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I have a small group of friends that get together and hangout. Usually we hangout on Fridays. We usually go to the same person's home.

One person from this group (call him Bob) contacted me. He said he and one other person from the group (call him Joe) want to have a meeting with me. He said it's something best discussed over dinner at a restaurant. There really is only one or two other members of the group and I'm surprised they weren't invited.

I have a bad gut feeling about this, something seems off. Bob and Joe only gave me the vaguest idea of what the topic of the meeting is. I'm also unclear why we can't wait until the next time we normally meet. I have a paranoid feeling that Bob and Joe are going to team up on me and get mad at me for something.

Generally speaking, everyone in this group values open communication and is very approachable.

Is there a good way to address my feeling of unease? Perhaps my questions will naturally be answered in the meeting, but I would like to know why we had to meet early, why those two specific people of the group attended, and why the topic of the meeting wasn't made clear to me?

How can I ask this without making them feel defensive?

One thing that bugs me is usually meetings work best of people have a chance to prepare for them. I have already spoke to Bob over the phone but he didn't really give me any answers.

Thanks a lot for all the answers! The meeting has happened and generally it was about an unpleasant topic. I don't think there is one "correct" answer to this question and that is why I haven't chosen one.

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    "get mad at me for something" that sounds like you have something in mind already. If that is the case, did you ask if the meeting is about that? – XtremeBaumer Nov 18 '19 at 12:19
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    What is the vague topic which you were able to extract? I can't imagine that these two people wish to berate you over the course of a dinner set for a later date. If that's honestly what they end up doing then it will be safe to say that they are not your friends. If I had to guess then they might wish to present you with a proposition such as a business idea or maybe they wish to get your honest feedback about something. I would personally be quite inquisitive and ask something like "Hey, I was wondering if you could tell me why the meeting has to happen over dinner? Is it something I did?" – MonkeyZeus Nov 18 '19 at 20:04
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    "Bob and Joe are going to team up on me and get mad at me" - do you feel there's a risk of anything worse happening? Would anything stop you from just leaving if you don't like where the conversation is headed? Why would you even want to go if you think it's bad? Can you envision anything else they might want to discuss with you (about your friends or some opportunity or whatever)? – NotThatGuy Nov 18 '19 at 20:43
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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Ælis Nov 18 '19 at 21:32
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    How do you know the meeting is about you? It's possible one of these friends has serious news to discuss with you. It's possible one these friends, or someone else you all know, is seriously ill. It's possible one of them has a business proposition for you, that the other has already agreed to. Can you tell us why you think the meeting is going to be negative and about you? – Ryan_L Nov 18 '19 at 22:26
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There's one simple fact that I think is being overlooked here: They invited you to dinner.

Generally speaking you don't invite someone to dinner if you want to have a hard conversation, because that could spoil everyone's appetite. A serious conversation, maybe, but not an accusatory one. I personally feel based on the information provided that there's nothing to worry about.

Here's the caveat: The fact that you are creeped out may mean you're seeing details that aren't communicated here, but there's no way for me to know that. You know these people better than any of us, but if these were my friends, I would think it was strange but I wouldn't be worried. YMMV.

To answer your question directly, you already tried to get more information and it was not given. You can gently step up the pressure and try again:

Hey I'd really like to know why you guys want to see me, is something wrong?

That shouldn't offend anyone. It simply show's you're concerned about everyone's well-being and you recognize that this is out of the ordinary. Be prepared for them to politely refuse again, in which case, they probably have good reason (maybe they can't talk about it at home). In any case, I don't think it's something to worry about since they want to talk over dinner.

Edit based on comments: I have personally been in situations where I've had to use a little extra pressure to get answers like this. It usually is the result of a simple miscommunication, in which case the line I suggested has cleared it up right away (someone didn't realize their request seemed strange). Once in a while a conversation like this has turned out serious. For example, one was because my friend had to admit he was in financial trouble and was selling his house. He just needed to vent about it privately away from his wife because she was stressed over it.

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    Probably from the sound of things it's not a "hard" conversation but like a "medium" one. Maybe he's doing something really embarrassing or there's gossip going on about him or something like that. It's not serious enough to deter eating, but serious enough that they want to formally discuss it at the same time. – Andrew Nov 21 '19 at 18:10
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    That's possible, and if that's the case it sounds like these guys are trying to not lose the OP as a friend, just offering some constructive feedback to improve relations. – thanby Nov 21 '19 at 22:59
  • I think some people think "meeting over food" helps make an unpleasant topic more enjoyable – hectorpepper Feb 13 at 9:46
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Warning: this is an arm-twisted way of solving the situation and it could damage your relationship with them.


I have anxiety issues. Sometimes, people want me to go somewhere but, in my eyes, they aren't giving me enough information. Not having enough information can cause me a lot of (otherwise avoidable) stress and I don't like that.

That's why, when the situation arises, here is what I do:

  1. I ask the question I need answers to in order to feel less stressed. It seems like you have already tried to do that but without much success.

  2. If my first step didn't work (the other person refuses to give me answers or don't care enough to look for answers to them), then I simply refuse to come.

It's simple, if a situation is causing you too much stress, it might be better to step out of the situation entirely. Also, when people see that I'm willing to not go if they don't give me the information, they tend to be more willing to accede to my wish and give the information to me (or at least, they will give more than they gave out before).


I usually use this technique with my family and, even though they aren't thrilled about it, they also don't take much offense. They know me, they know how I am and they know that I'm not doing this to annoy them but because it's important for my well-being.

In the case of your friends, you might want to communicate just that: that not knowing is very stressing you and that you would rather have more information. You might also add that, without that, the stress will be a lot and that you would rather not come.

This way, you make it about your well being. Not about them. They might become defensive but, if they care about you, they also might understand and give you the answers you seek.

If they don't, then it's up to you to decide to meet them for that dinner or not.

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    I feel this sort of uncooperative negotiation is best reserved only for those who are well aware of your extreme difficulty dealing with anxiety else it becomes much more likely to damage the relationship as Aelis warns. If you do not struggle immensely with anxiety or the other person is not well aware of your struggles a more moderate plea for some further context might be less damaging – BKlassen Nov 18 '19 at 16:33
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There's a couple things that could be going on, and if your friends aren't forthcoming on questions beforehand, you won't know until you get there.

That said, my first suggestion is that if you have a really bad feeling about this, don't go. You don't even have to make up an excuse. Tell them that if you don't have at least some idea what this is about, you aren't going, period, end of story.

Here’s the advice, simple and unadulterated: Just tell the truth.

Not some version of the truth, or part of the truth, or truth that’s technically true but isn’t the real reason for your behavior. It’s got to be, as they say, “the whole truth."

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201507/the-only-excuse-you-ll-ever-need-or-should-ever-use

You don't have to stoop to the same shadow tactics they are, "Oh, I've got something else to do that day", since that'll likely just end up in a reschedule, if they are insistent. This isn't about conflict avoidance at this point, it's about your safety and well being, including your mental well being as well as your physical well being.

If you do go and it's a public area, make sure you are able to get out of the situation on your own. If it's a restaurant, have them both sit on the opposite side as you so you can get out without asking one of them to move. If something shady is going on, you'll have an easy and possibly quick egress.

SIT CLOSE TO THE AISLE
Whether choosing a seat at a table, a movie theater, or anywhere with a row of seats, sit close to the aisle. This will allow you to get out quickly and less likely to be become slowed during an emergency situation.
{...}
DON’T BOX YOURSELF IN
If sitting at a restaurant table with a bench style seat or U-shaped seat, sit on the end. When the group is being seated simply allow others to slide in before you and take up the end…

https://modernsurvivalblog.com/security/choosing-the-safest-place-to-sit-in-a-restaurant-or-public-place/

And if something really bad happens, don't be afraid to "make a scene". If they hurt you, be loud. If you've seen the movie "Hitch" with Will Smith, you might remember when Will meets with the obnoxious exec with the power suit, power ties, power moves etc in the restaurant. When Will get uncomfortable, he leaves. When the SOB grabs Will's arm, Will give him a brief warning to let go. When he doesn't, Will very publicly face-plants the guy on the table. Of course, this is a "last resort" kind of thing, but you don't always have to be nice to people, especially when they aren't being nice to you, and extra especially when they are endangering you.

If You Are Kidnapped
The initial phase of a kidnapping provides the best opportunities to escape.

If you are in a public area at the time of an abduction attempt, make as much commotion as possible to draw attention to your situation.
If the abduction attempt takes place in your hotel room, make noise, attempt to arouse the suspicion or concern of hotel employees or of those in neighboring rooms.

https://www.worldaware.com/resources/advice/avoiding-and-surviving-kidnapping-situations

Ok, so on to better scenarios.

This meeting could be benign. These two people might just be getting bored with the rest of the group and don't want to admit it in front of the rest of the group. They might want to start a new group, believing you are interesting enough to join it. This kind thing happens, where some people outgrow others or realize they can't stand someone anymore. If you still want to hang out with the people left out of the new group, then that's something you'll have to figure out: do you want to do something different with these "leftovers" from the original group or are you even interested in the new group.

Fortunately, most friendships have a natural life cycle. Forti says that leaving a certain friend or group usually comes along with a shift in identity (your kids have grown, you no longer run as often, etc.). And when you naturally outgrow these groups, the intensity of the relationships tends to diminish and the parting of ways can happen on good terms.

https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/12/27/how-to-grow-out-of-a-friend-group/

This meeting could also be good, something the two people have been wanting to collaborate with you on and don't need to include the rest of your group, such as a new business. They realize you can do something better/faster than they can, maybe they just need more hands on deck, maybe they need someone to tell them an "outsiders" view of the thing, and they trust you. Maybe it's a surprise party they are planning for the other two.

Or the meeting could be something helpful that you don't want to talk about.

Dude, you drink so many Pepsi/Coke/Mt. Dew/Dr. Peppers during our meetings that we think you're going to float away in all the liquids. You need to slow down before you end up weighing 1000 lbs.

I have no way of knowing what this could be, but it seems like a possibility. Whether it's a bad habit of yours, a tragedy you are still suffering from, a big decision you've made they disagree with, or maybe a decision the group made they don't agree with. Maybe they think you are too shy and need to be more outgoing, or simply "need to get out of the house more often". Maybe they want you as a "wing man", or they want to be your "wing man". Maybe they've met someone that would be "perfect" for you and want to introduce you to them, or maybe they want to include you in their relationship.

Even if they do agree to the date, you should still back off, Spira says. As a matchmaker, it's your job to introduce the idea of going on a date and to exchange contact information or introduce them in person. It's not your job to plan the date for them — unless you're also going to be there. "The easiest solution is to suggest a double date or group date to introduce someone new to your friend," Spira says. "This removes the pressure of having them be alone with someone they don’t end up having chemistry with, which can backfire and be dreadful." But if they'd rather get to know each other privately, then pass along contact info and let them take it from there.

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/how-to-set-up-friends-blind-dating

There are vastly more possibilities than I gave examples for, and this was not supposed to be an exhaustive list, but I think this covers the main categories of possibilities of what could happen.

And for asking more questions about the meeting, are you doing this in person so you can gauge their reactions? Is it a shy, defensive, or offhand denial of information. They could just be embarrassed about the topic or they could think you are embarrassed about it. If forceful about not answering your question, they might be doing something less than legit, which would likely mean you don't want to go to this meeting. And if it's an offhand comment about it being nothing to worry about, they still haven't given you enough info to make a decision on, since it could be just a conversation or they could be lying.

You already pick up on more body language cues than you're consciously aware of. UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language. Learning how to become aware of and to interpret that 55% can give you a leg up with other people.

https://www.inc.com/travis-bradberry/8-great-tricks-for-reading-peoples-body-language.html

Without knowing what's going on, your anxiety is understandable. You can choose to let it freeze you out of going, or you can go in spite of your misgivings. Really, only you can answer this question. Again, you won't know until you either ask for more info beforehand or you get there. And again, if you don't feel comfortable with the meeting: don't go and don't mince words about it either.

To address a comment, a meeting to discuss a business partnership isn't a worst case scenario. Even if it's a scam/MLM/pyramid scheme/whatever, it's still something you can walk away from without any lasting harm. A physical assault or kidnapping are far worse scenarios.

Also, can you imagine what some friends of Mark Zukerberg are thinking now, if they had denied meeting with him about this crazy idea of a social networking platform he wanted to build just because it was a business deal/partnership offering? Or Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or any of the large companies that exist today? Yes, there's plenty of failed businesses around, and many that are struggling, but as long as a person knows when to get out, before they lose the shirt off their back, a meeting about a startup business isn't a worst case scenario.

Launching a business isn’t easy, which is why having a co-founder can often make things a little smoother, especially if that co-founder is your best friend. While many professionals warn against going into business with close friends, there are plenty of examples that prove it can work. Just take a look at companies such as Airbnb, Warby Parker and even Ben and Jerry’s. These successful businesses started out with a friendship before a brand, and look how they turned out.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/314568

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    "Tell them that if you don't have at least some idea what this is about, you aren't going, period, end of story." - can you add what the OP might expect as a result of doing this? Are these suggestions based on real-life interactions you've had, or some other source? Answers here do need to include backup. Also, just a formatting suggestion, it's a bit hard right now to parse out the actual answer of "how to ask" vs. "here's possible reasons they might want to meet", maybe you could make that more clear by adding headings or similar. – Em C Nov 19 '19 at 15:51

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