This is something that I constantly run into. I don't talk much, especially in large groups, so there will often come a time when I want to leave, but don't know how to do so. I can think of two options:

  • Enter/interrupt the conversation to notify everyone that I am leaving. This seems rude and selfish, if I wasn't a contributing part of the conversation then why should I interrupt it to talk about myself, especially if it's just to say I will not be making any future contributions?

  • Simply walk away. This also seems rude, as it doesn't give people the chance to say goodbye, and/or complete any tasks that require my attendance.

What I end up doing most of the time is a sort of "I'm leaving now" dance, where I look at my phone to see what time it is a few times, then make a fuss of gathering up my things, then back up a bit or start standing closer to the door, before simply walking out. This feels stupid, inefficient, and identical to option 2 if people don't notice me.

To clarify: the people in these 'groups' are usually individuals I would consider acquaintances more than friends. Like people I have been working with or taking a class with for a few months or so. Generally not people I hang out with outside of whatever event put me in the situation described above. The topic of conversation is informal, and I need nothing more from anyone, but am unsure if they would need anything from me.

For example, I take longsword classes. After the class is over, people stand around and talk, usually about longsword-related subjects. I stick around to listen, but sometimes I have other places to be, so I want to leave. During these conversations I have either said nothing or have not said anything for some time. None of these people are people I hang out with outside of the class.


5 Answers 5


I know that situation pretty well. While I'm not particularly introverted, I do tend to keep my mouth shut when I have nothing in particular to say in a situation (especially after sports, as in your example, when I'm tired anyways). When in a company of very outgoing folks, this can lead to exactly your situation.

What I do, and what works without fail is to address the general space and holler a quick "alright, bye everyone" (or whatever works in your language). The talkers will notice that, might throw a quick "bye" right back at me, and continue their discussion.

By addressing everybody and nobody in particular, your voice is heard by everybody, but you are not "semantically" interrupting anybody. If they are really into their discussion, they can chose to ignore it like any other noise. Their ears can filter it out anyway and can hopefully process it as parallel information.

If this does not seem to be a good idea at a particular moment, another trick is to look at a non-talker while delivering your "byebye" to everyone - look at one who is near the center of things, but who is not talking. Then you are not interrupting the actual talking, but are still addressing someone.

At the last, I would err on the side of simply leaving. Don't sneak out, but try to look some of them in the eye and give them a nod or something like that. Whatever comes natural to you. Or give them a little exaggerated wave (without saying anything) with a smile, which should send the message that you are going but do not want to interrupt.


If you are not part of the conversation, and there are things you need to gather up before you leave (such as a bag or coat), then silently get ready to leave first. That way the conversation is not interrupted but it will be obvious that you are about to leave.

If, by the time you have got ready, no one has addressed the fact that you are getting ready to leave, then it is perfectly acceptable to quickly interrupt with a polite leaving sentence, such as:

Sorry to interrupt, but I need to be going now. Have a good rest of the day and see you tomorrow/next week/next time.

A simple sentence like that, combined with the visual of you in your coat or with your bag, will allow people to quickly acknowledge the fact that you are leaving and then go back to their conversation with minimal disruption.


This made me smile. I am also put in this situation plenty of times. Here's what I would do :

  1. Approach someone you know most or consider pretty close with (the closer they are you is better) and just tap them gently on the shoulder and say my goodbye in a low voice.

  2. Or if they look like they're deep in discussion, I just catch the person stated above and signal him of me leaving with a smile on my face.

I tend to use #1 the most since it catches other's attention and some would also say goodbyes to you. #1 is also what i would do in small groups. I only use #2 on large discussions where I don't know most of the people in it.


Things to think about:

  1. Why do you feel that leaving is rude? If you're not involved with the conversation, I don't see the problem with walking away. (Perhaps not every time, or you might be seen as a bit anti-social.
  2. Also, along the same lines, why is interrupting rude? Would it be OK to interrupt if you were highly involved in the conversation?

Let me spell it out for you: your involvement in the group is determined by the group dynamic, particularly body language and eye contact

  • If you're off in the corner, and nobody is looking at you or leaving a space for you to participate, you're not involved and are free to leave.
  • However, if people look at you while talking, make facial expressions at you, and leave space for you to stand and face them (they're not all facing away from you), you're involved with the conversation. Wait for a break in the talking, and interrupt briefly. "I'm taking off, bye guys! *wave*"

Something else, I would make a point to be involved in the conversation, either by body language or with words (or laughing). Otherwise, you will be seen as anti-social. Even if you don't like them. It'll make it easier to be around them in the future. Lubricate the wheels, so to speak.

Source: facing the same issue over many years


If you happen to be in a radius of speaking person and all other person there consider you as a part of conversation (even if you just happen to stand there and listen) you can simply smile and say little quieter than current speaker:

  • "Pardon me" or
  • "Beg your pardon"

this should't be considered rude. Reference: Pardon phrase

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