At social events I have found I am some-what guilty of getting into in depth discussions that may occasionally drag the other person/s away from the main group. Most of the time this is fine, based off reactions of being asked to meet up after, get in contact, thanked for the chat I am fairly confident that they were glad to have gone in detail with whatever we were talking about, and I really enjoy it too! However, occasionally I have gotten the opposite sense, that they would have preferred to re-join the event and did not want to offend me and so they stay until something happens that gives them the opportunity to politely excuse themselves. This may not be for some time, and I certainly don't want to be holding anyone back from having a fun time so, that got me wondering about what I could do to tactfully give them the chance to leave and not be worried about hurting my feelings.

I have tried:

  • Inviting more people to join the conversation so that it is less in depth and their is less pressure on the person to stay
  • Suggesting to do something else (like grab some of the provided food/drinks)
  • Directly asking if they wanted to keep talking about {X} or would rather rejoin the others

All of these worked well at giving them the chance to leave, but have the downfall of making it noticeably harder to re-engage the conversation we were having and and enjoying. (Note: The ideal is that we can both be confident that the other person wants to be having this conversation, and not have any interrupt at all.)

When inviting others, the quality of the conversation is forcibly dropped and to resume the depth at which we were talking before would be to ostracise the people we just invited to talk with us.

When suggesting to do something else, it takes a large break in the conversation and also sometimes even implies that I am making an excuse to leave the conversation.

Directly asking has a very clear awkward and jarring effect to the conversation that I would rather avoid by using some tactful IPS skills. ;)

My question is:

How can I tactfully give them a chance to leave the conversation, without compromising the conversation? (Edit: I specifically want to focus on how to keep the conversation going when I do this since more often than not they wanted to talk after all. Think of it this way: I must give them the chance to leave to avoid being rude, but I want to try and preserve the great conversation we have been having)

1 Answer 1


What if you don't say anything, but insert small breaks into the conversation. They needn't be long, just a few seconds, so that they are noticeable, but give both of you the opportunity to either carry on or suggest to do something else.
If the other person wants to end the conversation, they can make use of the short break, else they wait for you to say something.

Now, this requires some balancing - if the pause is too long, it becomes awkward and may appear as if you didn't want to go on, if it's too short, they won't even notice. So I really suggest maybe 2 or 3 seconds to make it appear as if you were a bit reluctant to say something or still had to think about it, then resume the conversation.

I admit I have usually a hard time coming up with numbers, as I would decide that intuitively, also based on the situation and, for example, body language and facial expression of the other person. Maybe choose a longer time.

Just pause long enough, so that they could say something, if they wanted to. This is certainly tactful, if done right. It also hardly interrupts the conversation, in contrast to you saying something (and thereby distract from the topic yourself). If they don't jump on the occasion, presume they want to go on.

I would do it spread out over the discussion, to give them another chance from time to time. Probably not too often, as it would really become awkward and strange - but the time intervals very much depend on the situation. Short bursts bear the risk of stalling the discussion. You may give them another break shortly after one, if you really get the feeling that they would want to stop (and somehow forgot to make use of the first chance) or you have reasons to believe they would want a break now (e. g. again body language, or something else happening around you etc.).

  • Love the idea! one thing to clarify; do you suggest doing this spread out over the whole conversation to make sure they are still good, or just doing it a few times/until its safe to say they are on board for that moment, then carry on as per usual
    – Jesse
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 9:34
  • 1
    I personally use this technique, though probably not as often as I should since I can get a little caught up in explaining things. I try to insert pauses as soon as I get even a remote suspicion that the other party is getting bored with the conversation. I also let short silences fall after I make an argument so the other party can decide whether they want to continue on the topic, change the topic, or even bail out on the conversation entirely.
    – Cronax
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 12:52

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