My schedule is totally not interested in you
August 10, 2010 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Mind-reading Filter: What does this mean - "Well, I'm totally booked up this week... I don't know what my schedule is next week."

I'm a man, mid-thirties at this point, dating women, never married or nuthin'. Over the last few years when trying to ask women out I've on some occasions gotten a response along these lines: I suggest that we oughta get together for coffee some time, to which she responds with something like,

"Well, ah, I am so busy this week, booked solid."

"I could come around again next week some time?"

"I'm not sure what my schedule for next week is yet."

These are people I'm not quite acquaintances with, who I've run into a few times in public at a store or maybe when I was out for a walk and chatted with in passing - so not anyone I really know but not a complete stranger I'm walking up on out of the blue either. I also think they're around my age but I'm not always good at judging someone's age.

From other discussions around MeFi I know that women can sometimes feel a bit cornered when approached by men in public like this because some men are completely nuts, won't take "no" for an answer, and will react badly to outright rejection. I, on the other hand, am usually pretty timid about this stuff.

So I'm wondering whether I ought to be slightly more aggressive and on a more specific note - does this really sound like a polite expression of disinterest which it would appear to be at first glance, or does it sound more just like someone who is actually really busy? It occurs to me that I could happen to be hitting on women who are single mothers or something (which I wouldn't object to) and they really do just have insanely busy, unpredictable schedules.

Another aspect is that I'm almost never a busy person myself so I have trouble imagining how someone who is really busy would be thinking. If it was the latter case, someone who's genuinely busy and is just being noncommittal at first or needs to think about it, what would be a good way to proceed and "press the advantage"? (Or maybe it's smarter to think in terms of, what sort of graceful things could I ask to try to fish out whether it's disinterest or genuine busyness?)

If it matters, this is in a fairly small New England city.
posted by XMLicious to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The only right move in that script is to say:

"Well then, I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to get together again."

Yes, it sounds like a polite brush-off. In case it isn't, simply leave the ball in her court. Aggressiveness is skeezy.
posted by amelioration at 3:52 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If someone is busy but interested, the onus is on them to suggest another time. The appropriate response is something like "Here's my number/email address/Facebook username, let me know when you figure out your schedule". Gives them an easy way to reschedule if they are genuinely busy, and an easy out if they're just rejecting you politely.
posted by ripley_ at 3:54 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: polite expression of disinterest

To me, yes, it does. I'm around your age and I know women our age (though I make no claims to being a player, or even a playa). I also tend to be exceedingly busy, but I know that if someone I wanted to get to know better asked me for a coffee, I would find a way to make time (or at least would have; I'm seeing someone).

I wouldn't ask again. There's the double benefit of 1) not being creepy/stalkery and 2) seeming more indifferent and cool. The ladies don't tend to flock to guys who have to cajole them into dates.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:54 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would replace "I could come around again next week some time?", with a much more specific request, probably a couple days later when they might presumably have their schedule more sorted - "So I have next Saturday afternoon free, would you like to meet for coffee at Joe's Cafe at 2?" - and if they blow you off again, the ball's in their court to set something up. (In short, let it die.)

They might actually be really busy, in which case they will appreciate the follow-up. They might just be avoiding saying "no," in which case you took them at face value, which is fine, but you won't press them further. Most genuinely busy people I know will only accept specific, concrete plans because they don't have the mental space for vague good intentions. You've gotta actually get penciled in for something to happen.

And if they're not interested, hey, you made an effort and there's nothing more you can do.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:55 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: If she's not following up the "not sure what my next week's schedule looks like" line with the words "how about we choose a day and confirm later" or the words "how bout I call you when I know more" then she's not interested in committing to seeing you again at this juncture.

However, you can always give her your card/phone number and let her know she can call you if her schedule opens up. If she wants to see you again but is just shy or whatever, now she has a way to contact you without you coming across as sketchy.

FWIW, I usually use that line "busy this week, don't know next week's schedule" when I really don't want to make plans with someone but don't want to have to outright reject them.
posted by np312 at 3:56 PM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I take is as a "No thanks. You are nice and I do not want to go out with you but I am either too timid to come out and say no or I do not want to overly hurt your feelings. Please go away now."

I say this as a man who as heard this a lot more than once.
posted by Danf at 3:57 PM on August 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I am insanely busy and often have to blow off friends I genuinely like and want to spend time with using almost the exact line you quoted. Usually the issue is that I know I'm too busy to hang out that week, and I genuinely don't know what my schedule is the next week or week after because I don't look at my calendar and start thinking about my appointments and workload until the beginning of the week or the end of the prior week. I also don't know how tired I'm going to feel the next week. Sometimes after a long period of busyness I just need to relax at home instead of socializing, even if I miss my friends.

My advice is to email or text message (non-obtrusive communication) early in the week (Monday / Tuesday) something like, "Hi, have things slowed down for you yet? Do you have time to go out later this week for [lunch/coffee/cocktails]?"

Maybe extend this sort of invite every other week or so. (Definitely not more than once a week, and every week like clockwork would be a bit weird too.) If she's "too busy" for more than a few months then she's probably not interested, but it's definitely possible for someone to genuinely be too busy for a month or two.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:59 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My advice would be to either drop it, or to come back with a very, very, very slight nudge of a follow up if you get a response like this.

"I'm not sure what my schedule is for next week yet" is particularly telling: even under most generous (to you) reading of the situation, she's telling you that you're so low on her list of priorities that she needs to check out what EVERYONE ELSE in her life has to say about things before she knows if there's an opening for you. If that's not the way you'd treat someone you were genuinely interested in you, that should be a good enough sign to you that it's time to move on.

A woman who is genuinely interested in you and/or worth pursuing will usually make things pretty clear by making a counteroffer or finding some way to bump things around to make time for you.

Don't take it personally, and take the high road. The ball's in her court at this point and there's nothing to stop her from calling you if she wants to.
posted by alphanerd at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: Could be an actual case of busy-ness (there are times of the year where I warn everyone, "Yeah, I won't be around," and won't even entertain plans for anything for a month) and it might be a blowoff. I give myself two, no more, instances of asking out. After that, well, presumably the person in question knows how to contact me. That's two, lifetime. Yes, you can find instances of happily married couples where one person kept after the other and then, suddenly, love happened. That's good, but also unlikely. Do you want to fight that hard?

Mind you, I have gotten some acceptances on the second time offer, so the probability is not nil, but it isn't huge, either. It's a personal balance between my tendency to avoid-avoid-avoid rejection* and my very conscious compensation against that tendency by saying to myself, "Yeah, try again. Could have just been bad timing."

Do your ask-outs in parallel, not serial. I'm not suggesting you scatter your phone number hither and yon like a dandelion's seeds, only that you're much less likely to fall into the trip of pinning any hopes to one person if you are hanging out with a bunch.

* the part of my brain which says, "Oh, she looked at me, and this time she did not smile, so I had better NEVER speak to her AGAIN because she clearly finds me a LOATHSOME REPELLENT BUG"
posted by adipocere at 4:03 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: I agree that this feels like a brush-off.

Maybe extend this sort of invite every other week or so.

Yea, no, not unless you want to be a creepy guy.

My thinking is, even if you are insanely busy, you can at least indicate some level of interest in how you reply to people. To me, "I'm really busy for the next few weeks, but maybe after that" is way different than "I'm busy."
posted by cabingirl at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: nthing the "ball in her court" thing. My typical response to this kind of statement has always been:

"Cool, I totally understand. Tell you what - if you want to get together once you find some free time, just let me know."

and of course nothing will ever come of that because most of the time they're just brushing you off. It's no big worry. Just keep looking.
posted by komara at 4:13 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a brush off. If there were interest, either of those responses would be followed by a "but... [I'll call you Monday when I know more / Why don't you give me your phone number and I'll be in touch / The week after that things should have calmed down / etc.]"
posted by MsMolly at 4:16 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know about the brush off. I happen to have a job where I have a really unpredictable schedule - one week I'll get out at 7 PM on the dot every night, and then I'll come into work Monday morning and suddenly be slammed and staying past midnight for the next two weeks. I avoid making definitive plans at all costs, because I hate having to cancel on people, so I am always telling people (including my partner and my best friends) "I don't know what my schedule will be like next week."

If these women are anything like me, the best response to that would be "Okay, well, here is my number - I'm usually pretty free in the evenings so just give me a call if you end up being free." This way the ball is in her court, and if she is blowing you off she won't call, but if she is honestly really busy, you'll be giving her the chance to work around her schedule.

My friends all know that when we hang out it is usually because I call them at 6 PM announcing that I'll be out of work in an hour and are they available? They have much more flexible/ free/ predictable schedules than I do, so it is easier to work around mine.
posted by CharlieSue at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: Count me as another vote for "brush off", polite or otherwise. Keep pounding the pavement, friend, you'll get a yes sooner or later.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: It's a brush-off. If someone is interested they'll make time. I would.
posted by fso at 4:19 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: I agree with folks above, it's probably a polite brush-off. That having been said, OK, it's Tuesday, are you really asking, for example, to get together Thursday? That's just not enough notice for most folks I know. Ask for something specific, as folks above have said, and give at least a week lead-time.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:20 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: When I read the front page part of your question, I popped in here to say, "that's what I'm like, my head is full of stuff to do today (Wed), Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun. But I have no idea what's on my schedule for next week yet".

But upon reading more inside, I'm afraid it might be a polite brush-off. If it was me and I was keen, I'd say, "Busy this week, don't know about next week, if you give me your email I'll let you know". I'd make the effort to let you know that the interest is mutual.

If I wasn't interested... yeah, I'd say what they're saying, without offering a follow-up option like email.

Offering them your own email or phone number would be a polite non-intrusive way of letting her take the next step if she wants to. I'd accept it with a smile but I'd only use it if I was interested. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that, but nobody is put in an awkward position either.

Side note: when I've been hit on by someone insistent on getting my phone number or email despite my attempt at a polite brush-off, l suddenly develop a habit of transposing digits or letters. Shameful, I know, but I feel less worse than saying "look, take the hint - I AM NOT INTERESTED!". Some of us just don't like to hurt people's feelings so openly, rightly or wrongly. So don't push too hard, okay?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:23 PM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for being so encouraging.

In the most recent case of this I was thinking alot about it because I accidentally sort of snuck up on her - it was the zillionth time I'd met her but on this occasion I didn't realize that she hadn't noticed me standing there and so I startled her a bit when I spoke to her. (Which made me feel a bit creepy, of course, but also made me think she might have not had the time to get her thoughts together.) But even so I think everyone's right that the most likely interpretation is a polite brush-off. I think I'll make sure that I run into her at least once again, but not ask again, leaving the ball in her court.
posted by XMLicious at 4:44 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing the fact that it's not the busyness that matters here (this "I'm busy this week and next week's schedule hasn't settled down yet" condition holds true for me about sixty percent of the time -- and it's more about work-related travel than about I-have-to-check-with-my-better-friends-first). It is the fact that she didn't say anything to try to keep you from getting the impression that it's a blow-off, like "but I'd love to hang out as soon as we can find a time."
posted by salvia at 9:07 AM on August 11, 2010

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