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Overstaying Your Welcome


Techniques > Conversation techniques > Conversational Traps > Overstaying Your Welcome

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you are enjoying a conversation or just the company of another person, it is very easy to overstay your welcome, straying from the period when they are comfortable with you being there to when they just wish you would go.

This can happen in a simple conversation when you talk too much, especially about yourself, or otherwise are taking more than you are giving. It can also happen when the others have something to do and your presence is stopping them from getting on with their day.


A person is feeling upset so they call unexpectedly on a friend. They spend the evening pouring out their troubles, not noticing that the other person is regularly looking at the clock.

A person joins a group of other people at a party. They talk with him at first but after a while he feels they are ignoring him. Rather than making his excuses and moving on, he just hangs around, trying to say something funny, though never raising even a smile.


The desired duration for people in company tends to vary between people with, at some point, one person wanting to stay while others want them to go. You can avoid this situation by looking for clues such as:

  • Short answers to your questions.
  • Them looking elsewhere rather than at you when you are talking.
  • Their feet or whole body pointing away.
  • A false smile (just with the mouth but not the eyes).
  • Not starting new topics of conversation.
  • Asking what time it is.

A good rule is that if you just bump into people, ask how they are and listen more before saying anything about yourself. Then keep this light, with moans to the minimum. And then leave within a few minutes unless they seem particularly happy to be talking with you.

The best plan in conversation is to leave while they want you to stay, not when they want you to go. By using the scarcity principle, you leave them wanting more, which results in them mentally moving towards you rather than away from you. When you do move on, aim to leave them feeling good, for example by thanking them or paying them a compliment.

See also

Social Compliance principle


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