How to Make a Graceful but Early Exit from Any Social Situation
Almost everyone has attended an event and couldn't find the right way to leave early. This is due to a feeling of guilt and in many instances an obligation to attend, or, perhaps the event you wanted to attend didn't quite turn out as expected. What do you do?
First, it is important to consider the circumstances PRIOR to attending. A friend of mine ALWAYS had a back-up plan. Regardless of where we went, there was an alternative. Caution using this however as not to make plans with another individual 'just-in-case' and then stand them up because you're having fun when you thought you wouldn't be.
Second, set the stage. If you felt uncomfortable attending to begin with it might be better to send a card or telephone and let yourself off of the hook easy. A quick phone call although painful might be less painful than hours of boredom! But if you truly must attend your bosses six year old daughter's dance recital then set the stage early. Appear frazzled upon arrival and mention "it was tough getting here because of X (difficult getting that project done, especially one for work-hint!), but glad I made it." "I'll have to fly early because of X (more work to do, have an obligation-hint!). The important thing is to allow yourself a means to leave when you arrive and not let yourself be pulled farther in.
Escalation of commitment-once you're there, it's harder to break away because of that guilty feeling. However, if after you set this stage and find out you actually are having a good time, then feel free to make that phantom phone call and then mention you can hang around a while longer. Or, if someone mentions they "thought you had to leave" express "Oh my gosh, I forgot, I need to make a quick call" and then return indicating it's all good.
Third, sometimes bailing out early is BEST-regardless of reason. If you are not enjoying yourself you're dead weight on the party. Sometimes when there is an uncomfortable person hanging around it drags everyone else down. Once they leave everyone else is relieved and can start having a good time. So don't feel guilty, be kind and thank the person for the invite, then make your way out.
Forth, the "I have a headache" excuse is a bunch of nonsense that nobody appreciates. If you think you are fooling someone forget it. It is far better to be honest and mention that you have to be going. Honesty, although painful at times for both you and the host, is still the best policy.