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How do I know if I'm getting the brush off?
January 12, 2014 3:56 PM   Subscribe

In a situation where I'm meeting up with people whom I'm potentially getting to know, how do I know if I'm getting the brush off?

So, this is a kind of a follow-up/sibling to this question, which I also posted. This question concerns a different person, but the same stuff I mentioned previously about my having social anxiety, Asperger's, etc. still applies and is still worth mentioning here.

Anyway. I take classes at this gym. There's a guy that I've been talking to. We have a few things in common and we've had a few good conversations both before and after our class. He has a girlfriend whom I've met a few times but haven't really talked to. Both of them seem nice.

He and I both like to go to shows at art galleries so during our last conversation a few days ago, I asked him and his girlfriend to come along to this show that was opening the following day. I explained that I was doing that because they seemed nice, and that I was new to NYC and didn't know that many people. He told me that his girlfriend is really busy now (and she genuinely seems to be) but that he'd check with her and see if they could come. He told me of some group that meets in our neighborhood and said that he'd tell me when they next met, and I then gave him a card with my email address just in case there was ever anything in the near future. He said we'd keep in touch. He seemed receptive, or at the very least not unpleasant. I don't think he minds my talking to him, at least not according to body language. I don't think I creeped him out, or at least I hope I didn't.

The opening came and went and they didn't come. I did have to leave early, though, and got worried that maybe they had actually came and I wasn't there. I saw him the next day before another class. I asked him if he went and explained about my having to leave early. He said no and mumbled that he went to bed early. There is another opening next weekend, that we had mentioned in our previous conversation, and I asked him if he was attending that. He said probably not, that they had plans with friends, but that he'd check with his girlfriend. He said he'd let me know. He told me to have a good class. I looked at him after he said that and he kind if appeared to be looking at the ground.

This was an early class, but he didn't seem as cheerful and at ease as he had during our last conversation. I'm worried that he was saying all that he had said just to be polite and that he had no intention to meet up at all and I was just getting the brush off. I'm even more worried that I just plain creeped him out.

(OK. I'll admit that I truly worry about this half the time. The other half, I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was acting the way he was because the class is early, etc., etc. and that they are both really busy.)

So, how do I know whether or not he would be interested in meeting up? Is there any way to tell? How do I suggest future meet ups?

It would be one thing if it were like with the person I mentioned in my last question-- that is, if I just emailed him and he never responded. But I've been talking to this person for a while, and I thought we were cool, and then this happens. I enjoy this person's company, and his girlfriend seems nice, and I hope that neither of them hate me. Also, unlike with the person in my last question, I will run into this person again, and I just don't want to make things awkward.

Lastly, in case it wasn't evident in my last question, I am highly sensitive to rejection, tend to take certain things very, very personally and am deeply bothered by uncertainty in social situations. Yes, I am working with a therapist on this, but I can't see her for at least a week due to financial/time reasons. Yes, I am very, very, very messed up. Knowing what's going on here, or at least having some sort of clue, would help me better deal with this. I really wish people would be honest sometimes-- I'm always worrying that I'm creeping someone out or bothering them, and it's just so agonizing to have to deal with.

(I think I should mention that I am meeting/trying to make plans with other people but just have questions right now about this particular situation. Thank you.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
For whatever reason he/they are not interested in hanging out w you. You've asked twice.

I think he was being polite.

Not sure if you're a girl and maybe he's taking it wrong? Like he thinks you're interested? (Well heck you could be a guy too but YKWIM.)

Maybe they have a lot going on right now and aren't interested in doing things with new people outside of their current circle because they find it stressful.

I wouldn't blame yourself, just let it go. Be friendly but i wouldn't ask him/them to hang out anymore.
posted by sio42 at 4:03 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


So, how do I know whether or not he would be interested in meeting up? Is there any way to tell? How do I suggest future meet ups?

You asked him to do something twice, and he blew you off the first time and declined the second time and at no point did he suggest an alternate plan. That suggests he's not interested in meeting up. I would not suggest future meetups. Ball's in his court. He knows you want to hang out and I expect he'll let you know.

But I've been talking to this person for a while, and I thought we were cool, and then this happens.


Sometimes, the world contains people who are Contextual Friends. They are people who are cool with you, who like you and who would describe you as their friend, but really only in a certain context. Have you ever worked with someone with whom you got along well enough, but had no special desire to hang out with outside of work? It's like that. It sounds like you are a Contexual Friend of his, and the context is the gym.

You haven't done anything wrong as far as I can tell. He just doesn't feel like he clicks with you in that way, and that's fine. Let it lie. You won't change it by talking about it. Keep being friendly and spend your energy elsewhere.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:04 PM on January 12 [33 favorites]


There are a couple of different features of the situation here that are worth paying attention to.

1.) This is someone you know from talking at the gym, yes? So you run into each other there as a function of your being there to exercise or take classes? That's a fine and normal way to meet people, but once you shift to a planned meetup *outside* of that original context, it becomes quite a different thing for most people. Context is everything.

2.) You are a single person, yes? I can't tell if you are male or female from your question, but sometimes a single person interacting with coupled people can bring some other contextual challenges. Not that singles don't have couple friends and go out and do things with couples all the time....but if they don't really know you well, they might not be comfortable with it. Again, context.

I would not suggest further meetings. You haven't done anything wrong, but for whatever reason, he is not comfortable with this new context for seeing you. Just let it go.
posted by pantarei70 at 4:13 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I explained that I was doing that because they seemed nice, and that I was new to NYC and didn't know that many people.

This could also have been a turn-off. He may have felt like you were coming on a little strong depending on how you worded this. In the future (not with this guy though), I would just invite people to things and not then give an explanation about not knowing a lot of people and liking them. If you didn't think they were cool you wouldn't be inviting them, that is implied.
posted by magnetsphere at 4:26 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


It would be really, really helpful to know if you are male or female, so if you would feel comfortable telling us, please do.

He and I both like to go to shows at art galleries so during our last conversation a few days ago, I asked him and his girlfriend to come along to this show that was opening the following day. I explained that I was doing that because they seemed nice, and that I was new to NYC and didn't know that many people.

Don't explain why you invite people to things. Just do it and leave it at that. Here's why. If you say, "hey, I'm going to this art show, give me a call if you guys are interested in going together," then all you're doing is inviting them to an art show. No big deal.

But if you say, "Hey, want to go to this art show with me? You guys seem nice and I don't know many people," then you are inviting them to be your friend. Your ONLY FRIEND. That is how it might feel to a lot of people I think. And it is really intimidating, the idea that by going to this art show, you might become obligated to be The Only Friend of someone you barely know, and all the obligations and time commitments that go with that. That can make someone take a big step back especially if they are busy and don't have a ton of free time.

So don't explain. Invite people to fun activities with you simply because you think you both would enjoy it, nothing more. Let a friendship just happen really slowly and naturally, if there is potential for that.

The opening came and went and they didn't come. I did have to leave early, though, and got worried that maybe they had actually came and I wasn't there.

Going forward, assume that a "maybe" or a lack of response is a "no" and operate accordingly. If they end up showing up you guys might miss each other but that's okay, since they didn't let you know they were coming.

He said he'd let me know.

"I'll let you know" means stop asking. It's okay. Just give him friendly space for a couple classes and then resume having the normal friendly convos with him you were having before.

Yes, I am very, very, very messed up.

Nah. I don't have Aspergers or social anxiety and had to learn all the same things as you're learning, and it was very confusing for me too. It's okay and doesn't make you super messed up or weird.
posted by cairdeas at 4:27 PM on January 12 [29 favorites]


From where I grew up, there are two kinds of people:

1. Superficial. You can talk to them and they seem really friendly and then it kind of dies out because of whatever and you go, 'huh' -- usually because you can't enhance their socioeconomic status in some shape or form;

2. Real People. Real People are those who you have a genuine connection with, who relate to you and you relate to them. They are earthy, they understand the human condition, and they don't judge you, no matter what socioeconomic status you may hold, higher or lower than them.

Hence, the old New England term, "They are Real People." When we talk about Real People, we are generally speaking about people who are genuine, involved, will not dump you because you're poor, and will indeed help you out and be your friend. It's hard to describe, because it crosses all boundaries of the human condition, but once you see it, you will never be in doubt of it again.

It's not a failing on your part. It's a failing on the other person's part. They are not Real People.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:36 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


Oh, I just also wanted to say something about this.

I really wish people would be honest sometimes-- I'm always worrying that I'm creeping someone out or bothering them, and it's just so agonizing to have to deal with.

I think a few things might help you be less distressed about this part.

1. If you're just being friendly, and you are not into someone romantically, and you're not like staring at them and trying to get in their physical space, it is very, very unlikely they find you creepy. And if you're not like following them around and trying to monopolize all their time when they they don't want to talk, it's unlikely they find you bothersome. Someone may prefer not to go to an art opening (or whatever) but it doesn't mean at all that they are thinking horrible things about you.

2. Just remember that a lot of people started off as honest children and were punished out of it. I remember being pulled out of my 5th birthday party for a session of painful corporal punishment when I opened a present from my uncle and announced I already had one. It didn't occur to me that just stating that simple fact would have that kind of consequence. But I learned! So please just remember people aren't trying to play a weird game just to make others miserable. This is something people struggle very much with from the other side too. It can make it very difficult to state your needs, preferences, and honest boundaries while balancing it with the reactions of others to honesty about those sorts of things. Some reactions that one gets from doing that can be very negative.
posted by cairdeas at 4:43 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


OP, please don't assume this person is rejecting you because he is awful and fake and can't, like, hang with poor people. That's not how most people operate and would be a deeply bitter assumption to make about someone who, after all, you actually like enough to want to befriend.

It can be momentarily satisfying to respond to rejection by demonizing the rejector, but in the long term it just makes a person really misanthropic. The sad fact of modern life is we can't all be friends with every single person we encounter in our daily lives. This goes x100 for NYC because dear god, it is so very hard to live in NYC, and you encounter so many people every day.

This isn't even really a rejection, and there is no failing on either side. It is simply someone trying to communicate their boundaries for a relationship with you. Some friends are BFFs, some friends are chat-at-the-gym friends, some friends are occasional-coffee friends. That's how friends go.

People above have touched on the tricky politics of single people hanging with couples, and that is a very real thing. This one is a chat-at-the-gym friend. Let it go. Be friendly but not overly chatty for a little while. He knows how to find you, and if you don't push it I bet you will swiftly return to the status quo.
posted by like_a_friend at 5:03 PM on January 12 [25 favorites]


Maybe his girlfriend doesn't want to meet and hang out with his at-the-gym-friend and she's not cool with you and him going without her. (I get the feeling you're a girl, just something about how you're describing this.) So he's kind of stuck, not wanting to tell you that because it would be awkward, but also running into you at the gym.

I think he was acting a bit reserved because he feels awkward about turning down your invites on two occasions.
posted by jayder at 5:49 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


Oh ... and my point was -- yes, I think you're sort of getting the brush off but it may have more to do with the GF than him.
posted by jayder at 5:50 PM on January 12


So, how do I know whether or not he would be interested in meeting up? Is there any way to tell? How do I suggest future meet ups?

Just some ideas. You mention a therapist. I don't know if they can do this, but maybe the therapist can review just basic ideas and rules as to how to arrange to meet with someone? So I noticed on the question that you linked to, it seemed like you suggested "hang out", but no particular time and no particular event, which is hard for a person to respond to, even if they do like you and/or would like to explore being a friend. With this person, unless I am misreading this, it doesn't seem like he actually said that he was coming (if he were, then he would/should agree to a time and place).

Another way to interpret what happened. I am just pretending: What if I were that guy and we had the followup conversation (ie, Hey, I waited for you). If I were that guy, then I would feel embarrassed. Not because anyone did anything wrong (you did not), but you ended up waiting for him so maybe he felt bad/guilty, and it was just a misunderstanding. But I would probably act the way he did in a followup, too, because people don't want to or plan to have someone just wait for them and not show up.

From reading the other question and info that you linked, you are doing a great, especially if you have an Asperger's and social anxiety diagnoses. I would just suggest doing something a few times and see how he replies (as in, does he say, I can't go this time, but I would love to do it another time and please invite me? Or does he offer a reciprocal invitation?)IF after 2 invites, he doesn't do this, then drop it. He may enjoy chatting with you,but he may have other things going on his life.

I'm always worrying that I'm creeping someone out or bothering them, and it's just so agonizing to have to deal with.

I tend to be a bit shy with pple, so one thing that I will share that may help you with this: You can invite people by email (vs in person). It lets the other person reflect. mails don't seem very intrusive (to me) - you can ignore it, read it for 2 minutes, delete it, etc. If they don't answer, I usually treat that as a no, unless it is a good friend because it = busy. Listen to the things they say that they like - so it probably won't be bothering them, but - hey, lets do this fun thing. Plan to do many things and invite different people (and even plan to do something alone), so you won't be overly invested in whether a person says yes/no, or doesn't reply. Invite someone to do activity A, and then just let it go in your head.

Feel free to memail if you feel okay with that, OP. I have thought a lot about "bothering people" in the past and there s a part of me that has finally gotten past this.
posted by Wolfster at 5:55 PM on January 12


One practical tip is that for most people, an invite 24 hours in advance is not really enough notice to put something on their calendar- they have other obligations, they planned to do chores that night, they're exhausted and needed a night to crash, etc. You might try inviting people to things that are 7-10 days away.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:10 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Having moved quite a bit in my life, I have remarked that many people just can't/don't transition from the particular area of your life that they share with you. I would have liked to be 'outside work' friends with more people at my current workplace, but it only happened with a few people. Some folks discussed with me how great it would be to do xyz outside of work, but when an actual time and date were discussed, plans just never moved beyond 'yeah we should,' or 'I'll check and let you know.' I don't perceive this as rejection - my impression is that the interest is often sincere, but the person's life is busy/complicated etc. and they just don't really go beyond that. I never bring up suggestions to get together more than twice.

I'd suggest that making specific plans is a good way to make get togethers actually happen, but if you have any inkling that you tend to come across as intense, you might want to temper that. Also, the couple situation here may have just been too awkward for the guy to navigate. All of that being said, don't take your situation personally, and don't let it keep you from asking other people to do stuff.
posted by analog at 8:26 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


So, how do I know whether or not he would be interested in meeting up? Is there any way to tell? How do I suggest future meet ups?

My rule is that I invite people three times and then stop. It sounds like in this case, you kind of know after two invites that it isn't happening, but I think three is a fine rule of thumb generally. It weeds out people who genuinely have weird/busy lives from people who are too polite to say they don't want to be friends.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:10 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


i think clarifying that you're not hitting on the person or looking for a relationship ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE IN ONE is a good thing to do. i think that's probably why you explained you were new in town and didn't know people and that's why you were inviting them out. you didn't want them to think you were crusing for a threesome or something.

making friends is SO HARD. i know. especially transitioning contextual friends (love this term!) to Friends.

do you have other Gym Friends? if you are a girl, this will probably be easier. after your next class, if you have a girl (Gym Friend, ask her if she wants to chat at the smoothie bar (or whatever) or go grab a coffee. if she says no, that's fine. don't ask again. but maybe she will say yes and that could be a way to transition girl Gym Friend into Friend. (this scenario could also work with a gay Gym Friend.) if you are a guy, i dunno.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:05 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


There's about a million possible explanations for why he declined. I'll add some more - maybe he likes seeing shows but not with other people, or he only goes with certain people, or he didn't like that show or he only likes to go once in a while. Maybe he's introverted and had a lot going on those weeks so he didn't want to add another social event. Maybe his (whoever) died and he's really not interested in socializing this week and doesn't want to explain it to a near-stranger. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

It does seem like you're being a bit pushy with him though and he might be reacting to that - he declined one event, no big deal, but then you invited him out the next day to the same kind of event?? I would have waited a week or two or more, kept chatting as normal, and maybe invited to something different or asked in a more casual way like "I'm going to go see this show with some people, if you want to join us you'd be welcome!".

Don't get too hung up on this guy - I'm sure he's cool but he's not your last chance for a friend! Similar idea to dating - seeming desperate will scare people off. And sometimes people just aren't interested, and it's nothing you did. I wouldn't assume that he hates you or anything but I'd back WAY off and see if he shows any interest in hanging out in the future.
posted by randomnity at 7:20 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I'm totally guilty of brushing off people who are trying to pursue a friendship with me. Usually it's because I already have a ton of friends and family, a busy job, and lots of extracurriculars. It's not that said person isn't friendly or interesting, it's that I simply don't have time to build and maintain a friendship, which takes time and effort I don't feel like making. There are exceptions to this. For example, I have become close with someone over the past couple of years who used to be a casual acquaintance. But in that case, I felt a special connection with this person and we had tons of mutual friends and interest, so it all happened very effortlessly.

OP, I'm not sure if you're male or female but it would certainly make a difference. I'm female in a long-term hetero relationship and if a male with zero connection to me or my friends was trying really hard to pursue a friendship with me, I would not be very responsive and neither would my partner for that matter.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:28 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Nthing really wish we knew your gender, OP. I will assume you're a woman.

My take on this situation is that this couple probably operates by the social norm that you (a hetero woman?) should have gone through the woman in that couple to make social plans for the 3 of you, because that way it is clear that you are not asking this guy out on a date or anything.

The girlfriend also goes to this gym and is also someone you could have struck up a friendship with, but you haven't really talked to her, for whatever reasons, you talked more with the guy. BTW I'm not saying start talking to her now or anything, I'm saying maybe this is yet another myriad reason why things did not click. You needed buy-in from her first.

"I saw him the next day before another class. I asked him if he went and explained about my having to leave early. He said no and mumbled that he went to bed early."

I can see how your question (basically "where were you last night?") might have made him feel uncomfortable, because it informed him that you were definitely expecting him to be there, even though he was pretty sure he gave you a polite, noncommittal answer that meant NO, but you took it as a yes.

In general, if someone is going to show up to something you invite them to and they want to be real friends, they're going to ask you for more firm details about it first (what time? do we need tickets to get in? etc), and you'll hear from them on the night of the event or soon after (either see you there, or a text like sorry we couldn't make it, i'll be in touch soon, etc).

"There is another opening next weekend, that we had mentioned in our previous conversation, and I asked him if he was attending that. He said probably not, that they had plans with friends, but that he'd check with his girlfriend. He said he'd let me know. He told me to have a good class."

By "have a good class" he means "have a nice life." Nthing let this drop, just be nice, but don't act too interested and don't ask either of them to get together again. You've left the door open, so if they're ever interested in the future, they'll ask you.

Also, sometimes folks are just not at all comfortable with making friends at the gym. My DH and I randomly got invited to a party at the home of someone from his gym, and he was totally against the idea. He absolutely loves that gym and doesn't want to ever feel awkward about going there, so he does not want to start anything too friendly with anyone there.

Hang in there, OP. Making friends in NYC can be hard, but you have to keep putting yourself out there and working on it, never taking any of it personally. It will happen.
posted by hush at 7:38 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


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