Text etiquette: how do I respond when they don't respond?
November 29, 2017 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Once in a while I'll try to arrange a night out with a friend, but don't hear back from them. What's the socially acceptable way to extricate myself from that plan, and make another?

Say on Monday I find I have a free evening on Friday. I think 'oh, it would be nice to catch up with Friend X'. I text Friend X saying something like "Hi Friend X, it's been a while, what are you up to Friday evening? Free to grab a drink?'

No response. It's cool. People get busy, or maybe they don't want to hang out with me that night. But I'd still like to socialize on Friday. Should I text again on, say, Wednesday with "hey, checking in - are you free Friday?", and give them more time to respond? Or should I make other plans, and if so how do I reply if they subsequently text "Hi, sorry not to have responded, Friday sounds good".

This feels like it should be easy, but whenever it happens I never quite know the appropriate way to proceed.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Hey Friend, following up to see if you are free to grab a drink this Friday. If not then I am going to make other plans for Friday and we can meet up on another date. Hope to see you soon!"
posted by seesom at 11:56 AM on November 29, 2017 [15 favorites]

If I really want to see them, I will text again to say "hey did you get my msg re Friday?" and give it half a day before making other plans.

In the unlikely case that an affirmative response comes Weds pm or after, it's fine to say "I figured you weren't available so I made other plans, what about next week?"
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:58 AM on November 29, 2017 [13 favorites]

I rarely do a follow up text and will just make other plans. If they then text back and want to meet up I will say “sorry I made other plans, how about Saturday?” I feel like people are more likely to respond when they initiate the follow up.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:06 PM on November 29, 2017 [26 favorites]

there is no reason to follow up on an invitation that was never responded to. Make other plans with a clear conscience.

An exception is if you or the other person has a known problem with their mobile service where texts sometimes don't go through, or don't go through in a timely manner. That might merit a follow-up. But in that case you should probably be communicating with them by some other means to begin with, and certainly with the follow-up.
posted by kindall at 12:10 PM on November 29, 2017 [16 favorites]

I'd just make other plans unless there were some kind of special circumstances like the friend was in town for one night only. Then I'd follow up. If they respond after I've made plans, I'd say something like, "Oh, sorry, I've made other plans! Are you free another night?"

I do have one friend who I know gets a ton of texts and emails and is really super, insanely busy even among all of us who are super busy. He gets a follow up, but that's because we never see each other often enough anyway and we're good enough friends that it's just never weird between us.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:19 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

“Hey actually I’m going to do something else, let me know if you want to join.”
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:28 PM on November 29, 2017

You absolutely don't have to follow up, but I think it's great to do. As someone who sometimes fails to respond to texts when I'm completely swamped (and then feels anxious/avoidant and wonders if you hate me) getting a short, sweet follow up nudge is awesome.

Disclaimer - if people never respond to the first text, then I agree that tough(er) love is warranted.
posted by mercredi at 12:33 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Hey Friend, following up to see if you are free to grab a drink this Friday. If not then I am going to make other plans for Friday and we can meet up on another date. Hope to see you soon!"

But this solves nothing! You're still ostensibly waiting for their response before you make these other plans.

To the OP, I would say that in the case you describe, if you haven't heard after 24 hours (or even less with some people/friend groups) you should consider your Friday night to still be 100% open (and make alternate plans accordingly). If the original drinks-proposee responds before you make alternate plans, great, otherwise you say you've made other plans and that's totally OK.

I guess there is the possibility that you will go ahead and make less-attractive plans and then the original person gets back to you and says, "Oh yeah that would be great!" and you're disappointed. But this is probably only going to happen a tiny percentage of the time. So if you're really interested in seeing someone in particular, definitely do follow up with them.
posted by mskyle at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

So... if they don't respond and then expect to be doing something with you at the suggested time even though they didn't respond, they are the one being rude, not you. If you want to send a courtesy follow-up, I think that's great, but it's more than you need to do. If you hadn't heard from them and they ask about it after you've made other plans, just say that you've made other plans in the meantime. Maybe ask them to let you know when a good time to do something together is, so that the ball's in their court for figuring out timing.
posted by Aleyn at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you mean literally just texting them, depending on your friends, following up through a different medium may be the best solution. I know people whose preferred forms of communication are Facebook messages, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, voice call, email, etc. Whether you want to do that level of labor is up to you, but I keep a running list of how to best keep in touch with the ones I actually care about.

As to the core of the question, I've learned that at least in my circle that people are flaky enough that I'll make alternate plans if I don't hear back from someone within 24 hours or so.
posted by Candleman at 12:45 PM on November 29, 2017

I wait 24 hours and then reach out to someone else to make plans. If it's someone the first person knows and likes (and vice versa), and person 1 gets back to me later, I invite them along. If not, I just say "oh hey, when I didn't hear back I made other plans - do you want to [alternate plans on another day] instead?" I think without the offering of other plans it can come across a little passive aggressive, but not if you offer other plans. I've never had this go awry!
posted by lunasol at 12:45 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

If they are a friend you see frequently enough that you have reason to believe they would want to hang out with you, maybe you can follow-up with, "Hey, following up re: Friday. I wanted to see (movie)/try out (new bar)/etc. so let me know if you're interested!"

If the follow-up is just, "hey, did you see my message" that might seem a little... clingy? Maybe they just forgot to respond, maybe they never got it, or maybe they chose not to respond. I personally think that following up with something specific gives them a new prompt to opt in or out if they like what you're proposing.

Honestly, I think it depends on how close and comfortable you are with these friends. But you can also follow-up with, "Hey, let me know if you're in for Friday because I'll make other plans if not, no worries" - particularly if you are worried about a scenario where they will say they forgot to respond and try to move ahead with Friday plans.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the key for the followup is, "If I don't hear back from you by tomorrow night, we'll figure out something for another time," which allows you to figure out another plan without them having to actively respond, if they're that bad at actually giving you a firm no.
posted by Sequence at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Am I the only one here who would prefer a phone call? Maybe the person missed receiving or noticing a text message. It happens. Maybe said friend isn't feeling very well or needs a little encouragement to decide to make plans to go. A voice on the phone does wonders for figuring these things out. Texting means very little except to have a hard copy of information, like directions to get somewhere.
posted by itsflyable at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Along that same line, I understand how texting can be more convenient - if you absolutely don't want to intrude upon someone's life in real time, but you could say in a text that you'll give them a call when you get a chance if you don't hear from them - I know this could sound threatening to some people in these digital times, but it may be just the incentive for a response! If you don't end up calling the person, you could say that you got busy, or forgot, or assumed that they weren't interested.
posted by itsflyable at 1:40 PM on November 29, 2017

No response in text I think usually means "no thanks, but I'm uncomfortable declining for whatever reason," especially if it's a couple of days. The point of texts is you get them quickly most of the time. If it turns out they just missed it, you can honestly say "sorry, I thought you weren't available and made other plans."
posted by Smearcase at 1:41 PM on November 29, 2017

Itsflyable, if I'm already the one making the effort to make plans I'm not jumping through the emotional labor hoops of the exactly phrasing and "correct" way to reach out.

I agree that a follow up with "hey, I would still love to hang out by if I do t hear from you by XX I'm going to make other plans" is the best course of action.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Among my social circle, Monday is waaaay too early to commit to Friday plans. I'm lucky if they'll commit by Thursday and even then it has to be an Important Event like a birthday or a one-night-only show. So, they will avoid responding because they don't want to say "maybe." Sometimes on Thursday I'll get a text like "oh were you still doing Thing tomorrow?" It's irritating-to-infuriating but that's what you might be dealing with. With that kind of person it's useless to text them again on Wednesday. Just make other plans.
posted by AFABulous at 1:48 PM on November 29, 2017

I just make other arrangements and if they get back to you, just tell them you never heard from them so assumed they weren't interested and made other plans. Oh and to let you know if they want to do something another time. That way the balls in their court now to organise something. It's rude to keep people hanging while you wait for a better offer/clean your fish tank etc, (and they clearly got your message) so maybe they'll reconsider doing that again.
posted by Jubey at 2:18 PM on November 29, 2017

Yeah, no response means no follow-up from me. I'll make other plans with person B and if person A follows up later, I'll be all 'Oh sorry, didn't hear back from you, made other plans. How about [another day]?"
posted by greta simone at 2:49 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

This was mentioned once above, but bears repeating -- in order not to have this awkwardness (and to waste your time on follow-up), be explicit INITIALLY when reaching out. You can put the "blame" on some sort of circumstances --

"Hey, I was thinking of seeing Ladybird on Friday at 7 p.m. -- want to join? I'm buying my tickets tomorrow after work, let me know by then!"


"What are you up to Saturday? I was thinking of going Christmas shopping, but if you can't go then we can do it another time. Let me know by _____ if that sounds good, so ___ can ask for time off work!"

You don't need to do this with all of your friends, just the ones who typically need a nudge. This way the burden is on them and if they reach back out later, you don't have to feel guilty for having made other plans.

Also, for the friends who don't typically respond to you/skew flaky, you can always throw out an invite with no follow-up request to group outings where a non-flaky friend has already committed. That way you're including them but it doesn't matter either way whether they reply (or come).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's fine to make other plans without following up.

It's also fine to follow-up. But that might not solve your problem. That might only extend your problem: your could still not respond, but meanwhile you'll feel obligated to wait for longer before making other plans.
posted by John Cohen at 5:36 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do this, but I have a friend who sends out group texts which I never realize is the case due to my ancient phone. So I think it's me being asked out for drinks but it's actually multiple people. This is one way to solve that problem and just go with who responds. To me though, if they don't respond in 24 hours (everyone has their phone with them constantly these days) I would assume they weren't interested and just move on. If they do respond, say 'oh, great, I asked Lauren too (or whoever)' and invite them along if you made other plans by then. You are trying to 'honor' someone who isn't even responding. I wouldn't worry about doubling up on plans then.
posted by bquarters at 5:59 PM on November 29, 2017

You can definitely make other plans if you don't hear back within a day or so. Still, if I want to make things clear I text something along the lines of "hey, following up on my text re Friday drinks, please let me know by noon on Wednesday if you're up for it. If I don't hear from you by then I'll try you another time."

But, of course, all this can be avoided by setting some parameters in your initial message, as in "hey, want to go for drinks on Friday? Please let me know by Wednesday if you want to make a plan."
posted by rpfields at 7:47 PM on November 29, 2017

Maybe I am old but I usually would call to see what is up.
posted by calgirl at 8:16 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

If something else comes through, you can also just follow up on your original text (either before or after they contact you) with something like "oops, turns out I'm not free on Friday, but let me know if Sunday might work" or something.
posted by salvia at 9:01 PM on November 29, 2017

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