Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: How can I gracefully put a deadline on getting an answer to an invitation? I'm uncomfortable having an invitation hanging open indefinitely, or hearing back at the last minute after I've switched gears.

Say I want to go to a movie or a hike on Saturday. It's happened that on Tuesday, I'll text Friend A and ask her if she wants to join me on Saturday. If I don't hear anything back for a couple of days, I assume she's not interested, and by Thursday I want to try Friend B, C or D until I get Saturday plans lined up.

Do I follow up with Friend A first — which feels like pestering, since it's an unsolicited invitation that's being ignored — or do I move on with the assumption that I'm free to ask around?

And also . . . what do I say if Friend A responds on Saturday and says she wants to hike, but I've already gotten a commitment from Friend B, or have changed my mind about how to spend the day?

Thank you for any help you can give me! By the way, this happens with very good people, so I trust it's not game-y. I just want an answer one way or another, or to free myself from my own invitation.


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

— Freeing Myself

Freeing Myself: I think it’s fine to move on with other people or other plans after a day or so of not hearing back — though it depends, of course, on the amount of planning something involves and therefore how inconvenient it would be to remain in limbo.

If you then hear from Friend A, after you have moved on to something else, say, “When I didn’t hear back from you I assumed you weren’t interested and made other plans,” and immediately suggest something else: “How about next Saturday for a hike?” That is, assuming your patience hasn’t run out with this particular friend. You are not a hostage to anyone’s bad manners.

Which are rampant right now with RSVPs, by the way (and thank-yous) — it’s not just with you and your “very good people.”

Re: Deadlines on invitations: Here's what I do. "Hey Friend A, I'm thinking about going on a hike this weekend. If you're interested in joining me, let me know by Wednesday. I hope you can."

I've just learned that many of my friends are kind of jerks and don't follow up, then I was left with nothing to do a lot of the time. So if I hear yes by Wednesday, great. If I hear no, less great, but still good. If I don't hear, I move on to other plans.

— My Friends Are Kind of Jerks

My Friends Are Kind of Jerks: That works, thanks. I wouldn’t set a deadline myself, except with the hard cases or with outings that require advance planning, in part because I’d be the one to lose track of whatever deadline I gave — but your way has the benefit of letting all parties know where they stand. Fewer hard feelings that way.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.