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I am a very direct person. Say what you mean, mean what you say, nothing more, nothing less. Most of my friends of my same gender happen to be indirect.

If I text one of my friends a question such as "Are you free this Thursday night to hang out?", they generally won't reply to my text. Even if we have been sending messages back and forth for 15 minutes, the conversation will suddenly end.

For some of my friends, it seems that this is their way of saying they are not available. Other friends will tell me they are free if I see them in person (I'm a college student).

As a direct person, I generally find myself frustrated with my friends and their lack of responsiveness. I tend to not make other plans during the time I asked them to hang out in hopes that they will either respond to my message or see me in person and be able to hang out. I then am irritated when Thursday night rolls around and they haven't said a word.

How can I ask my question in a less direct way to hopefully get them to say yes, no, or maybe, so that I don't get so frustrated with their lack of communication?

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W. Cook is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
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    Hi W.Cook! I've edited you main question at the end of the body, hopefully without betraying your OP, and keeping it on-topic for IPS (because your frustration is an intrapersonal issue, and won't make the cut here ;)) Please feel free to edit yourself, or rollback, and feedback, thanks. – OldPadawan Dec 2 at 14:56
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I'll start with different people are different, and what works to communicate with one person may not work for others. It's possible you'll need different techniques for one or more of your friends.

I also tend to be a direct person. But it's also not always about how direct one is; for some people it's about the apparent potential for confrontation. Your example where they disappear rather than responding to a question of their availability sounds more to me like that than about how direct you were.

That said, you know your friends infinitely better than I do, so I'll assume you're right. The most common way of indirectly inviting your friends to hang out on Thursday night is to just casually mention that you were hoping to hang out with your friends on Thursday night. For me, and probably you as well, this sounds like an assertion that you're going to be busy, but I know people who need to be invited with that language. I am somewhat averse to using it, because not only does it not sound like an invitation to me, but I've had times where I tried to use it and the person I was trying to invite felt excluded, despite the fact that they were also averse to my more direct invitations.

Alternatively, back on my initial reaction, it could just be how you phrase it.

Are you free this Thursday night to hang out?

can sound like a demand to some, and they really don't want to say no, but they are also opposed to saying yes. I've had friends who later on admitted that they actually had been free, but really didn't want to set a precedent of doing whatever I said. That sounded completely crazy to me, because it wasn't my intent at all - but they'd known some people who were very controlling and happened to use that same language sometimes, and so it triggered that reaction. If that's the case, avoiding all ways of phrasing things that some other person you've never met has used could be very difficult.

Sometimes you just have to try some variations and see what works. I've found things that were more direct about accepting a no answer have worked more frequently with those I've talked with. Some of the variations I'll offer here would also fit in with the indirect wording to an extent, but in these, I'll always be explicit that they are intended to be included.

I'd like to hang out with you this Thursday. It's fine if you're busy or just don't want to.

I'm hoping to hang out with some friends on Thursday. Would you be open to that? It's OK if you're not interested.

I'm really busy most of this next week, but I'd like to spend more time with you. I'm not doing anything on Thursday. Would that work for you? It's fine if you can't, it's just the only time I have this week.

Some people might want more of an idea of the activities that would be done, while others prefer having things left open. Some people might want a choice of days or times. That might be an option, given your schedule, or it might not.


Edit: I have also known people who didn't like being pinned to a specific time to hang out with a particular friend when they believed that their friend had no reason for wanting to narrow things down to a specific day or time.

I've most witnessed this friction around trying to get commitment to show up to a surprise birthday party or something like that, but I also knew someone in school who always tried to get friends to hang out with him on one specific day of the week each week - although which day would change week to week. This person's friends saw them as a child of wealth who had nothing to do with his time but wanted to get his friends to bow to his arbitrary schedule because he was controlling.

I later found out that he was not as wealthy as his friends thought. He always seemed to have money to spare, whether it was for the latest gadget or someone in need, so they figured his parents were so loaded they didn't teach their son economic sense. But actually, his family was slightly less wealthy than theirs. He just worked at the family store 6 days a week, with barely enough time to do his homework on those days. He just had his own money because he worked his butt off to earn it.

Letting his friends know why he didn't have time made it much easier for him to schedule things with his friends on his weeknights off. But in his case, not doing that wasn't a lack of interpersonal skills, it was tactical. He waited to do it until he found a different group of friends who would both not disrespect him for being a working man and not try to hang around his store while he was working trying to distract him in the name of friendliness.

Explaining why you want to schedule for a certain time can be helpful, but it's important to consider the consequences of giving out that information. Most of the time, for most people I know, it's better to give out that information to maximize the chance of having the person be more agreeable to the restricted schedule.

There are some people who would prefer to not know why. Different people are different, and they have their reasons. There are also times like my classmate had when it's better for you to not share. I don't really have a good heuristic I can relate as to when is a good time to share and when isn't, but I think that would count as a separate topic anyway.

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    I am a moderately-direct person, and I agree that "Are you free to hang out?" Sounds like a demand: Unless you have a good enough reason why you can't, I expect you to show up. This is, indeed, because it was the language used by some more controlling people in my past, and knowing that, I try to avoid a knee-jerk response when a perfectly nice friend uses the same phrase, but the knee-jerk is there under the surface. "Do you want to hang out?" or "I'd like to hang out with you." is an invitation, rather than a summons. You don't even need to prevaricate about why they may not want to. – Meg Dec 2 at 15:35
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    +1. I can add, OP doesn't look like she/he is demanding her/his friend o be available but for sure is demanding a response and a yes/no one. For casual hangout, people prefer to answer "maybe" because there's a lot of IF: if I got money, if I'm on the mood, if Bob is comming to, if Alice is not comming to, etc. I guess people disapears because they don't want OP to be mad at a "maybe" answer and don't want to be questioned about the "maybe" motives. – jean Dec 2 at 16:37
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I think you're actually not asking directly enough.

If someone asks me

Are you free Thursday night?

I don't know what they're actually about to ask - do they want me to meet them for a one hour dinner? A three hour concert? Do they want me to hang out for boardgames with a larger group of their friends that I don't know?

I want a way to gracefully excuse myself if the activity is not something I have interest or mental energy for that night--which is difficult to do if I've already said "yes I'm available".

You might try asking with more specifics:

Hey, are you free to hang out Thursday night? There's this [restaurant I want to check out / game I want to play / movie I want to see / etc].

If people are still not responding and its inhibiting your ability to make other plans, you might nudge them the next day:

Hey let me know if I should keep Thursday open for you or if we should schedule for a different day.

If they still don't respond, it's safe to assume you should make other plans - they might be free, but since they didn't commit, they can't (shouldn't) expect you to keep your time open.

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