Feeling Socially Stuffed? Have an Exit Strategy

Making a big entrance may be important, but don’t underestimate the benefits of having an exit strategy.

“I love you all dearly but want you all out by 10pm,” announced my friend with a huge smile. While not the typical dinner party greeting, I greatly appreciate her crystal clear message: enjoy but don’t overstay your welcome. My friend loves having people over but she also knows her limits. “Why not be up front about it?” she asked when I inquired about her bluntness. “I love my friends but I also love my bed. Knowing there is an end in sight alleviates my anxiety that it will go on forever.”

Socializing can be exhausting, especially during the holidays. It is no wonder that many complain about having a “social hangover” after a night out.

Social media posts go viral trying to capture the longing to communicate social satiety without offending anyone. Some of my favorites include:

  • In Japan, you serve people appetizers at a party all night long, and then when you’re ready for them to leave you serve them a hearty soup.
  • A group of friends who agreed that when someone is ready to leave, they’ll use the code word “Dick Wolf,” the Executive Producer of Law and Order.
  • Many variations on excuses for sick pets, children, and significant others who are, in fact, not sick at all.

The popularity of these posts and the comments they generated speak to our anxiety about having a way out of social situations when we have hit our limit.

If “ich fuhle mich jetzt genug beucht” doesn’t roll off your tongue and the other suggestions aren’t your style, here are some social extraction protocols that might help when you are feeling “visited enough.”

1. Set a time limit

In the same way that my friend builds an exit strategy into her dinner parties, explicitly communicate your time frame. “I have an early appointment tomorrow morning” and “I’m on my way to… (fill in the blank),” clearly convey that you don’t have all the time in the world to linger. This is especially helpful for over-talkers and serial clingers.

2. “Because” works wonders

As described in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, people like explanations and the word “because” provides one or at least the illusion of one. There is a difference between saying “I have to go to bed” and “I have to go to bed because it’s so late.” People tend to be much more understanding when we give them a reason.

3. Enlist a partner

Work with a friend or your partner to move people along. Apparently a bartender go-to trick is to tell guests “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

Bottom Line: Making a big entrance may be important, but don’t underestimate the benefits of having an exit strategy. For those feeling socially spent, knowing you have an out will make your night out more enjoyable.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman