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A friend and I (both males) met a girl at university who is in the city as part of an exchange program.

The 3 of us have been working occasionally together on university material.

We get along well with her but I wouldn't say we are at the level of friends as we don't see each other very often.

It's the end of the year and she's asking we go out before she returns to her home country. The thing is every time we've met it was at the university and we were all 3 present.

She asked this to me and I am not sure what to say, based on the fact that my friend is now gone (she doesn't know this). Given that we don't know each other well, I think it could be awkward for us (too much like a date, which we don't want) if we went out only the 2 of us.

I also don't think she would want to come sometime when I'm with other friends she doesn't know.

How can I tell her that my friend is gone without making it appear that I am rejecting her proposition ?

  • Hi josey455, welcome to IPS! I have a quick question to help clarify some things in your post so that we can get you the best possible answer. Why are you so sure it will be awkward with just the 2 of you going out? – Rainbacon Jun 20 at 15:19
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    @Rainbacon Mainly because she asked having in mind that we'd be all present, also I suspect it might be a bit date-like ambiance given that we don't know each other very well, and that's not what either of us want. – josey455 Jun 20 at 15:26
  • Is it just that you're concerned it might be awkward if just the two of you spent time together, or are you totally uninterested in spending time with this acquaintance without your friend being there as well? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jun 20 at 15:52
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    @Upper_Case Mostly because it would be awkward. Also she's not a very social person, I think from her POV she would be uncomfortable in that ambiance. But in either case I'll have to tell her that my friend is gone and I am not sure in which context /how to say that. – josey455 Jun 20 at 16:04
  • When she suggested going out, did she mention a specific activity or just that she wanted to spend time with you and your friend? – Rainbacon Jun 20 at 16:22
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Accept the invitation, explain that your friend has left, and provide an "out" in case she's not interested in hanging out with you, alone.

Although it's good to be considerate of others, this is a pretty straightforward situation. And fortunately the information you want to convey isn't a big deal. The following assumes that you're willing to spend time with her, as suggested in a comment under the question.

First, if you don't want it to appear that you are rejecting her invitation, don't reject it. It's that easy.

Second, answer on behalf of your friend who cannot attend due to having already left the area. Since the invitation was for both of you, it makes sense for there to be an answer for both of you. Because your friend has already left, you're not making a decision for him or anything like that, you're just explaining that he will not be able to attend.

Third, if you're truly concerned that this will change her decision, offer her an "out" to cancel the plans. Doing this step last allows you to clearly accept the invitation while still giving her the information she's lacking. If she's as unsociable as you seem to think, mentioning something about plans changing or being cancelled can help make it clear that that's an acceptable occurrence-- she may feel less pressured to go through with the hangout if she doesn't want to do it one-on-one. But this is her decision to make, not one for you to make on her behalf.

An example:

Thanks for inviting me, [acquaintance], I'd love to! [Friend] won't be able to come along, though, since he's already left. I'll plan on meeting you at [place] around [time], and let me know if anything changes.


Why is this approach a reasonable one?

My main thought is that, if you don't know her very well, it's not reasonable or appropriate for you to assume strong knowledge of her mental state or desires and then make her decisions for her. Refusing to spend time with her because you assume she'll feel awkward in your company, even when she's requested your company, is odd.

Her not being a very social person (in your estimation) is a red herring. She has initiated this proposed event, and so it's fair to presume that she wants your company. For all you know, her unsociability comes from shyness, and it was a big deal for her to invite you to socialize, and she would be every bit as happy (if not necessarily less awkward) to spend time with just you as with you and your friend both.

You two not knowing each other very well also doesn't seem as significant to me as you seem to feel. People don't generally meet and immediately become best friends, but rather their relationships build (or don't) over time. Saying that you aren't friends, and so you don't want to spend time with her, suggests that you don't want to become friends with her. There's no way to soften that impression.

I don't quite understand your concern about it seeming too much like a date. If you're both on the same page and specifically don't want it to be a date, it's not going to be a date.

I've made plans with groups of people and individuals, and had those plans change at various times due to unavailability/surprise availability in ways that have suggested date -> not-date, not-date -> date, spending time with people I like, spending time with people I don't like, and every unclear situation in between. It's just not a big deal, with a single exception:

When plans narrow from [person A] and [me + others] to just [person A] and [me], and they cancel those plans, it makes me feel bad. Even in cases where one of the others was the explicit point of getting together (such as a case where I'm a "wingman" for a friend trying to start something romantic with someone), it's made me feel unliked and unwanted. They'd already planned to go out, but if it's only to see me they'd rather do anything else (including nothing). That sucks.

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    Comment on "I don't quite understand your concern about it seeming too much like a date": I was once in almost exactly this situation, where I was in a small group, one woman suggested dinner, I said sure, everyone else declined. Some time during the dinner I realized that in my companion's mind because it was "single guy, single woman" it had morphed into a date. OP's concern is very valid. – DaveG Jun 20 at 20:06
  • @DaveG The OP states that a date is something that neither of them wants. If they're both actively opposed to it being a date, it seems extremely unlikely that they're going to cross that chasm by happenstance. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jun 20 at 20:09
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Having been in this situation with acquaintances at school, the easiest thing to do is simply make a statement like

"I appreciate the invite! FriendA has already left but if you would like to meet for coffee near campus one morning/afternoon (or wherever for whatever) before you leave let me know and we will set it up!"

Coffee and daytime is typically perceived, at least in the U.S. (I'm not sure where this is taking place) as a very neutral request. As opposed, for example, to drinks in the evening or a meal that will take a long time. It also gives her an out with the ability to decline if she doesn't want a one-on-one.

Having been through many cooperative working environments in my many years of higher education, I must say that unless you really want to be friends with a fellow student long term, there typically aren't hard feelings when a semester ends and nobody talks to each other again. I typically will link with people on a professional networking site like LinkedIn if I want to maintain a professional acquaintance with them, otherwise we typically do nothing but say bye, and that is OK for you to do, too.

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