The older we get, the harder it is to make time to spend with other people. We have work, obligations, and maybe a significant other or kids. Plus, figuring out how to ask someone to hang out might not come easy to some of us.
How to ask someone if they want to hang out
As simple as it may seem, how to ask a friend to hang out is a challenge for many, many people, according to Marisa T. Cohen, a relationship scientist and head of couple relationships at Paired, an app to improve communication for couples.
She said that instead of saying how we really feel to our friends, i.e., “I miss you, let’s hang out!” We mask our feelings by trying to sound aloof and instead say something like, “Hey, what’s up?”
The reason for this might have something to do with our carefully crafted social media personas—we tend to want to seem busy and like we’re doing cool things. The way we communicate, such as via text messaging, has also made things worse as we may miss valuable social cues. But it’s also a classic way to protect ourselves from rejection.
Finding that middle ground of being not so forward that it scares the other person away and not too distant as to suggest you’re not really interested is a “careful dance,” Cohen said. But it’s not impossible.
Whether you’re wondering how to ask a friend to hang out in person or how to ask someone to hang out over text, you’ll need to follow the same three principles: be purposeful, don’t be too vague and be vulnerable.
How to ask a friend to hang out
If you want to hang out with someone you haven’t seen in a long time or don’t see often, you’re going to want to start by pointing out the elephant in the room.
“Call it out like, ‘Hey, I haven’t spoken to you in a very long time, I miss you,’ or ‘I was thinking of you,’ or ‘I was looking at old photos and I saw a picture of you, it’s been a while, let’s have a phone conversation,’” Cohen said.
By explaining to the person why you’re reaching out, you’re showing that you simply want to see them and are not asking for anything in return—nobody wants to hear from an old friend only to find out that they’re asking for money or some other big favor. Then, make a plan based on something you know the other person is into.
“With closer friends you see more often and you know very well [you] may have an idea of a specific date in mind. Like, ‘Let’s get coffee next weekend,’" Cohen said. “But if it’s someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while, it’s probably best to connect based upon some sort of shared interest.”
Do they like cooking? Propose going to a class together. Do they love superhero movies? Plan to see one together. Here’s an example of what to say: “I’d really like to go see that movie, let’s make a plan. When typically works best?” Or, “The movie is coming out on ‘X’ date. Let’s go see it when it opens.”
“You’re making [plans] based upon something that you already have in common, so you know that the person is likely to want to engage in that way,” Cohen said.
The keys are to know what you’re doing, around when you’ll be doing it and that the other person will likely want to do that with you.
How to ask to hangout with someone you just met
If you just met someone, you don’t know all their likes and interests—but there’s a good chance you have a clue based on how you met. Did you run into each other in line at a coffee shop? During a scavenger hunt? At a baseball game? Say something like, “I really enjoyed hanging out, we should do this again. Do you want to grab coffee next Saturday?”
How to ask a group to hang out
Asking a group, “Will you hang out with me?” isn’t enough. You’ll need to be very clear about where and when, because people have busy schedules.
“If you’re like, ‘Hey, why don’t you all submit dates that work so we can find something that’s consistent among all of us?’ It’s never going to happen, especially [because] everyone has their own commitments or own responsibilities,” Cohen said.
Instead, set a date that you think the majority can attend and come up with a specific plan of action. For instance, “‘Hey, you want to have another picnic? I’ll be the person to send out an email,’” Cohen said. “‘If Saturday typically works better than Sundays, I’m going to come up with a Saturday another month, and then just let me know if you can make it.’”
Don’t expect the dates to work for everyone, but be sure to include all group members in the invitations even if you know they can’t make it, so they don’t feel left out.
How to ask someone to hang out with your friends
Introducing someone to another group of friends may seem awkward at first, but Cohen said the group will probably enjoy seeing a new face.
“I think groups naturally evolve over time, so it’s easier in that respect to bring someone in. Also, it’s hard to make friends when you’re older, so people will appreciate it more,” she said.
Tell the friend you want to introduce to the group that you think they’d really enjoy meeting them. Then, invite them to come join a plan you already have with the group. For example: “Want to join us when we all go ice skating on Thursday?”
Whatever you invite the new person to, make sure it’s a low-pressure event and they won’t be grilled.
“It’s kind of like introducing a significant other, when everyone else knows each other and everyone else is telling inside stories about the past,” Cohen said. “You don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”
What to avoid when asking someone if they want to hang out
It’s easy for us to get in our own heads about how to ask someone to hang out, so we end up not doing it at all. But in reality, there’s little to worry about and the other person will probably be glad to hear from you. If not, it’s their loss.
Still, there are few things to avoid.
Asking if someone’s available without saying why
Saying something like, “Are you free next week?” is too vague and may cause the other person to question your motives. Instead, say why you’re contacting them and what you plan on doing together.
“Avoid giving really vague requests, both in terms of why and when, because the why might raise a red flag like, ‘What is this actually for?’ And then in terms of when, it becomes almost wishy-washy, like, ‘Are you just inviting me to be nice by saying we should hang out one time or do you really want to see me?’’” Cohen said.
Assuming they’ll say no
The longer it’s been, the more challenging it is to reach out to someone. People change, and you’re not sure that the person will want to hang out with you. It’s natural to want to shield yourself from that potential rejection, but there’s only one way to find out if the other person is interested: Ask. If they do say no, don’t take it personally.
“There are lots of possibilities as to why a person says no, but don’t infer anything about what that means in terms of whether or not the person likes you as a person,” Cohen said.
Mask your intentions
Are you wondering how to ask someone to hang out, but really want the relationship to evolve into a romantic one? Going from friends to dating isn’t impossible, but you have to be clear about your intentions, especially in a work context.
“If you have a dual relationship like that, you really need to make it very, very clear,” Cohen said. “You basically have to explicitly say, ‘Do you want to go out on a date sometime?’ Because, it can become very uncomfortable for one or both people if one person thinks ‘We’re working on a project together’ and another person thinks ‘We’re going on a romantic date.’”
Giving up the friendship if they can’t hang out
Are you constantly proposing hangouts with someone and they always decline, make excuses or never ask you to hang out back? Don’t give up right away. Instead, ask them why they’re doing that. Again, they could be busy or just might not be the type of person who makes plans.
“If you do feel like you are putting in too much effort and you’re not getting anything in return and that really is bothering you, rather than just pulling back and potentially losing a friend, it would be important to have a conversation about that first. Like, ‘I feel like I’m always asking you, just wanted to check in,’” Cohen said.
So it’s been a while since you’ve seen someone and you want to know how to ask someone to hang out? To make things easy on yourself, remember three things: be purposeful—explain why you want to hang out and what you want to do with them that involves both of your interests. Don’t be vague—people lead busy lives and will need to section off time in their calendar to see you. And while it can be difficult (who wants to be rejected?), be vulnerable—express how you feel about the person and don’t let it get to you if they say no.
“To be able to create a friendship, especially like a long-term friendship, it requires us to … really be vulnerable,” Cohen said. “Open yourself up to possible rejection as a partner or as a friend, whatever it is.”