How to Respond When a Friend Always Wants to Hang Out

“My best friend always wants to hang out, and it’s too much for me! How can I let them know that they want too much of my time without hurting them?”

People differ in their needs and expectations of friendship. Some people want to hear from their friends on a daily basis, while others are fine with speaking and meeting up only occasionally.

Needing to turn down invitations can be just as difficult as being turned down by friends. After all, we don’t want to hurt our friends or have them think that we don’t like them. Here are some tips for handling situations when a friend wants to hang out more often than you do.

1. Give short explanations for why you’re not free

If you just turn down their invitations by saying “No” with no further explanation, your friend may be left wondering if they have done something to upset you.

Let them know that’s not the case by giving a brief explanation like, “I already have plans for today, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see you. Let’s go for a walk next Tuesday. Are you free then?”

Telling your friend when you are free to meet up can help them understand that you still want to see them even when you need to turn them down.

2. Be honest about your need for time alone

If there’s an ongoing issue in your friendship where your friend keeps inviting you out, and you don’t feel like meeting up, it may help to have an honest conversation about what you need. This may be awkward, but it can be easier than repeatedly turning them down.

For example:

“It seems to me we have different needs on how much time to spend together. I need more time by myself, and I feel bad about turning you down. I want to be your friend, and I hope we can find a way to work this out.”

People need different amounts of alone time. Let your friend know that while you appreciate their desire to see you, you need to have some space.

Try not to make your friend defensive by blaming or judging them. Avoid saying things like:

  • “You’re too needy.”
  • “It’s annoying when you keep asking me to hang out even though you know I’m busy.”
  • “It’s not normal to spend so much time together.”
  • “I’m just more independent than you are.”

Remember that it’s OK to have different needs in relationships.

Being honest with friends isn’t always easy. Our guide on how to be honest with friends (with examples) may help.

3. Don’t leave your friend hanging

Respect your friend’s time. Don’t be wishy-washy and give “maybe”-type answers. Let your friend know where they stand. For example, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know whether I’ll be free on Friday night. I might turn up if I can.”

4. Try setting a recurring time to meet

It may help to set aside a specific time to meet your friend. That way, they know when and where they will see you and don’t have to constantly ask.

“Hey, X. I thought it may be a good idea to set aside a time for us to have dinner and catch up once a week. That way, we don’t have to deal with all this back-and-forth and trying to set a time. What do you think? Is Monday evening good for you?”

Make sure that you set up something that will be sustainable for you. Don’t commit to seeing each other three times a week if you suspect that will be too much for you.

5. Be prepared to uphold your boundaries

It’s important to be honest and kind to your friends. At the same time, you don’t have to over-explain yourself or sacrifice other plans. You should feel comfortable enough to say to your friends, “I don’t want to hang out today,” and have them accept that.

Your friend shouldn’t be pressuring you to hang out or do anything else you feel uncomfortable with. Learning how to say no is a valuable skill in relationships because it helps you set boundaries.

If you often feel as though you go along with what other people want because it’s hard for you to say “No,” our guide on what to do if you’re being treated like a doormat may help you to stand up for your needs.

6. Don’t take responsibility for others’ feelings

Sometimes, you will do everything right, and your friend may still end up feeling hurt, betrayed, jealous, or angry.

In these cases, it can help to remind yourself that other people’s feelings aren’t our responsibility. Our actions and words are our responsibility: we can always strive to be better.

But friendship is a two-way street. If your friend is upset that you aren’t available to meet with them as often as they’d like, that is an issue they need to deal with. The manner they deal with it is their responsibility, and as long as they don’t become hurtful to you by yelling or lashing out, they are free to choose how to manage their emotions.

It can be difficult to know you hurt someone that you care about. But you always have a right to say no, and other people have a right to their feelings about it.

7. Let your friend know you appreciate them

People tend to fall into particular dynamics in relationships. One common dynamic is a pursuer-withdrawer dynamic.[1] In such a dynamic, one side withdraws when they experience increased demands from the anxious or pursuer. In turn, the anxious pursuer becomes more anxious as they sense avoidance from the withdrawer.

An example of this in a friendship is when your friend messages you to hang out, and you don’t respond and say that you’re busy. This may bring up some anxiety in your friend, so they feel pushed to chase more: “What about tomorrow? Did I do something to upset you?” Their chasing feels overwhelming, so you withdraw even more, increasing their anxiety and chasing behavior.

It may help to communicate clearly with your friend while letting them know you value your friendship.

For example:

“I’m not avoiding you, I just need some more alone time and time to focus on my studies. I really value our time together and want us to be able to continue to hang out in a sustainable way.”

8. Push yourself to meet up sometimes

We may often find that once we’re home, we don’t want to go out again. We start to feel lazy or get caught up in something we’re doing. Going out doesn’t seem to be appealing.

However, it’s often the case that if we push ourselves to engage socially, we end up enjoying ourselves.

Part of maintaining friendships is spending time together, and some of us may need an extra push to do that.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t feel like you have to push yourself to spend time with friends all the time. If you spend a lot of time with them and it’s not enough for them, or if you find that you don’t enjoy spending time together, you may need another solution. Not all friendships can or should be saved. If you aren’t sure whether it’s time to back away from a friendship, our guide to spotting the signs of a toxic friendship may help.

You could suggest a compromise if you’d like to see your friend but don’t like the sound of their plans. For example, if they suggest hanging out all day and then having dinner and seeing a movie, you could say, “I need some time to recharge this weekend because work has been hectic, so I don’t have the energy to hang out all day. But I’d love to have dinner with you! Did you have a particular restaurant in mind?”

Common questions

Is it OK to not want to hang out with friends?

It’s OK not to want to hang out with friends all the time. There’s nothing wrong with wanting some time by yourself. However, if you never want to spend time with friends, it may be worth asking yourself if you enjoy the friendship or if there is something deeper going on like depression.

Is it normal to hang out with friends every day?

It’s normal to hang out with friends every day if that’s what you feel comfortable with. It’s also normal to have less frequent contact with friends. Some people prefer to spend more time on their own, while others desire a lot of social contact.

Why does my friend always want to hang out with me?

Your friend wants to hang out with you a lot because they enjoy spending time with you. They may also be insecure about spending time alone. They may fear losing your friendship if you don’t spend a certain amount of time together.

How many times a week should you hang out with friends?

You should spend as much time with friends as you all want to. During certain phases of our life, we may have more time and energy to spend with friends. Other times, we find ourselves busier or more in need of alone time. Check in with yourself to see how much time you want to spend hanging out.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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