How do I respond to an apparent offer of friendship?
July 21, 2014 5:45 AM   Subscribe

As someone who is socially anxious and has difficulty interpreting social interactions, what is an appropriate follow-up response to someone who appears to be being friendly but may actually just be following social niceties?

I was at a dinner party last night consisting of mainly unfamiliar people and got talking with another guy (both of us straight, so there are no romantic overtones here) who seemed genuinely friendly, as far as I can tell. At the end of the evening he offered me his business card and suggested staying in contact (this was around 1am after a evening of drinking, so everyone was pretty relaxed at this point). I believe this was intended in the social sense, rather than the business sense since there is little or no overlap between our fields of work. At the time I didn't have an opportunity to give my contact details to him.

My problem is that I don't know if this is something that people do just to be nice but don't actually have any intention of following up on it. As I say, I suffer severely from social anxiety (attending this party was pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone) combined with low self-esteem and have great problems deciding whether people's actions towards me are genuinely friendly, or just one of those things people do to get through an evening talking with strangers at a party.

My initial thought is to send him an email along the lines of "Hi; thought I'd just send you my contact details since you were kind enough to give me your business card last night".

Is that appropriate? Or does it come across as weird?
posted by teselecta to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds friendly to me. I'd send that email, with a suggestion for an activity, preferably something you both discussed. It could be a hike, or an art exhibit, or meeting for craft beer somewhere, or a movie. Or, just send the email and see what happens.

There's nothing weird in following up, and if it was just a social nicety or he's a flake, no harm, no foul.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can send an email saying hi, or if you think that's too forward, try friending him on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn. There are so many low-stakes ways of staying in touch these days, it can be done at almost any level of comfort.
posted by xingcat at 5:58 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd send the email, but to me suggesting getting together in any specific way seems like "too much too soon." If he writes back, then maybe suggest something in some future email.

I say this not to argue with Ruthless Bunny, but to demonstrate that there isn't any one correct response here.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he just wanted to be nice, he would have simply said it was great meeting you and left it at that. Giving you a way to contact him and saying let's keep in touch tells me he meant it. I would send an email and say, hey, enjoyed meeting you the other evening. If you ever want to grab a beer, give me a call. Then share your contact info.
posted by cecic at 6:03 AM on July 21, 2014 [16 favorites]

The message that you suggest sounds quite formal, maybe giving the impression that business networking is what you're looking for.

If "generically friendly" is more what you want then I'd write something like "hey, good to meet you last night, what's up, we should grab a beer sometime".

If he was just being nice and doesn't want to meet you he'll ignore it and this is normal and doesn't make you seem weird.
posted by emilyw at 6:04 AM on July 21, 2014 [19 favorites]

Sending your contact info is totally fine, but I wouldn't interpret his having given you his card as an "offer of friendship." Contact info keeps the door open in case one of you wants to contact the other -- for any reason. 'Let's stay in touch' is not secret code for 'let's be best buds.'
posted by jon1270 at 6:09 AM on July 21, 2014

Further to the other responses, I concur that there is no harm, no foul to following up on a friendly first encounter.

Giving out contact details is not a statement of intent re: friendship or any other kind of relationship, but it is confirmation that the giver of the card is amenable to being contacted by the receiver of the card.

Yeah, he might still neglect to actually build a friendship with you - people are busy, after all - but know that in that moment, that evening, he was more than happy to see and chat with you again.
posted by dumdidumdum at 6:13 AM on July 21, 2014

One thing that has helped me with my social value is to try to take people's at face value unless there are significant reasons not to. So in this case I think its fair to say, given it would have been fairly easy just to say "hey great to meet you!" and not give you contact info, that giving you his card means he wouldn't mind staying in touch in some manner.

I think you're email sounds fine but you may want to make it more personal and give him a easy way of responding. Something like "Hey, It was nice meeting you the other night. You mentioned you really like _______ author I'm planning to go to his booktalk want to go?/ you said you liked craft beers I want to check out _____ brewery if you're interested/you mentioned you a band you liked but i forgot the name/ here's a great article about X that we were talking about."

The worst that happens is he doesn't respond and if he doesn't I can 99% assure you its not about you but about him. Seriously people like being contracted by people they've met and they like being invited places.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:17 AM on July 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

'Let's stay in touch' is not secret code for 'let's be best buds.'
True, but I personally wouldn't give a card to a new, non-business related acquaintance and say "Let's stay in touch" unless I was genuinely interested in staying in touch. Cultivating new friendships as an adult is weird and awkward (at least for me) and making that first "Let's hang out outside of whatever passing context in which we usually interact" overture, even when 100% purely platonic, always feels a little bit like asking a crush out on a date.

Anyway, I think that cecic and SpaceWarp13 have it; drop him a line saying "Hey, it was good to meet you at the party the other night. If you want to grab a drink and continue our conversation about [XXXXXX] sometime, let me know." and include your contact info. See if you can connect on Facebook, if applicable.
posted by usonian at 6:52 AM on July 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Did you enjoy talking to him? If yes, do it. In a day or two send him a casual note or a joke referring to something you guys talked about ("ha ha here's that buzzfeed link I was talking about") and see where it goes. I have guy friends who have met their best guy friends in otherwise casual situations like this. He gave you his info and you're totally ok to write him. Not weird at all. (Just don't jump on it right away or dump your anxiety on him. Keep it light.)

It's hard to meet same-sex friends as you get older and I've been in the situation where I really like a woman but don't quite know how to bridge the gap into a friendship, especially if otherwise I won't see her again socially and I'm not sure how she feels about me. If we exchange info then I'll send a note and see where it goes. Sometimes it fizzles, sometimes it takes a while to make it into a friendship.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:03 AM on July 21, 2014

Additional note - it does take a loooong while for adult friendships to form. As in, someone I consider a very dear friend took on the order of 2-3 years to become a friend, chatting every few months until it really clicked and just naturally became closer. As long as you understand (as people have said) that life is busy and if they don't reply right away it's not about you, then you'll be fine.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:06 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no harm in a message back and if you think this was an overture of friendship that you're interested in why not be honest across the board. "Hey Jim, it was nice meeting you the other night. Parties sometimes push the envelope of my comfort and people skills so an easy conversation is a godsend." Friends are people you can be yourself with, right?
posted by phearlez at 7:51 AM on July 21, 2014

Just as a differing viewpoint, reading the message that phearlez suggests would make me think "oh-oh. Needy." And back off. Not because it is a red flag for someone to have a hard time with people skills. But because it's way too early to basically dump this on someone.
Yeah, that's what friends are for, but he's not a friend yet. He's just someone who enjoyed the chat with you and is willing to chat some more!

So yeah, add him on facebook.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

not to pick on Phearlez but I am inagreement with Omnomnom. I'd definitely shoot him a casual email saying it was nice to meet him at the party, here's my contact info and would love to grab a beer/watch sports/etc. insert something low key and something low key you both would be interested in doing.

don't stress too much about your social anxiety. everyone has some social anxiety...
posted by SanSebastien at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2014

You don't want too give too much information too fast.

Send a message saying it was nice to meet him, and include your contact details. See if he gets back to you.

If it doesn't, nothing lost. If he does, go from there.
posted by RainyJay at 9:43 AM on July 21, 2014

There is very little likelihood that he will in any way be offended or bothered by an offer of friendship. I'm also socially anxious and I deal with these things by trying to see other people's actions and reactions from my own perspective: if someone offered to hang out with me, I'd probably feel excited and happy, so why wouldn't someone else?

I do agree with those who say it's good to keep things very light and surface-y for now because you don't know this person very well. I like emilyw's email script. I would also probably give it a few days before getting in touch, but that might just be me.
posted by capricorn at 4:15 PM on July 21, 2014

"hey ,

it was nice meeting you at last night! here's my email and cell phone if you're ever interested in getting together for a drink or wings [i say wings because i don't know if straight dudes "do" dinner or brunch].


i would never give my info to a person at an event in a non-business context if i were not interested in trying to strike up a friendship. it might not go anywhere, but at least i would have tried. i would interpret this as him having made the first overture of friendship.

posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:51 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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