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Miss Manners: What are the proper manners for pursuing adult friendships?

Dear Miss Manners: I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends, whether it’s at a party or at work. I’d like to think that I’m good at picking up on social cues and knowing when someone is enjoying socializing with me (as opposed to just being nice or cordial).

So how do adults ask, “Can we stay in touch and hang out sometime?” without sounding like they are hitting on you or asking you out on a date? I feel awkward asking people for their phone number, email or even their social media info due to previous social faux pas.

This wasn’t really an issue during my college years. But it’s happened at least twice in the past three years that a person I befriended thought I was romantically interested in them, as opposed to just wanting to be friends. I’m friendly and enthusiastic, but I don’t consider myself a flirt.

What are the proper manners for pursuing adult friendships?

Group settings tend to be much more conducive to putting acquaintances at ease than one-on-ones — which do lend themselves to more intimate implications.

“I am having a get together/outing/party and I would love for you to come” is a way to ease into a new friendship. Then, if you get a dubious look, Miss Manners suggests that you add reassurance by saying, “Of course, if you have a partner, bring that person, too.”

Dear Miss Manners: My mother-in-law has a habit of inviting me to expensive outings when we visit her, and then leaving me the bill.

She has taken me to her exclusive salon to have her hairdresser trim and style my hair, which cost well over $100. She’s also “given me” (by setting up the appointment) a massage, which cost me another hundred and tip. Then she wanted to take me bra shopping, to which I passed on, because I knew it’d be $200-plus to get out of there.

I really enjoyed the trip to her salon, but would never go there on my own (same for the massage). She insisted on bringing me there, so shouldn’t she pay the bill? Whenever I have invited her to my salon, I have paid for both of us. I really can’t afford her type of outings.

Then do not accept. Now that you know the game, Miss Manners suggests that you avoid such outings, countering with a more reasonable one of your own, or offering to meet up afterward.

“Oh, you know, I just went for a haircut/massage/manicure/bra-shopping/wrinkle-reducing excursion back at home. But you go ahead and enjoy yourself, and perhaps we can meet up later for lunch.” Suggesting the restaurant and making it clear that you will pay would also be a good idea — just so that you do not receive any further expensive, confusing or misleading invitations.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin.