How to Leave a Conversation When You Have Social Anxiety

Leaving a conversation requires skill.
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There is a subtle art to ending a conversation politely, just as there is to starting one and joining one. If you have social anxiety, extricating yourself from a never-ending conversation can seem like an impossible task. You don’t want to seem rude or uninterested. What do you do?

Here are a few tips on exiting a conversation gracefully.

Distance yourself

Distance yourself physically from the group or individual. Turn yourself partially away and begin to pull back while still listening to what is being said. Stand up if you have been sitting down and start to use shorter responses to what is being said.

Summarize the discussion

"Sounds like you had an amazing trip! Wish we could talk more, but I need to run."

To more easily transition into leaving, you can summarize what has just been said before you mention that you are leaving.

Go to the restroom

"I am just going to excuse myself to use the restroom. Maybe we can chat later?"

Wait for a break in the conversation and then give your reason for leaving. A trip to the bathroom or to get another drink are good excuses if you don't have another reason to leave.

Grab a drink

“I’m going to grab a drink, do you want me to bring you one?”

Chances are, the person you're talking to will say no. On the off chance they say yes, get them a drink and say, “well, it was nice meeting you!”

Let them get back to what they were doing

"Well, I'll let you get back to your shopping. Take care!"

This is a great way to end the conversation if you've been talking to someone who was in the middle of an activity.

Ask who else you should meet

"I promised myself I would meet two new people. Who would you suggest I talk to next?"

This is the best of all worlds. It's a great conversation ender and gives you the opportunity to meet someone new.

While talking with a good friend could go on for hours, most conversations with people you don't know will last less than 10 minutes. Don't feel bad about moving on.

Introduce them to someone else

Or, if you've mingled already, consider introducing your conversation partner to someone else. When they start hitting it off, you can say, "I'll let you guys talk," and be on your way. This gives you the opportunity to excuse yourself without leaving them standing alone.

Plan a get-together

"I have to head out right now, but I've really enjoyed chatting with you. Let's exchange contact info. Maybe we can meet for coffee next week?"

When the other person seems like a valuable contact, or a potential friend, make sure to exchange information before you part. You can even suggest you get together in the near future.

Quietly slip out

Sometimes, it is okay to "ghost" or just leave a conversation quietly without saying anything. This works in a group setting with a large number of people.

A Word From Verywell

Ending a conversation may give you some momentary relief, but it can come at a cost to you. Avoiding conversations or cutting them short only reinforces your social insecurities, and increases your anxiety for next time. 

Instead of trying to escape conversations when they make you anxious, try actively listening to what the other person is saying. Ask follow-up questions. Find common ground and tell related stories about yourself.

So what if you don’t “sound smart” or impress everyone in every social situation. Neither does anyone else.

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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."