I’ve asked a large number of different people in the course of my existance to have lunch with me. More so in recent years, but still a lot of people. And a lot of lunch requests.

It would seem likely that many replies have been, “I’m too busy right now” as opposed to a simple yes or no. In my experience, however, being busy is often used as a shield to say no without the negative connotation (or, to put it another way, to say no “politely”).

How do I tell the difference? If the person is busy, but seeks to schedule for another time, they obviously aren’t saying no. If they never bring it up again and quietly forget that lunch was ever asked about, they really meant to say no (which isn’t at all polite and doesn’t really spare anyone’s feelings but theirs, for the record).

Here’s the question. Am I right? Whether I continue to pursue a growing friendship with someone doesn’t exactly hang in the balance of me being right about this, but close. So I need a bit of advice. (For reference, it’s a girl. No romantic interest to speak of, but mostly from not knowing each other well enough to know, at least from my end. That said, I’ve gotten the “I’m too busy” answer for “No” from men and women equally.)

More to come if I get a response at all.

UPDATE: There’s also the “what have I got to lose” approach.  Particularly since there really isn’t anything to lose.  That is to say letting them know that “I’m too busy” means picking a later date when they, presumably, wouldn’t be busy.   This, of course, puts more trust in the person actually being too busy (which I have trouble doing, explaining the premise of this post).

Also worth noting is that I probably say I’m too busy to lots of things where I would be more honest in saying no.  I don’t hold myself exempt from the behavior, but do find it frustrating.