“My friend always makes excuses to not hang out, even though they say we should meet up more often. What do you say to a friend who seems keen to meet up but also keeps saying they are too busy?”
It can be difficult to know how to reply to your friend if they turn down several invites in a row, or if they always say “Sorry, I’m busy” when you ask to talk or meet up.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to make plans with a busy friend and what to do if they never seem to have time for you.
If your friend is genuinely busy, they will be grateful if you can be flexible when it comes to setting a time to hang out or catch up.
For example, you could:
- If they are too busy to talk in the evening, suggest a quick phone call during their morning commute.
- Have a video call instead of getting together in person.
- Meet for a quick lunch on a weekday if they are too busy in the evenings or during weekends.
- Watch a movie online instead of going to the cinema or play a game online instead of going to each other’s homes; this cuts down on travel time.
- Run errands together. For example, you could go to the gym and pick up groceries together on the weekend.
If your friend is busy but highly organized, try scheduling time to meet up weeks, rather than days, in advance. Text or call them a few days before you’re due to meet up to confirm that they are still free.
A busy friend may find it more convenient to have a regular date with you than to pick a new day and time every time you meet up.
For example, you could suggest:
- Grabbing a drink or snack on the same day after work every week.
- Going to the same evening class every week.
- Meeting up on the last Sunday afternoon of every month for a hike.
As a general rule, ask them to hang out no more than twice in a row. If they say “No” on both occasions, leave it to them to make the next move.
For example, let’s say your friend has already turned down one invitation, didn’t offer to reschedule, and is now declining another invitation. Here’s how you could respond:
You: Would you like to see a movie next Thursday or Friday night?
Friend: So sorry, I’ve got a huge project at work this month. I’m too busy!
You: OK, no worries. If you get some free time soon and want to hang out, send me a message 🙂
If your friend has a habit of making plans with you but dropping out or canceling at the last minute because they are busy, this can be a sign they don’t respect your time. It’s OK to back away from the friendship if it’s becoming one-sided.
But if you still enjoy your friend’s company and can accept that they are just an unreliable person, you could make plans by yourself and ask them to come along. If they cancel, you won’t have wasted your time because you’ll enjoy yourself anyway.
For example, you could say:
- “I’m going to check out the new climbing wall that opened up next door to the gym on Wednesday night. Drop me a message if you’re around! It’d be cool to see you.”
Alternatively, arrange a meetup with several other friends and invite your busy friend too.
For example, you could say:
- “Me and [mutual friends] are going bowling on Saturday night. We’d love to see you. Let me know if you want to come along.”
Friendships ebb and flow over time. For example, if your friend gets married and starts a family, they might not have much time to socialize for a while. When this happens, it can help to focus on your other friendships. Remember that in the future, your friend may be less busy, or your own schedule might become more demanding, and your friend will have to be the one who needs to adjust their expectations.
Sometimes, people will say they are “busy” when they are going through a difficult time and do not have the energy to socialize. For example, they may be suffering from depression, going through a breakup, or working through a bereavement. Even if you are good friends, they might not want to talk about their painful feelings.
If you know or suspect that your friend is going through a tough time, send them a supportive message letting them know that you are willing to be there for them.
- “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope you’re OK. Just know I’m here if you need me.”
- “It sounds like you’re having a bad time right now. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here whenever you’re ready.”
- “I know you have a lot going on, but I’m happy to listen if you want to offload.”
Your friend can then reach out if and when they’re ready.
The tips above assume that your friend is genuinely busy. But some people say “I’m busy” instead of saying “No.”
If your friend is truly busy:
- They will probably suggest alternative plans if they have to turn down an invitation.
- They will probably still reach out to you in some way, e.g., by sending occasional text messages, even if they can’t meet up with you in person.
- When you do hang out, they will act like a good friend who is interested in spending time with you.
- They will probably tell you why they have been unavailable, and their reasons will sound plausible.
If you’re the one who always or almost always has to reach out and make plans and your friend often says they are “too busy,” you may be in a one-sided friendship. Read our guide on what to do if you’re stuck in a one-sided friendship.
Don’t wait around wondering if and when your busy friend will eventually be free to see you.
Invest in multiple friendships so that you aren’t emotionally dependent on one person. Set aside some time to meet new people and make friends.
If your busy friend’s schedule opens up later, you can start hanging out again. If not, you’ll have plenty of other friends you can spend time with.
Work together to find small gaps in their schedule. For example, if they are a student, you could suggest meeting for lunch one day each week between classes. You could also experiment with new ways of hanging out, such as video calling rather than meeting in person.
Some people have packed schedules. For example, they might have a hectic job. Others say they are busy because they don’t want to meet up. This could be for many reasons. For instance, they may be going through a period of depression or may want to let your friendship fizzle out without saying so.
If you want to make plans, get straight to the point. For example, “Free for dinner on Friday 15th? Let me know by Wednesday if that sounds good!” is better than “Hi, want to hang out soon?” Do not send your friend lots of messages in a row. Accept that it may be a while before you get a reply.