How To Not Come Off As Desperate

“I always feel like I try too hard in my friendships. Sometimes I worry that I come across as clingy, especially when I ask someone to hang out. How can I make friends with people without appearing weird or annoying?”

To make friends with someone, you need to spend time together. But taking the initiative can feel awkward. You might feel that if you ask someone to meet up, you’ll appear desperate. Or perhaps you worry about coming off as clingy if you message someone.

Here’s how to build a friendship and invite people to hang out without coming off as needy or intense.

1. Focus on shared interests

Having a hobby or interest in common gives you a reason to suggest that you and the other person hang out.

If you want to make new friends, it can help to go places where you can meet like-minded people, such as clubs, meetups, or classes. When you’ve made a connection with someone based on your mutual interest, the next step is to get together outside of organized meetups.

For example:

  • [At a book club] “I’ve really enjoyed talking about Hemingway. Would you like to continue this conversation over coffee sometime?”
  • [After a college design class] “It’s cool to meet someone who loves vintage fashion. There’s a special clothing exhibition right now at the local art gallery. Would you like to check it out?”

Our guide on how to make friends contains practical tips on how to swap contact details and follow up with someone you’ve recently met.

Even if you have a solid group of friends, keep making an effort to connect with new people. If you focus on just one or two friends, you may become clingy and emotionally over-invested.

2. Invite a friend to something you’ll do anyway

If you make it obvious that you have a life of your own and can have fun by yourself, you’re less likely to come across as needy. Make some plans and then ask someone to come along.

For example:

  • “I’m going to see [film title] on Thursday evening. Want to come?”
  • “There’s a new sushi bar that just opened up near the mall. I was thinking of checking it out at the weekend. Would you be interested in grabbing lunch with me?”

If they say no, go anyway and enjoy yourself. The next time someone asks you what you’ve been doing lately, you’ll have an interesting answer or story to tell them. You’ll come across as independent and proactive, which is the opposite of needy and desperate.

3. Avoid complaining about your social life

When you’re with a friend or acquaintance, do not complain that you often feel lonely or don’t have much of a social life. There’s no need to feel ashamed if you don’t have friends; many people find themselves in this situation at some point. But if you draw attention to your lack of a social life—for example, by telling someone how excited you are to finally have met a friend—you’ll come across as socially inept and desperate for company.

4. Match your friend’s level of effort

If you put more effort into a friendship than you get in return, you may come across as clingy.

Here are a few signs that you’re trying too hard:

  • You message or call them much more often than they contact you.
  • You have to put a lot of effort into keeping conversations going.
  • You remember their stories and details about their life, but they don’t seem interested in learning about you.
  • You always have to make plans to hang out because they never take the initiative.
  • You are willing to help them out when they’re having problems, but they don’t do the same for you.
  • You try to compliment them and make a special effort to ask questions about their life, but they don’t do the same in return.

To keep a friendship balanced, it helps to mirror the other person’s style of communication. For example, if they send brief replies, don’t send them long paragraphs. If you know they don’t like talking on the phone, don’t call them up regularly.

It’s good to take the initiative, but don’t ask someone to hang out more than twice in a row. If you get two “no’s,” let them make the next move. In a healthy friendship, both people make an effort to see each other.

You may find it helpful to read our guides on what to do if you’re stuck in a one-sided friendship and signs of a toxic friendship.

5. Suggest a group meetup

One-on-one meetups can feel awkward when you haven’t known someone for very long. Inviting 2-4 people along to an activity can help the conversation flow and gives you all a chance to learn more about each other at the same time.

Send a message to each friend saying something like:

“Hey Alex, are you free on Saturday afternoon? I thought it would be fun if you, me, Nadia, and Jeff went to the beach for some frisbee and a cookout?”

Arranging a group meeting can be more complicated than fixing a one-on-one hangout because you may have to adjust the date and time to suit everyone. It’s usually best to use a group chat to finalize the details.

6. Don’t ask to hang out every time you make contact

If you only contact someone when you want to hang out, they might get the impression that you only make an effort when you feel lonely. You want to show your friend that you genuinely care about what’s happening in their life. If they ask you to hang out, that’s a bonus. You could also send short friendly messages, memes, and links to videos you think they’d enjoy. Read this guide on how to keep in touch with friends.

7. Invite people to hang out after an activity

For example, you could ask a couple of classmates, “I need a coffee after that lecture! Does anyone want to come with me?” Or if you’d like to hang out with a colleague, you could say, “Would you like to grab lunch after this meeting is over?” It often feels easier and more natural to suggest doing something together when you’ve already been in the same place for a while.

8. Avoid trying to buy friendship

Avoid paying for everything when you go out and do not give someone generous gifts until you know them well. If you insist on paying for everything, other people may assume that you are trying to buy their friendship and that you are desperate for them to like you. When you hang out, take it in turns to pick up the check or split the bill.

9. Avoid apologizing for inviting someone out

For example, don’t say, “I know you’ve probably got something better to do, but…” or “I don’t suppose you’d be interested, but if you’d like to…”

By apologizing or using self-deprecating language, you’re suggesting that only a desperate or bored person would want to hang out with you, which may make you appear desperate too.

10. Invite new friends to low-pressure events

When you’re getting to know someone, ask them out for a low-key activity like brunch or browsing a local market for a couple of hours. Don’t ask too much too soon. For example, although it’s normal to invite a best friend on a weekend trip, this kind of invitation would probably scare off someone you’ve only seen a couple of times.

11. Hang out with people you genuinely like

It’s good to keep an open mind when looking for friends. For example, there’s no need to write someone off just because they are much older or younger than you. But if you try to make friends with anybody and everybody just because you feel lonely, you may come off as desperate.

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12. Avoid oversharing

In a healthy friendship, both people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. However, sharing too much too soon can make you appear socially unskilled and needy. Your new friend might get the impression that you’re desperate for someone to talk to.

Oversharing can make other people feel uneasy. They might feel as though they have to share in return, even if they would rather wait until they know you better. Here’s a guide on how to stop oversharing.

Common questions about how to make friends without appearing desperate

Why do I try so hard to make friends?

Friendships are good for our general well-being, so it’s normal to put effort into making friends. If you are lonely or fear rejection, you may try especially hard because you want companionship. If you feel inferior to others, you may try hard because you think you have to compensate for your flaws.

Why do I have a hard time making friends?

If you struggle to make conversation and appear friendly, you’ll find it hard to get close to people. Other possible reasons include undesirable social habits like interrupting or bragging, problems trusting others, or lack of opportunity to meet people with similar values and interests.

Why can I never keep friends?

Friendships require regular contact. If you don’t keep in touch with your friends and arrange to spend time together, the friendship may fade. Other possible reasons why you can’t keep friends include an inability to open up to people, depression, and social anxiety.

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

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