How To Ask A New Acquaintance To Be Your Friend

Meeting new friends can be tough, often because you have the daunting task of conveying interest without conveying too much interest. So how do you ask a person out on a friend date without it being too awkward? We asked for advice, and here's what we learned.

Before we get started, let's define this situation a little bit. Sometimes you find yourself waiting in a long line for coffee or a movie, and you end up talking to a cool guy or girl. You think, hey, I'd like to be friends with this person. You also think that might be a little strange since you've had a conversation for maybe 10 minutes with a complete stranger. Nonetheless, you like this person and you think you'd like to have them as a friend. You decide to ask them out on a friend date. But what do you say? That's what we're dealing with in this post.

Be Clear: This Is Not a Date

Although we'd like to say that gender combinations have no effect on this situation, they do to some extent. A guy asking a guy to hang out is going to be a little different than a girl asking a girl for the same. It gets a little more complicated when you mix up the sexes, because there's a general assumption that spending time together translates to a date of the more romantic variety. It's important to be clear about your intentions, and since you'll be in the midst of a conversation before you, er, pop the question, you'll have an opportunity to express them. Therapist Roger S. Gil offers a few suggestions for handling this sort of situation:

[One] gender issue to consider is the "are they hitting on me" factor. If you're trying to befriend someone of the opposite sex, you might lead them to believe that you're hitting on them if you ask them to hang out outright. This is less common when trying to befriend someone of the same sex but it does happen so be mindful of the questions you ask (e.g. "Are you single?"). An implicit way of removing the "are they hitting on me" factor is to mention any significant other you may have. That way you're declaring your unavailability and implying that you're not looking for a mate… just a friend.

How to "Pick Up" a Friend

You're having a nice conversation but time is running thin. You want to see this person again, but you want them to know your interests are entirely platonic. Here's what you can say.

"Would you like to do __________ sometime?" or "I'm doing __________ later. Want to come with?"

Roger suggests you should "[a]void comments like, 'you seem pretty cool, we should hang out' unless you really just hit it off with the person. Such comments can weird people out. By keeping it about something else (e.g. not them but about a shared interest), you avoid them becoming defensive." Suggesting a common activity makes it easier for the person to be honest. Rejecting an activity is considerably easier than rejecting a person.

"Are you on Facebook?" If you're feeling hesitant and not really sure if they want to hang out, you can always resort to the cushion of social media. Virtually everyone is on Facebook, so you know the answer you're going to get. You can exchange information, potentially even send a friend request right then and there, and continue talking with the aid of the internet. If you feel like you need more time to develop the friendship before the two of you start spending time together, this is an easy, simple way to do it.

"Do you want to hang out sometime? I'm not looking for a date, but I'd like to be friends." Often times the best thing you can do is be straightforward and honest. Although this may put your potential friend on the defensive should they not want to spend any additional time with you, it's hard to fault a person for being clear and true. When I posed this question to friends and Lifehacker readers, this was the most common advice (not counting the many jokes and I Love You, Man references, of course).

How to Deal with the Aftermath

You managed to ask the question, but now what? If they said yes, you have to move forward with the details. If they said no, you have another awkward situation to deal with. Here's how to handle both.

If your new friend says yes, the burden is on you to plan your upcoming friend date (unless you've decided to go the Facebook route and take it slow). Chances are you decided you liked this person because of a common interest, so figuring out what to do shouldn't be difficult. Find an activity that relates to what you talked about, suggest it, and do it. If you don't have that kind of information, you can always just grab lunch and get to know each other a little better. The awkward part is over and they like you enough to hang out, so you simply need to consider them one of your friends.

In the event you get a no you have to accept the fact that you just turned a pleasant conversation into something that's pretty awkward. If you're stuck in the same place together that conversation is likely going to stop and a cloud of discomfort will suddenly seem to form around the two of you. The best thing you can do when you hear that unpleasant no is say something like, "No worries, it was nice meeting you" and just move on with your day. Rejection isn't fun, especially when things seem to be going well, but it happens. If you can handle it gracefully you're making the best out of a bad situation.

Hopefully everything will work out and you'll have a cool new friend. While making new friends can be awkward, it isn't a big deal either. Although we've just strategised in a reasonably long, stick-figure illustrated post, in the end you're doing something very simple. Just ask the question you want to ask and handle the response — good or bad — with grace. It'll be a little awkward, but that's often how good things begin.

This post was illustrated by Dana Zemack. Check out more of her stick figure comics and follow her on Twitter.

A big thanks goes out to Roger S. Gil, M.A.M.F.T. for helping out with this post. You can follow Roger on Twitter and check out his podcast.


Comments

    If you're anything like myself; a lil' socially closed off to begin with, know nothing about sports and moved to a city where you know no one. You quickly realise how tricky it can be to make friends.

      Lived in the same city, same area for 26 years and I still can't make friends. I just have a lot of people I know.

    I find having a very niche hobby or interest helps a lot. I moved around a lot in my 20's and always met people through common interests. In my case it was juggling, unicycling and rock climbing. The more unusual the stronger the common interest factor.

      hey dude, how do you manage to have a link in your name? I thought it was disabled now but I've seen a few non-authors around here with it?

    I loved that movie.

      Hey, so did I! Wanna be friends? :--p

      But srsly, I really liked "I Love You, Man" and I thought "The Hangover" was frakin' stupid. It seems the entire rest of the world disagrees with me on this point.

        I would see the hangover if someone paid me. But I wouldn't really watch it.

    I'm sorry, but asking someone to be your friend is what you do in pre school! So I find the entire article kinda gay, yes I know gay is not kosher these days to call something gay, but hey! Most of my mates I got from being in the same place and having a common interest, I certainly didn't ask someone!

      If you read the article, it's about turning a very temporary acquaintance (i.e. in line at the supermarket or on a train platform) into a more friend-like relationship. In these situations, you're not already doing something you both enjoy (as you might if you met, say, at a Games Workshop convention or local Greco-Roman Wrestling club) so people aren't expecting to make friends. This means you have to make sure you don't alarm them by seeming creepy.

        And who knows? That new friend of yours might solve something in your life (e.g. new, better job; reliable places to buy stuff; advice that's related to their discipline(s)).

        As someone that's trying to connect as many people as possible, trying to find out a way to keep in contact with someone you just met, say, at an event can be quite difficult. (e.g. Are you on Facebook, twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn? None of them? Don't wanna share numbers too? Well. I guess you don't wanna keep on contact since we're both in the IT industry; nice meeting you and have a good day. :)

    The problem with asking someone if they're on Facebook is that you inevitablly encounter the wankers who think it's cool to hate on it (which is at least half the population these days). You quite often get the condescending reply "Oh I don't use facebook because (insert stupid opinion here) ..." I suppose this question makes for a good screening process to filter out self-important wankers :)

      Yesssss, this is so true. It's like people hating on McDonald's, especially the ones that actually enjoy the food!

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