You may escape faster―and avoid future rants―if you take a moment to hear the person out, says conversation expert Margaret Shepherd: "Don't debunk their beliefs, tease, ignore, argue, scoff, or demean. They'll just try harder to convince you." Let the person spew for a couple of minutes before you introduce a neutral subject or make your exit.
Offensive rants―racist, misogynist, or obscene―are an exception. In those cases, cut the speaker off as soon as possible with a simple "Excuse me―I've got to go." If the sermon takes place at work and other people are present, enlist their help. "They probably don't want to hear it either," says career columnist Anne Fisher. After listening to the lecturer for a minute or two, say, "It's interesting you feel so strongly about that, Joe. Hey, Sally, what did you think about that meeting last week?" Unless the person "is a total bonehead," says Fisher, "he or she will take the hint."