Why Potential New Friends May Not Follow Through After Talking About Hanging Out
Here's a confusing, discouraging scenario that can happen when you're trying to make new friends:
- You meet someone at an event like a party or meet up
- You hit it off and spend a good chunk of time chatting with them
- You swap contact information / add each other on social media, and talk about hanging out again sometime soon
- Nothing comes of it after that. They either never get in touch, or you exchange a handful of messages with them before contact fizzles out.
If this happens several times it can make you worry that there's something wrong with you. It can also leave you feeling frustrated at how flaky everyone is, and reduce your motivation to keep trying to build a social life. I'll go over some reasons a prospective friend may have seemed up for hanging out, but didn't follow through. Aside from shedding some light on their behavior, it may also clarify some of your own motivations if you've been the one not to follow up with someone. After that I'll suggest a few things you can do to cut down on the chances of the situation happening.
These are in no particular order, not ranked by most-likely to least-likely.
They chickened out
They've got a socially anxious, insecure side. We sometimes assume everyone else is confident and has their act together, but that's hardly true. In the days after you met they thought about inviting you to do something, but whenever they did they worried, "What if we don't have as much to say to each other as we did the first time, and there are lots of uncomfortable silences?", "What if they get to know me better and realize I'm a loser?" Those fears got the best of them and they quietly give up on the idea of getting in touch.
They're pessimistic and prematurely concluded it wouldn't work out
They thought about hanging out again, but decided, "Ah, what's the point? We probably won't have much in common, or they'll end up disappointing me." A few reasons they may be pessimistic about new friends: They've been burned by people in the past; They're mildly depressed and assume most things won't go well; They have lower self-esteem and unconsciously protect themselves from rejection by coming with reasons not to try.
They figured you didn't really want to hang out again
This one can come from a mix of insecurity and pessimism. They think, "Yeah, we talked for a bit, but they didn't really want to do something next week. They were just being polite. If I ask them if they want to meet for coffee I'm only going to annoy them and seem clueless."
They assumed you were too busy to get together
For example, they thought, "They probably already have a social circle and plans most weekends. And aside from that, their plate is probably full with work and family. They don't need another friend. I won't bother them."
They're lazy about making plans
Setting up plans takes a bit of effort. Some people are lazy and prefer to let their friends do the work. They would have been up for hanging out, but only if you took the lead to figure out something to do and asked them if they were free.
They said "We should hang out again" in the sense of, "Hopefully we'll run into each again a few more times and get to know each other bit by bit. After that, if it still seems like we get along, we can formally arrange to meet up"
For example, if they met you through mutual friends, they hope you'll end up at some of the same get togethers over the coming months, where you can talk more. They think you have friendship potential, but not enough where they'd want to explicitly set up a time to hang out right away. Or maybe they're worriers. They're fine chatting when you cross paths at an acquaintance's barbecue, but fear you wouldn't have anything to say to each other if it was just the two of you going to see a movie.
They never wanted to hang out again and just said "We should do something some time" as a "courtesy" or because it seemed like the path of least resistance
Some people end many of their conversations with empty talk of hanging out again in the future. For some it's a habit that they don't think about at all. Others know they don't mean what they're saying, but assume everyone knows to treat it as a friendly, non-literal figure of speech. Other people will offer to hang out or exchange contact info because they think, "If I directly tell them I don't see us being friends, they may get upset. I'll just play along now then not follow up later."
But you were getting along with each other. It's not like you approached them out of nowhere asking for their number, and they gave it to you to make you go away. Why wouldn't they want to see you again? Because sometimes people may find someone pleasant to talk to for half an hour, but not think they'd be a fit for anything beyond that. Often there's no big reason why they feel that way about you. They like your company, but not quite enough that they want to be proper friends. On occasion, people will get something out of chatting to someone they otherwise don't get along with. For example, if they meet a party guest with opposite political opinions, they may find it intellectually stimulating to pick their brains for an hour or two, to get some insight into how the "other side" sees things.
They liked talking to you when you first met, but after thinking on it more, decided you wouldn't be a good match for them as a friend
We can really enjoy someone's company at the time, but after reflecting on it more realize the compatibility isn't there. For example, two people meet at a bar and have fun joking around, downing some drinks, and playing pool. When they're buzzed and caught up in the moment they may sincerely talk of hanging out again. The day after one thinks about the other, "They were fun to banter with, but I don't know how much we actually have in common. They seemed kind of negative, and that one comment they made was weirdly racist... Yeah... I'm going to bother contacting them again." Some people seem especially prone to getting swept up in the moment, only to change their minds later.
They truly got busy
Saying "I'm soooo busy these days" is sometimes an excuse, but people can actually have a hectic few weeks that make them forget about that one guy they spoke to at the party who they've been meaning to email. Once their schedule clears they may remember you, but decide it's been too long to pick up where they left off.
They didn't get especially busy, but after a few days they got back to their regular life and you slipped from their mind
It's not because you're super-forgettable. It's that sometimes day to day living can quickly make a weekend conversation seem like a distant memory. Say they met you on a Saturday night. On Sunday and Monday you may be fresh in their mind, but as the week goes on they get distracted with the usual work / school / friends / family / relationship stuff. By Thursday what they did last weekend feels like forever ago, like something that's not a part of their "real" weekday life.
They like you, but don't picture you fitting into their current group or social life
Here their thinking is: "They were fun to talk to. We had a lot in common. But when I spend time with people I mostly hang out with my group of long-time friends. I don't really see them all clicking with each other. And aside from that I'm busy. I don't have time to have a core group of friends, and then a separate one on one buddy on the side. Ah well, I guess it's not going to go anywhere."
They're less-social, and you just happened to chat to them during a short-lived bout of outgoingness
Some people don't need as much social time as others. Despite the stereotype, less-social types aren't always aloof and reserved. When they're spending time with people they can be quite friendly and eager to connect. It's just that they may only be in that "mode" for a relatively short part of the week, and the rest of the time they're enjoying their own company. When they were chatting to you in an outgoing frame of mind they may have been genuinely interested in hanging out more. After the get together they switched back to their predominant solitary mode, and their motivation to add a new friend to their life faded. They already know enough people to fulfill their smaller social needs.
A few ways you can cut down on prospective friends not following through on offers to hang out
Accept you can't prevent it from happening entirely
That's extra true if you talk to people in high volume, mingling-focused situations like social meet ups. Making friends is a numbers game. You're not going to hit it off with everyone you meet. You're not going to go on to hang out with everyone you have a pleasant conversation with. Sometimes you'll meet someone who could have been a friend if you'd caught them at the right time, but you met them at a busy or flaky point in their lives, and nothing is going to come of it.
Take more initiative yourself to follow up with people and try to set up plans
Many of the explanations above raised the question of, "Well why didn't you do more to stay in touch and invite them out? Why did you leave the ball the their court?" It won't work every time, but taking more initiative can salvage those budding friends that peter out because the other person is a tad lazy, or unsure about whether you like them, or prone to having last week's interactions slip their mind.
If possible, invite newer friends to do something low-stakes and low-pressure
For example, if you met them at a well-attended movie night at a friend's house, invite them to a similar event. They might worry about awkward silences or a lack of chemistry if the two of you met to chat over drinks, but be fine seeing you again where there are plenty of other people to talk to. Get togethers that are activity-focused also feel lower-pressure. You don't need to talk as much, and when you do, the activity provides some things to speak about.
If you have a sense someone would have no issue keeping a conversation going you don't have to use this point, but consider it if they seem shy, or already politely turned down an invitation to talk over coffee.
Longer term, try to focus on meeting friends through places where you can regularly see the same people
A one-off social meet up at a pub forces everyone to make up their minds about each other after one conversation. It creates situations where two people agree to hang out again, then reconsider a few days later. A recurring weekly meet up lets everyone get to know each other at a more gradual, comfortable pace, and not commit to spending time together outside of it until they're fairly sure they gel.