co-worker talk about how she has a busy day making name tags for a convention tomorrow and the eating habits of her cats. If your host doesn’t open the door for you, do it yourself as soon as you reach the door. Once you open the door, step out. Keep your feet planted outside; even if the host continues to talk to you, the inside/outside dichotomy will soon compel them to close the door and send you on your way.

8. Walk away. Say your final goodbyes and pleasantries and walk to your car. Tip your hat (you are wearing a hat, aren’t you?) for the final charming touch. Mission accomplished! A few minutes more and you’ll be back in your man chair, sitting by the fire, and reading The Art of Manliness.

Have any other tips on leaving a scene? Share them with us in the comments.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin Lane October 22, 2009 at 10:08 pm

All I have to say is the line about “make like a baby and head out” is one I use on my wife all the time, and she hates it. That’s about all I got from this article. Couldn’t pay attention anymore.

2 Will Holmes October 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Another way to exit a room like a man would be to have a companion call you. You then fake a conversation in which there has been some form of disaster that only you can fix (Orphanage on Fire, old Grandma’s purse being stolen, kitten stuck in tree, etc…). You then make a dramatic move upwards and proudly announce to the fellow party goers that you must leave to save the day, then leave the room in a dramatic fashion. If you have a companion associated with the media, have them air a fake story of your manly endeavors. The women will want you, and the men will want to be you.

3 Jason Dyck October 23, 2009 at 12:03 am

I must say that it’s a little embarrassing how badly I needed this article. I am a social fellow (by my own judgement at least), and I have a terrible time making an exit. Frankly, though this article seems aimed at those who want to leave as early as possible, it is quite handy for those of us who tend to dilly-dally in leaving when the time comes. None of these tips is anything earth-shattering, but taken as a whole they make a nice formula to work from.
@Will Holmes: I am going to assume that your comments are tongue-in-cheek. I’m not quite sure, so if they are you may want to make it clearer next time. If not, all I can say is: Really? Deception is your idea of a classy exit? Man up, fellow!

4 Eric October 23, 2009 at 1:43 am

I’m almost positive that Mr. Holmes is joking…I hope, lol. Great article, in fact, I didn’t even realize I made a lot of the mistakes pointed out by the writer, Thank you.

5 Yavor October 23, 2009 at 2:54 am

I want to add that even an abrupt departure is better than just sitting there and waiting arond/doing nothing. If you can’t seem to make the host/guests stop taking, just get up and say good bye.

6 Michael October 23, 2009 at 3:25 am

I think I like Will’s idea the best. (Heh.)

This party one is exiting from seems a more, what is the word…grown-up party than many guys using the Intertubes might be used to. Would the rules change for a kegger? Would it be easier (“just look sick, everyone will clear a path”) or more difficult (“avoid the gauntlet of beer bongs and Greco-Roman wrestling challenges”)? More seriously, many parties I attend have a reasonable number of friends between myself at the door, most of whom won’t abide me walking right by them on my way out. I don’t see any way to avoid this dilemma other than performing the “reverse receiving line,” and shaking hands/hugging with each one (while still being firm and purposeful re: exiting).

And @Justin: my girlfriend uses that line too, and to tell the truth it’s getting old for me as well.

7 Richard October 23, 2009 at 4:15 am

Starting a story and gathering your things halfway through seems pretty awkward to me. Like many man lessons, I guess the rest can be summed up with — be confident and assertive without being boorish

8 Bruno Afonso October 23, 2009 at 6:41 am

Great article.

However, this one puzzled me:
“If appropriate, offer a man hug or kiss on the cheek if it’s a lady or a European dude.”
Being an “European dude” myself, I’m just wondering what kind of idea do you have of us Europeans, there in the New World, to make such a statement =D

Honestly, I am just curious. There’s no criticism here =)

Care to explain, Brett?


9 Aaron October 23, 2009 at 8:20 am

Good article, but as for never giving an excuse when leaving, what if you’re asked? Such as, “Leaving so soon? Where are you off to?”

10 P October 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

Just how Don Draper would have done it!

11 Loris October 23, 2009 at 9:43 am

Bruno Alfonso, a young French man I know definitely air kisses both cheeks. Guess it depends on the region?

12 Tman October 23, 2009 at 9:44 am

I would love to see a part two of this artcle. Last nights dinner party was three tables with 4 couples. Dinner, dessert and then coffee. At the time to go, how do you extend good byes to the other tables? Seems like standing at the door and saying see-ya isn’t appropriate. So is there a better way than saying good bye at your table then walking over to the other tables? I’d like to hear your thoughts. Finally, another observation is that many follow the lead of the fist departer. By being the first one to door with skill and class, others will follow (the leader-you) and will feel grateful to you.

13 James! October 23, 2009 at 9:45 am

Good peice. Another way to do it which is the way I have generally been leaving is, I crank both of my arms and my left heel up and towards the right side of my body (away from the direction of the door) then I throw them towards the left running with the momentum, leaving a James shaped cloud of dust where I was previously standing.

14 Mike October 23, 2009 at 9:56 am

The “having a friend call you in the middle” is usually reserved for blind dates, so that if it turns out to be a flop the guy can have an easy out, or if it’s good they just don’t answer the phone. Hm that could be a good one if it isn’t done yet, “How to go on a blind date like a Man.”

15 Bruno Afonso October 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

That’s it, Loris, it depends on the region =)

Here in Portugal, you’d see men kissing eachother’s cheeks if they’re close relatives (brothers, fathers and sons, uncles, sometimes even cousins). But that’s usually as far as it goes. I wouldn’t kiss a male co-worker, for instance. Oh, and when we kiss, we do make contact. No air kissing for us, lol.
Maybe air kissing would be acceptable for a non-relative in some countries in Europe, but I wouldn’t say that is the rule though.
Maybe we should write an article on the etiquette of kissing in foreign countries. I’m sure we would find all kinds of subtleties that could make even the manliest of mans not knowing how to behave on certain ocasions =D

And, please, it’s Afonso, not Alfonso (damned Spanish influence =P)

16 Brett McKay October 23, 2009 at 10:30 am

I was thinking of the French tradition of kissing friends and family on the cheek. “European dude” was perhaps too broad.

I think if directly asked for an excuse than it’s okay to give one. A polite host will never ask, but then politeness is in short supply these days.

The door wave or the directly at the table goodbye are the only options I personally know of. You should only say direct at the table goodbyes to those people with whom you’ve conversed during the night. Of course if your good friends are there and you simply never got a chance to talk to them that night, it’s good to say goodbye to them too.

But directly at the table goodbyes aren’t appropriate if they’re going to be disruptive and out of place. Also, while it’s true that a confident goodbye can help other people leave as well, if a man is leaving a function early, it’s best to be very discreet about your exit, as you may cause a whole slew of people to leave prematurely as they follow your lead.

17 CoffeeZombie October 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

One of the things that frustrates me the most when trying to leave an event is overly-familiar hosts/fellow guests who simply insist that you stay, and, failing that, demand that you give an acceptable (as far as they are concerned) reason why you’re leaving. What’s worse is if you give an excuse, they will suggest ways that you could work around it so you can stay longer.

Any ideas on how to basically tell such a person that it’s none of their business, but, of course, politely? I must admit, I have at times, been tempted to tell them exactly why I am leaving (especially if it is a “TMI” thing) to intentionally place them in an awkward situation. Not in retribution, but just so they can learn for themselves not to ask.

But, of course, I would prefer something more…erm…diplomatic.

Also, any ideas on how, as a host, to end a party? Certainly, something a bit more graceful than, “Okay, guys, it’s been fun but it’s late so…get out”? ;-)

18 Rich October 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

You can set up two mobile phones, one with voice recognition so when you say your “code word” one of the phones will call the other one in your pocket. Handy if you need a quick escape or seem important without the need of an accomplice to help out :)

19 Will Holmes October 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Well, to those who think I am joking…
Well, I’m not. It has been done before. Minus the whole media thing, that would be lovely, however I do not have those connections. But I have run out of a party on the grounds of myself needing to save a kitten from a tree.

20 Steve October 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm

@ James!,

Classic Scooby Doo exit. Works every time!

As for saying goodbye to everyone, I’ve always had good luck with this maneuver: on the way out, pause, face as many guests as possible, wave your hand, and say “Goodnight, all! It was a pleasure meeting/seeing/spending time with you!” Pause for goodbyes/applause/adulation/roses/undergarments, and walk to the door with the host. During this walk, thank the host for having you over, make the aforementioned compliment of the pumpkin pie, give a firm hand shake, and exit stage left.

21 Will Holmes October 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm

@Jason Dyck
Well, yes I could have been a tad more clear, mind you I wrote that comment whilst I was half awake. It was mildly tongue in cheek, the media part of it was purely a joke. However, if you need to leave the room, and all else fails, then it seems that the easiest way to do so is to portray something that is quite dire. If deceiving your fellow party goers is your last resort, at least have the dignity to do it in a manly fashion.

22 CoffeeZombie October 23, 2009 at 5:13 pm

@Will Holmes I suppose we’re just operating with different definitions of manliness. By my definition, at least, such a tactic does not scream “manliness” so much as “desperation.”

If nothing else, such deception can only lead to trouble if you encounter one of those present at a later time. The person may remember your “urgent business” and inquire as to how things came out, at which point your lie will lead you into another, and so on. And time and again one comes across stories that show how what seemed like a white lie can turn into a much greater catastrophe.

In the end, it is almost never a good idea to deceive, especially with a bald-faced lie. If your host is rude enough to prevent your going, it is better, IMO, to risk offending him than it is to outright lie.

23 by the sea October 23, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I’m reminded of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra doing the song Well Did You Ever in the movie High Society… ;)

24 Bob Iger October 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Nice article, but I’m not agreeing at all with the “European dude” comment. I’m European myself and there are huge differences between individual countries when it comes to greeting people. Please do not stereotype us Europeans, it’s very offensive to some.

I can assure you that if you kiss a German, a Belgian or Norwegian man on the cheek when you leave, you will at the very least cause some very awkward moments. Most of the time, it’s only Spanish, Italian or Greek men (as far as I’m aware, correct me if I’m wrong) who are accustomed to kissing eachother on the cheek.

25 Will Holmes October 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Yes, I understand your opinion on the matter. I agree. The majority of my comment was simply a joke. I have done it before, yet most of the people there knew it was a joke, excluding the ones are not quick to the draw. Which led to myself leaving the room in an amusing manner that caused laughter from most of the party; yes, I did happen to leave that part out of the previous comments. Which is thoroughly my fault. I hope this clarifies.

26 CoffeeZombie October 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm

@Will Holmes
Okay, that definitely makes much more sense, sorry. Yeah, the joke is a good way to make an exit. Keep ‘em laughin’! :-D

27 Stormbringer October 23, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Stand up. Shake hands and say thanks. When they get obnoxious and insist on a reason that you’re leaving, say, “Frankly, I don’t think farts have lumps”. Then make your retreat.

28 Virilitas October 23, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Brett, this article is both useful and humorous. Brilliant!

29 gen Y Investor October 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Funny article! I’m not sure I’m smooth enough to pull that off though. I 100% agree when you say to stand up when you plan to leave… as opposed to figgiting around.

30 Mack Hall October 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I should think that when the topic is two Japanese cars, running from the room screaming would be manly enough.

31 Julian October 24, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Great article. I’ve always felt that my exits and goodbyes were lacking. Now that I had a exit strategy, I won’t feel so bad about leaving my friends when I’m tired, bored, or have something to do.

32 Beau October 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

Thanks for the reminder of good etiquette. I’ve been in need of improving my exit strategies. I’ll remember to “Man Up” and do it with style. Good article!

33 Michal October 26, 2009 at 9:13 am

I am from Poland, and you only kiss other man’s cheek, when it’s christmas, and he is a relative of yours. If you try to kiss another dude goodbye, well… You may get in a lot of trouble :)

34 Chris Cruz October 26, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I need help with this. Usually I try to exit under the radar without people noticing. After the food is finished, conversations get stale, jokes are corny, I start to look for a quick exit. Once people start migrating circles I make my way to the door and say bye only to the people I’m really close with and the people on the way to the door.

35 Jason October 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Awesome article. I do have the tendency to dally when I really want to get going.

Although I’m curious now: if you have a guest that won’t go away, what is the classiest way to get the message across?

36 Fingersoup October 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Not bad for a generic article, but there are SEVERAL different rooms a man will exit, and I feel each requires a different approach. I think a manly article on saying goodbye is in order….

In close family settings, it never hurts to “make your rounds” and say goodbye to people or family groups individually. Handshakes and hugs all around, then exit.

In dinner parties, etc… Announce your leaving, say goodbye to the friends and people you have been dining/talking to. Stop by at least a few people whom you’ve enjoyed company with to let them know you’re going, and then finally thank the host, and compliment them on the lovely evening/meal/etc… that you have enjoyed. If the host is busy with a roomful of other people, be unobtrusive, quick, and let yourself out. If the room was already thinning, then the host may wish to escort you out – Let them.

Formal events for honoured guests – if you are an attendee, it is often rude to leave before the honoured guest leaves. This is typical in military events, but also applies to Civilian life as well. Know your room. Typically, the host will either be looking after the honoured guest, or ensuring the smooth running of the rest of the party. It is important, that if you leave before the honoured guest, that you congratulate the guest before leaving – after all, you are there for them, not for you. In lieu of the guest, thank the host for inviting you.

If you are the honoured guest at a formal event – once again, know your room. If the people honouring you are close friends and colleagues, then stay as long as you like. obviously, stay as long as any ceremonies require. in more relaxed situations, If the number of people honouring you is too large to make it a personal event (Large award ceremony), A position of authority is involved (You’re the boss), or has combined significance with another event (ie: After-party) then ducking out early from this type event is a good idea. This will prevent guest resentment (They want to go home), as well as ruin a party for a shared celebration (You can’t really party if the boss is watching). Be understanding of people who have to leave early on your momentous occasion – if they didn’t respect you in some way, then they wouldn’t have shown up. On your way out, thank anyone involved in helping you with your achievement. Thank the host and have them escort you out.

I guess when it really comes down to it – the “Know your room” rule is the best way to judge how and when to say goodbye.

And it also goes without saying – NEVER party so hard that you wear out your welcome, or force yourself into the care of another because you overdid it. If you haven’t made arrangements to stay the night ahead of time, then don’t get so drunk that you can’t drive home or call a cab. NOBODY likes a surprise house guest.

37 Mr. Miyagi October 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

How about an article on dealing with those who never want to leave? lol..

38 Hank X October 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

I find it awkward to be the first to leave. I keep my eye out for the first person to exit, then go together. It feels more comfortable.

39 Sgnr. Hannard October 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm

As a European myself I’ll just echo the umbridge that’s taken at the *countries* of Europe being referred to as “regions”, leading to huge underestimation of the enormous diversity of culture within the continent. It’s as absurd as expecting the same behaviour from a Texan rancher as from a New York businessman, but even more so because at least those two speak the same language (heheh, more or less). And also the sentiment that it’s not really common for European men to kiss each other on greeting. I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland and have never once been faced with an air kiss by anyone except the occasional middle class British woman, usually ones who are in showbiz.

Other than that, I thought it was a great article. I’d like to see Coffee Zombie’s questions answered though, too.

40 Tyler October 29, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Ok, but how do you get someone else to leave your place just as charmingly? Some people linger, and it isn’t very polite to just throw them out. What about the doorway talker?

41 Expat October 29, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I have to say, I am awfully amused by these Europeans who are offended at someone making a generalization about Europeans. I’m an American who’s been living in Europe for more than ten years and hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear a European telling me something that all Americans do. As if all American are exactly alike! Don’t be so sensitive when the tables are turned my friends.

42 The Oleus October 30, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I don’t see why one should be so concerned about what one’s acquaintances or fellow party goers think of him, especially when the time to end an evening comes. If you are truly a man, this won’t bother you at all, and you won’t feel the need to stay and make excuses. Simply stand, look your host in the eye and tell them that you must leave, shake hands, and don’t be shy about leaving a little rubber on the road surface as you leave.

43 Zygarch November 5, 2009 at 8:37 pm

@The Oleus,
re: “If you are truly a man…”

How ’bout, “If you are at all comfortable in your own skin…” or “If you have a shred of self-possession…”?

This has nothing to do with gender, but everything to do with not letting others cross your inalienable boundaries!

44 chris bartlett November 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I never like to bullshit to much when its time to leave. I find those friends I need to say a personal goodbye too. Explain the reason, normally personal. “Dude, do you know how early I need to get up tomorrow?”

And head to the door, Sometimes i will have an exit line ready.. “Sorry I need to run, but my 24 hour deodorant just ran out”. While they laugh I make my exit.

45 Drew December 18, 2009 at 9:55 pm

@ everyone who is concerned as to kissing other men:

I recently returned from Argentina, where it is extremely normal for men to exchange kisses on the cheek. This is usually coupled with a one-armed hug or a simple handshake. They are also comfortable putting arms on friends’ shoulders and being more touchy with communication. The catch is that this culture is very machismo, with arrogance and ego flowing quite freely. You would naturally think their machismo would match that of the more “privatized” machismo of the U.S., where people need their personal space.

And Europeans around the Mediterranean are generally similar in “touchiness” amongst men. Honestly, these dudes don’t give a shit about being touched by others, since it’s a way for friends to show that they care about each other.

It’s not gay unless balls touch. Or you make eye contact. Ha.

46 Mike April 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

Ah man, the dreaded early exit. I like the idea about just standing up rather than fidgeting in your seat waiting for the right moment. That momentum alone is enough to make a graceful exit.

47 Jackson May 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

Agreed, Mike. Momentum is a great word here. One or two bad decisions with body language can make all the difference. These subtle nuances in our social interactions seem petty but are quite telling of our culture at large.

48 Thomas Hart November 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Excellent article! Q. What about etiquette on the other end, that is, the host(ess) or another guest insists on assigning him/herself as the THE ONE who feels the right to know everything (private or otherwise), and DEMANDS to know WHY you are leaving? I mean, one could be tempted to say out loud to such idiots, “Well, if you must know, I need to clean out my colostomy bag” (whether you have one or not doesn’t matter). While that shows the inquirer how much of a Cretin he/she is, how do you respond with an answer that puts the onus back on the inquirer, without make you appear inelegant?

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