Respectfully Yours: Overstaying welcome
Some weeks ago, my husband and I invited another couple to our home for dinner at 6 p.m. I hadn’t seen them in years and my husband didn’t know them. They got to know each other over a nice dinner. Around 11 p.m., I was starting to get nervous because I had an important meeting in the morning. How does one politely tell a guest that it’s time to leave?
One of life’s trickier social situations is when you find yourself sitting across from guests who simply will not leave.
After all, you invited the guests and as a host you’re obligated to make them feel comfortable. On the other hand, it’s neither fair nor practical for them to expect you to stay up late, especially if you have other commitments the next morning.
The best way to get out of an awkward social situation is to avoid it altogether. When you issue your invitation, include an end time as well as a start time.
For example, mention that you’ll need to wrap things up by 10 p.m. or whenever you wish. Let them know you have an early morning commitment. You could also mention shortly after guests arrive that it won’t be a late night given how much is on your plate at work.
If you failed to mention that you have to end the evening at a particular time, there are ways you can wrap up a conversation.
You might start by not injecting new topics into the conversation and allowing longer periods of silence.
Ask your guests what they are planning to do the next day and tell them how much you’ve enjoyed spending time with them.
These types of signals will often trigger most people to end the conversation without causing offense.
Hints don’t work with some people. If your guests are still lingering and haven’t picked up on the social cue, it’s time to speak up.
Stand up and graciously say to your guests, “Oh, my goodness, look at the time! We have kept you far too long. It’s time to say goodnight and let you get back to your own home and family.”
End the night with the suggestion to get together again soon. Be specific and try to set up a date that shows you truly want to do sot again some time. Focus on the fact that you really enjoyed this time talking to them.
Have a question? Email: email@example.com. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. She is on the board of the National Civility Foundation.
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