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 and 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.