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I have learned that a group of colleagues sometimes meet after work for a social activity. I might be interested to join them, but they have not invited me. How can I carefully inquire if they would welcome me to join them? Asking directly might be awkward if they prefer to not have me join, but maybe they just assume I'm not interested or available, and they would be happy to have me. Is there some way I can subtly find out which one it is?

Asking for a friend.

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I had once a similar situation, and wanted to tactfully test the waters. Once I heard of the event, I waited for a little over a week and a good opportunity at the coffee machine.

I spotted that colleague, alone1 at the moment, and started small talk. Then, I just said:

I heard you guys were going to Central Perk for a drink on Friday. I was thinking about going with my SO one time maybe. How is it? Do you know it?

You ask some trivial questions about the place, not about their party. Don't show interest in their party, show interest in the place hosting it. It's less intrusive. Doing this, you let them know that you know about their party, without asking for anything else or going any further. Now, the ball is in their court, it's their move.

If the colleague picked up the hint (you knowing about the event, and you asking about the place), he might connect you and the event, and later talk to the others chaps. That's what you wanted to do: link your name, the place and the event in his mind.

From their response, you'll have more insight about what they intend to do. Are they elusive? Are they deflecting? Are they denying or downsizing the fact that they're going? Any of these, I always understood it as "forget about it". Until/unless you have some (other) words to interpret, I see no other way to smoothly and with delicacy test the waters.


1. I would not recommend doing that in the middle of the group because they might not be able to answer, it could make them feel uncomfortable, as no one would know what the others think.

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  • Why does it always have to be so complicated? Why can't ppl just clearly state their intentions like: what would you say if I joined you? Etc. And them being able to answer "sure!" or "we'd like to be only among ourselves" etc. I want ppl to behave as honest as a three years old :P
    – brown-owl
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 6:35
  • "Why can't ppl just clearly state their intentions like: what would you say if I joined you?": because these kind of questions sometimes call for no's, and many people can't say no and many can't handle a no.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 6:44
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Trying to insert yourself into an existing group can get awkward. For one thing, even if the person you ask might welcome you, they may not feel comfortable answering for the entire group.

In such a situation, I've found it better to ask a coworker if they'd like to do something social after work, or mention that you'd like to organize a get together with a few coworkers. Of course this would have to be someone that you feel quite comfortable with.

If the person declines or is vague ("yes, we'll have to do that sometime") that probably means they aren't eager to socialize or have you join their after work group.

Ideally the person will suggest that you attend the existing social gathering. But it's also possible they will be fine with setting up a separate event, which is still useful in terms of getting to socialize with your coworkers.

What I've found as the advantage to this approach is that it really doesn't put anyone on the spot. Asking if you can join a group makes everyone feel uncomfortable if you aren't really welcome. No one wants to be "the bad guy" and say no, so you can end up with a very awkward situation. Suggesting your own gathering is much less likely to make people uncomfortable.

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