How To Get Rid Of People Who've Overstayed Their Welcome

Ever had friends or family who somehow manage to turn a quick meeting into a four-hour ordeal? It's frustrating when you have things to do and people overstay their welcome, but getting rid of them isn't always easy. Here are a few ways to do it without coming off as a jerk.

We all deal with someone who lingers too long. It might be the guy who stands at your desk after the conversation is over, the stranger who won't leave you alone at the bar, or the in-laws who always seem to find a way to stay a little longer. To figure out how to deal with these people we talked with marriage and family therapist Roger Gil to come up with the best ways to politely ask someone to leave.

Put a Limit on the Conversation Time from the Start

The best way to get rid of people who like to overstay their welcome is to make sure it doesn't happen to begin with. You can do this by setting up boundaries before the conversation starts. When you make plans with a serial overstayer, mention that you have other things going on in the day. If you can't do this, Gil also offers this suggestion:

If you're out on the town and someone approaches you to talk, you can always say "I'm waiting for my friend" as soon as the person starts conversing with you. This also works great for house guests. When you invite them over, make sure you set an "ending time" to your social gathering.

It's best to set up an ending time where possible so you don't need that awkward conversation. If you don't have the opportunity to pre-empt the problem, you can still get rid of people without saying a word. Photo by Hendra Willyanto.

Use Your Body Language to Convey that It's Time to Go

The easiest way to get rid of someone is to show them it's time to leave with a little body language. This way, you don't have to go through the trouble of coming up with something to say. Gil has a simple set of different cues you can give off:

Doing things like packing up your papers or looking at your phone and commenting on how you told "person X" that you would be calling them "at around this time" are pretty overt ways of telling someone, "I need this conversation to end now". Averting your gaze also breaks the conversation and causes most people to back away. For especially persistent people (pushy guys at the bar who don't get the hint) a trip to the bathroom is often a subtle-yet-effective "get away from me" cue. Just be wary of the fact that some people may react negatively to this if they've had a drink or two.

Body language is a great way to convey a feeling without saying anything, but sometimes people don't get the point and you need a more direct approach. Photo by Jellaluna.

Be Polite but Direct to Get Rid of People When All Else Fails

People won't always get your subtle hints. Sometimes you need to tell an overstayer directly that the conversation and hang out time is over. Nobody really wants to do this, but Gil has a few suggestions on the best way to deal with it.

Start by apologising and saying that you don't want to be rude. Simply state that you can't continue the conversation because you have another pressing matter to attend to. While this may sound like common sense, many people tolerate more than they should in the name of being nice. Remember that other people have to be nice to you so don't be afraid to put your foot down.

It's all about being polite, apologising and conveying your feelings so your friends and family (or strangers) understand that you're done hanging out. Getting rid of them doesn't mean you don't like spending time with them, it just means you've reached your limit. Photo by Gareth Saunders.

Enlist an Accomplice (When You Can)

Of course, not all overstayers are friends or family. One of the more difficult situations to get out of is the complete stranger who sticks around too long. Gil offers up a pretty simple solution for getting strangers out of your hair.

It helps to have a signal that the two of you have planned for ahead of time. You can also "draft" an accomplice by hollering at a friend that's walking by. Don't have a friend nearby? Ask the guy who just happens to be passing by where he got that nifty smartphone case. Anything that breaks the flow of the conversation will allow you to announce your exit once you're addressing your "groupie" again.

An accomplice might seem a little over-the-top, but that doesn't mean they don't come in handy. Plus, if you're an overstayer yourself, now you know some of the tricks people might use to get out of a conversation with you.

Everybody handles people who overstay their welcome a little differently and plenty of odd circumstances are bound to come up in your life. With that in mind, we'd love to hear your suggestions for getting rid of people who overstay their welcome. Sound off in the comments. Photo by Glenn Harper.

Roger S. Gil, M.A.M.F.T. He's a marriage and family therapist who helps individuals, couples and families work on their relationships, parenting issues and other mental health concerns. To get more from Roger, you can follow him on Twitter and check out his podcast.


Comments

    My favourite example of signalling time to go came from an ex-boss. He, his wife and children would suddenly get up and walk to the door, then stand pointing at it and sing Po Atarau until everyone was out the door. If any attempt were made to enter into conversation with them, they'd just sing louder and point more urgently towards the door.

    If it's at home, the easiest way is to start cleaning up. People tend to leave pretty quickly when you do that.

    I just linked my friend this article from across the room (he brought his computer over to my house). He got the hint.

    I generally find the direct approach best. As long as there's actually some reason (such as a task to accomplish) you need the person to be gone I find most people aren't offended by a polite request to leave. I find that it can also help to clarify up-front that you're happy to meet with the person in question again soon.

    "Sorry to chase you out, it's been great catching up -- but I really need to get done -- we'll catch up again soon!"

    People will adjust to how you normally behave, so as long as you're reasonable they'll quickly learn when it is and isn't ok for them to stay around, and will be happy to give you your space when you have things to do. :-)

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