How do I make new friends while making it clear I'm only interested in friendship?
June 22, 2010 9:17 PM   Subscribe

How do I make new friends while making it clear I'm only interested in friendship?

Dear Internet friend,

I am a 21 year old female college student who is ready to get out in the world and make friends. I am not interested in dating at this time.

I'm looking for suggestions for how to begin relationships on the right foot. I don't want to lead anyone on. I don't want to hang out with people who are interested in me only because they think we are on a date. But I hesitate to tell a new friend "I don't want to date" because then it seems like I am very arrogant and just assume that they are interested in me romantically or physically --- but a lot of the time they are!

Is there some graceful way of giving someone my phone number when they ask and very lightly explaining that I'm only interested in friendship? What are the magic words?

If anyone else has had experience navigating these waters, I would be grateful for your advice.
posted by gothchick33 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you could hang out in groups. Inviting more than one person is always a clear signal that no romance is intended.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

But if you're talking about guys who are explicitly asking for your phone number because they want to date you... that's really really tough. You might want to just look elsewhere for friends, honestly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:28 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dude: "Want to go to a movie sometime?"

What I would reply:

"Sure! My boyfriend and I are going out on Saturday, but how about Sunday?"

or if you don't want to make up a fake boyfriend,

"Sure! Mind if I bring other friends too?"


"Sure! I'm glad we met, it's been hard to meet new friends here."
posted by Ashley801 at 9:40 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

I seem to meet a lot of girls with your mindset, being a twentysomething male in Austin (a singles' city).

The girls who've done this right commit to their program. They don't flirt. They always bring along other friends. They're careful about distance and physical contact (especially early on). They know that guys won't stop being attracted to them, but they ignore/deflect advances without hurting feelings, and eventually the guy gives up and accepts perpetual friend-zone, or brushes aside any inspiration he may had at sparking something.

The girls who've done this poorly don't know what they want. They lap up the self-esteem boost from the flirtations, and they let the intimacy escalate, thinking to themselves, "okay, maybe this one will be the one to lure me out of my friends-only malaise." And then they snap out of it and leave you hanging.
posted by philosophistry at 9:55 PM on June 22, 2010 [20 favorites]

(a guy's view here) Talk to them in casual, fun conversation about matching them with other girls - doesn't have to be friends you know but can just be girls who are mutual acquaintances.
I personally think this is a friendlier way of doing this than starting out right with a "I have a boyfriend"/"let's just be friends!" statement, which I find kinda jarring.
posted by Bwithh at 10:13 PM on June 22, 2010

Making up a fake boyfriend is not going to get you on the right foot. If you really become friends, they're going to find out that you lied to them eventually. I think suggesting matching them with other girls won't work either. Some girls like to talk about this stuff even with guys they're interested in (one girl said she was going to set me up with one of her friends and then decided she wanted me for herself instead, while the setup was in progress, which I think annoyed her friend).

I think the only surefire way to do this is to keep your distance, and that means always hanging out in groups.
posted by grouse at 10:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they suggest a thing you'll do together ("hey, could I have your number? we could go see Avatar") respond "Totally, and my friend Michael really wants to see it, too -- we can all go together!"

If they don't suggest a thing you'll do together ("hey, could I have your number? I'd like to see you again") respond "Totally, I had fun with you tonight. If you're available, you can join me and my friend Michael, we're going to go see Avatar!"

You get the idea. If they want romance, they won't call, or they'll call and suggest you two go somewhere without Michael which gives you the opening to mention the friends thing.
posted by davejay at 10:50 PM on June 22, 2010

disclaimer: I am not actually suggesting you should go see Avatar
posted by davejay at 10:51 PM on June 22, 2010 [14 favorites]

Please just be direct.

I know, I know, everybody thinks it's neat to be subtle or find some cool way to be evasive. Some smooth, face-saving let-down worthy of a James Bond movie or something. But honestly, I swear I wish people would just be a little bit more direct, early on, and avoid any misunderstandings or false hope.

Something gentle yet unequivocal, like this:

Him: "Hey, would you like to go out with me sometime?"

You: (smiling) "That's very flattering, but I'm not really interested in dating right now. I'd like to hang out with you as a friend, though. Maybe we can get a group of folks together and do something?"
posted by darkstar at 11:42 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a tricky one. Unfortunately, I don't think there are any magic words. You can't control anyone else's behavior, or how they interpret your behavior, so you can drive yourself nuts by trying to control how they see you. The best you can do, I think, is to figure out what you want your boundaries to be with someone, try to stick to them, and forgive yourself for your mistakes.

However, I think where you meet people does help define your relationship. If you meet a guy at the bar and he starts chatting you up, he's probably already in the dating-mindset. Try meeting people through mutual interests instead--join a writing group, a kickball team, a hiking club--and you'll have better luck, I think, meeting new people--both guys and girls--who are just looking for new friends like you are. It's like getting to know someone new by being in the same discussion class together vs. meeting someone out at a party on a Friday night. Different vibe, right?

And sometimes, I think you just have to learn how to use your words and say awkward, uncomfortable things like, "I'm sorry, but I just want to be friends," when a guy misunderstands your intentions.

Also, just some general advice for navigating these waters: trust your own instincts. You don't have to be able to explain rationally why someone is making you uncomfortable. You're allowed to just be uncomfortable and then to do what you need to do in order to get out of that friendship/conversation/lunch/whatever. This applies even if (and maybe most particularly when) you really want something to be okay--when you're saying to yourself, 'We really are just friends and he's not really making me that uncomfortable, and even if he is, he means well, right? and I'm probably just being silly/arrogant to think he likes me/a prude.' Give yourself permission to listen to the little voice in the back of your head.
posted by colfax at 12:05 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I did this once, successfully, as follows...

Fella: Would you like to go out for a drink sometime this week?
Me: Well, I don't really want to go out on a date at the moment, but I'd enjoy going on a non-date, how about that?
Fella: That sounds great.

We are still friends some years later.
posted by emilyw at 12:51 AM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Sadly, in my experience, 90+ % of guys do not want to be "just friends" with a woman. So you're best bet is to seek friendships with other women or gay men.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:58 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and another option: make friends with people who are already in a monogamous relationship. Try and avoid drama by not flirting, and by meeting their partner and then hanging out with both halves of the couple regularly.

Doesn't completely remove the chance of unwanted advances, but it does make it easier to respond to them, since if they really do this you can get your angry face on and tell them what a sleaze bag they are.
posted by emilyw at 1:18 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

"it seems like I am very arrogant" is not a matter of what you say, but how you say it.
posted by mitocan at 2:10 AM on June 23, 2010

I am a 21 year old female college student who is ready to get out in the world and make friends. I am not interested in dating at this time.

Meet your new friends: other young women, and gay men.
posted by bingo at 5:15 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

As a straight guy that generally keeps more female friends than male, I've heard these lines often. emilyw makes a good point: make friends with people who are already in a monogamous relationship.

That tends to help keep everything above the boards. My wife is very not-the-jealous-type (because she was one of my female friends through several other relationships), so my female friends hang out with either both of us, or sometimes just me. It's very not a big deal because they know I'm already taken and not really looking for anything else.

The downside to this suggestion is that you might end up as a third wheel, but that's more of an issue for you than for the couple you might hang out with. As long as you don't mind hanging out with couples, you should be fine.

Also, in regards to Jacqueline saying, "Sadly, in my experience, 90+ % of guys do not want to be "just friends" with a woman. So you're best bet is to seek friendships with other women or gay men," I'll just say that this isn't my experience. If I were treated with the same kind of apprehension by every woman I were friends with, I'd not have had many of the great experiences and platonic relationships I've had.

Other people have given you good advice, but know that there are guys out there that do want to be friends and not cross that line.
posted by SNWidget at 5:31 AM on June 23, 2010

Other people have given you good advice, but know that there are guys out there that do want to be friends and not cross that line.

Yeah, but those guys aren't going to ask a 21 year-old girl for her phone number without additional context, such as "you should come over for dinner with my wife and I sometime."
posted by bingo at 5:47 AM on June 23, 2010

Be up front and direct, it really is that simple. Do not try to be subtle or graceful, you need to be totally and completely upfront and point blank, particularly with guys in their early 20s.

"Sure, here's my number, but I gotta be honest, I'm completely uninterested in dating anyone or even a friends with benefits type situation. I'm just looking for strictly friendship, just so you know."

The added benefit of this is that you make your feelings clear to though who aren't interested in being just friends. This will save you a lot of awkward situations later.

But you also have to realize that when they don't call, you can't go calling or contacting them, looking to be "just friends". You laid your situation, so if they don't try to contact you, leave the person be.

Once you are friend with someone, avoid being flirtatious and overly touchy with guys, as it's easy for that to be taken as interest by a guy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 AM on June 23, 2010

I think this URL is answering itself--you make friends while making it clear you're only interested in friendship by
1. Making friends (small print) and
2. Making it clear you're only interested in friendship (giant flashing print).

I would posit that you cannot reasonably expect this to go well in a one-on-one situation. This has to start with mutual friend introductions, a few hours face time with other people still there, and then--only after you have a better sense of the skeeviness of said potential friend--should you try and build a stronger friendship. Giving a guy a phone number is hugely powerful in today's society. It's kid in a candy shop territory. You will have to send extremely strong signals that you are not looking for romance or physical contact.

As another male who really only has deep friendships with females: most guys aren't right for this. That sounds like a sexist comment, and consider me among the last to want to apply that kind of blanket statement. But you have no idea the kind of temptation that goes along with familiarity to a nice girl, being alone with said person, dear god her hair smells good, etc. I've seen too many "nice guys" hang all over girls who were engaged to be married when their significant other wasn't around. Male impulses suck.

You're looking for a special type of guy, and you need to be careful. What you want to do is doable, but please realize that you may find more instances than you'd like where you think the friendship zone is clear, but you start getting advances. You've got to be clear, with no mixed signals. And please be careful. Public places, mutual friends, other people who know where you are and who you're with. Good luck!
posted by Phyltre at 7:43 AM on June 23, 2010

Geez, I have the opposite problem: I have difficulties making friends with guys without them thinking "Oh lord, she wants my babies. RETREAT!" Although yeah, I guess being entirely clear about your intentions will help with both of those scenarios.

That said, I too find it easier to make friends in a group context, like in a class, orchestra or club. If you have mutual purpose then it's sort of natural you'd talk to each other so it takes out the question of motivation.
posted by teraspawn at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2010

Yeah, there are plenty of people out there who don't want to do you. Make friends with them, then make friends with guys in a less one-on-one context so you don't have to worry about it.

There's nothing wrong with saying "no" if a friend asks you on a clear date or tries to kiss you, you know? Everyone can be cool about it and move on, and if not, then...well...that sucks, but life goes on. Better than just avoiding making friends out of anxiety.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:21 PM on June 23, 2010

Nothing says friends like, "I insist we split the bill."
posted by teg4rvn at 12:25 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a 21 year old female college student who is ready to get out in the world and make friends. I am not interested in dating at this time.
Meet your new friends: other young women, and gay men.

Sorry, but that's ridiculous and insulting to both genders. gothchick33, I'm a 21 year old female college student and if I followed advice of that sort I'd have missed out on many of my most rewarding friendships. Please ignore it.

It helps a lot to join pre-existing groups of friends rather than try to start some kind of group from scratch yourself. I'm guessing you're not new to your area -- do you have roommates? acquaintances? See if you can get into their social circles to meet some new people. It makes it a lot easier to only stick to group situations when you've got a group established. From that point I'd follow the other advice about inviting people along.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:33 PM on June 23, 2010

* Though it is fair to say that people hitting you up for your phone-number in bars are probably not your source of new friends, if that's what you're talking about.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:36 PM on June 23, 2010

I think it usually does sound bad to say you “don't want to date” - because who knows if the guy is completely there. He may be just fishing a little and not sure where he wants it to go and then you've pushed and it's not awkward. It’s about as comfortable as when you wear something because you like it, and a guy you are just going on a casual date with says it’s lovely and thanks you for wearing it for him.

Inviting other people is good. Very good. And pay your own way. And everything that philosophistry says.

My life is, apparently, filled with the other 10% of guys. They're everywhere.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:33 PM on June 23, 2010

It is perfectly reasonable to expect to find heterosexual male friends who don't want to date you.

You just have to find men who are either

a) in a committed monogamous relationship; and/or
b) not attracted to you because you are not their type.

You won't find those men in bars, giving you their number.

But you might find them at friends parties, or through a writer's group or dating your female friends or...

I have several male friends who have no interest in dating me (and vice versa). I met them through mutual friends, SF conventions, female friends...
posted by Year of meteors at 6:55 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for all your great feedback. It has really helped give me a sense of what I'm looking for in friendship and how best to find that. I can really see some places where I was less clear than I thought I was on how my behavior was perceived and I'm going to go out and try my best!
There were so many best answers but I just picked a few that really resonated for me.
posted by gothchick33 at 9:56 PM on June 24, 2010

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