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A friend of mine, Tim, is often busy. I've been trying to make plans with him to go out for drinks, but he seems to be busy every time I make this offer. This happens fairly often so I have a slight suspicion that perhaps he's using this as a way of saying "no" in order to avoid spending time with me.

I have no problem not spending time with Tim if he doesn't want to, I'd just rather not spend the effort asking him (which is annoying for me if he'll always say no and annoying for him if he's uninterested) if he doesn't have a genuine interest.

How can I ask him whether or not he has interest in spending time with me without potentially alienating him if he was actually busy every time I asked?

My focus is mostly on asking him in such a way that doesn't imply that I think he's making excuses. He works often and is genuinely busy often so in the case where my timing has been consistently bad I don't want him to think I'm doubting him. I am open to indirect approaches as well.

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    Whether he does or doesn't, I would question whether or not you really want to be spending time with someone who doesn't at least put some effort in themselves. – ESR Mar 2 '18 at 0:34
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    @EdmundReed It's not always easy for others to take the initiative, even when they do want to spend time with the other person. – Logan Pickup Mar 2 '18 at 8:44
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    Disinterested, or uninterested? – Tim Mar 2 '18 at 12:24
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If you want to know if he's genuinely interested, just tell him to tell you when he's available. Tell him you want to meet, but you acknowledge he's a very busy person, so you leave up to him when to do so.

If he's really up to it, he'll eventually call. If he doesn't, well you got your answer as well, although not so satisfying.

Most people would not admit directly they don't have interest in meeting since they don't want to seem rude, so let their acts speak for them.

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    I'd add that it's a good idea to also give them an idea of when YOU are available as well, to avoid the insinuation of being petty if they then suggest times you aren't available. – DoctorPenguin Feb 27 '18 at 16:20
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    I just don't want to put the burden on them to organize something. They very rarely take that initiative and when they do it's usually for a bigger event where they invite many people. – Arthas Feb 27 '18 at 17:08
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    If you want them to have initiative you're out of luck since you can't control their actions or interest :( I mean if you force it isn't honest interest , it's artificial since you put pressure on them to do so. In my opinion you can make a clear statement that you want to meet with them but if they end up showing the interest is up to them. – Alexander Aeons Torn Feb 27 '18 at 18:31
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    It may be worth mentioning that there are other factors besides Tim's level of interest. Maybe Tim has other obligations that he prefers to keep private. – Carcosa Feb 27 '18 at 19:37
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    @Steve, you aren't asking him to organise something, just to let you know when he's free so you can organise it. – Tom.Bowen89 Feb 28 '18 at 8:58
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The best way to determine if someone is interested in spending time with you is to leave them to their own devices and see if they try to initiate contact.

If you're always the one making the first move, and he's frequently rejecting your proposals, then maybe he doesn't actually like you very much. However, it's awkward to ask this, and there's a very low chance of getting an honest answer. By allowing him to take charge you're going to figure out exactly how valuable your friendship is to him.

If he calls you a month from now and apologizes for not staying in touch because he was busy, then he cares. Even if he doesn't apologize you can bring up the topic of him not calling much, and see what he says (busy with work, etc.)

If, however, he never calls, you have your answer.

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Following up on the excellent answers of AndreiROM and Alexander Aeos Tom letting them invite you, may not always be the right solution. While this may work with most people, in my experience there are people who are just too shy, lazy or forgetful to respond, even if they would have interest in spending time with you and enjoy it. This is especially true for people who are very busy or introverted.

My proposed approach to this problem is to make long-term plans with them on the spot. This means that whenever they say they are busy, you ask them when will they be free next time and arrange for a meeting then. It happened to me many times that these plans were 3 weeks or 2 months before the occasion. This can also let them change the subject of the meeting, they may not like drinking and say for example that you could join them when they go to the car expo next week instead.

This approach has drawbacks as well, by asking them for long-term plans you are forcing them to either tell you they aren't interested in meeting you or giving a plan they wouldn't enjoy. Because of this, you should let them get away with an "I don't know", or "I'll let you know" which usually means they have no interest or they will call you when they have. Also keep in mind that long term plans can be canceled often and may need to be rescheduled. Be patient if this happens, since you are the one forcing a plan that may not be possible.

  • In my opinion this is a much better answer. A lot of people are shy nowadays and I've found people moving away from drinks as an activity lately. – Muuski Feb 28 '18 at 15:21
  • As someone with social anxiety, this would be far preferable than forcing me to initiate contact. (I know it's not good of me to act that way, but in the meantime...) Plus for busy people, scheduling further in advance gives them time to work the event into their schedule before it gets filled up. – Em C Mar 1 '18 at 14:51
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Does Tim enjoy going out for drinks or would he rather be doing other activity with you? Is he more of an introvert or extrovert? Perhaps it's not you, but the activity or datetime that you ask for. Does Tim have an schedule or routine that conflicts with your invitations?

I would also suggest to put the ball in his court. Let him know a day you're available to go out and agree on some plans, perhaps with a day or so of anticipation so that Tim can create some space in his schedule. We don't know if Tim had other plans or is, at the moment, investing his free time on something else, may it be important or not.

If he still denies the invitation, then you may want to ask him if anything's wrong. Depending on how is your relationship with him you may ask him playfully like Man, what's up, I'll have to drag you out of your house some days... or go more serious and formal showing your concerns and worries that he doesn't want to share time together.

He may say nothing's wrong to avoid conflict but, at that point, you may know for sure that he rather be doing something else. If, on the other hand, you get an answer, great!

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    Welcome to IPS! Tim does like going out for drinks. I'm sure there might be something he'd prefer, but it's something we've done in the past that we've both enjoyed. He's mostly an introvert, but far less introverted with me. I think we both (in the past) have enjoyed getting drinks as just an opportunity to be somewhat social and have time to chat. Tim's work schedule somewhat conflicts, but only because he works until 7PM and starts work at 6AM. However, he's gone out for drinks in the past after work when he had to work the next day. – Arthas Feb 27 '18 at 18:36
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    @Steve I was used to go out for drinks, and nowadays I prefer not to, for several reasons. I was actually also thinking of posting a similar answer. Life changes, people changes. – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 27 '18 at 18:44
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    @RuiFRibeiro We've gone out for drinks relatively recently (around 2 months ago), so I don't think it's because anything's changes, but that is still something I'll consider and maybe ask about if I can find a good opportunity. – Arthas Feb 27 '18 at 18:58
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    Does tim have kids? As a Tim with kids, I can confirm that I may not see my friends for ~3 months at a time, because busy. – djsmiley2k - CoW Feb 28 '18 at 8:57
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Over the years I have learned to apply the following rule: a large enough number of "I can't" mean "I don't want to".

At a certain point (sooner rather than later, I would say), you need to put the ball in the other's person court and leave it there. If they want to see you, they'll contact you.

Many people seem content with relationships of the form "we have to get together one of these days", and said days never come by.

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In general, if I ask someone to join me in some activity and they make an excuse, I ask them again some time later. If they again make an excuse, I work on the assumption that they don't want to spend time with me.

The more vague or general the excuse, the more likely that it's not sincere. If someone says, "Sorry, I'll be busy", that's likely a made-up excuse. If he says, "Sorry, but I have an appointment with my dentist", more likely to be real.

If someone really wants to be your friend and he is genuinely busy when you ask, he will often offer some alternative or encouragement. Like, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'll be busy Tuesday. Maybe we could get together Saturday?" or "But please let me know when you're doing this again" or some such.

I suppose that how persistent you want to be depends on how much you want to be friends with this person. But if you've suggested spending time together on ten different occasions for ten different activities and his answer is always no, I'd give up and look for other friends.

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If he says he's busy, re-ask your question and throw in "sometime" as the timeframe and ask when a good time would be. The answer to this question will indicate interest, if he says sure and suggests a time, mission accomplished, if not that's also pretty indicative.

From a social standpoint going out drinking with your buddy is kind of... unproductive, unless you have important business to discuss. Try to find a common interest and do that instead, or if your dead set on drinks definitely get a group together and ask as part of the group.

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