Monday, March 04, 2024
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What it means when a friend only wants to hang out in groups

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

group of friends hanging out

If a friend only wants to hang out in groups, you might be wondering what this means. Here are the various possibilities.

As you will see below, it depends on whether this is a new thing. In other words, has your friend has always preferred to hang out in groups, or did you used to hang out one on one but your friend has stopped wanting to do that?

With your answer to this question in mind, here the possible reasons why your friend only wants to hang out in a group setting.

Possibility 1. Your friend has anxiety in one on one situations

While you might find one on one hangouts relaxing, not everyone feels that way. Some people get anxious one on one because they feel that there is more of a spotlight on them. They find it easier to blend into a group.

Therefore if your friend has social anxiety about one on one get-togethers, he or she might prefer to meet up in a group setting. Do not take this personally! This is not about you, it's about them. Your friend is not treating you differently to any other friend, this is how he or she is around anyone.

Often you can't tell about social anxiety just by looking. Even someone who seems outwardly confident, attractive and happy can have anxiety, so be careful not to make assumptions.

What to do about the person with social anxiety

It's understandable that you want to get to know your friend better beyond the more superficial conversations of group settings, but if your friend isn't going to want to participate in one on one hangouts then you should respect that. Don't try to intervene or to "change" them.

One productive thing you can do to get to know your friend better is to suggest getting together in a smaller group every now and then. For example, you and your friend and 1 or 2 others could go bowling or do some other activity. People with social anxiety tend to do better when the hangout is centered around an activity or event. Yet the group is small enough that you still get to know your friend a bit better.

Remember, don't take this personally! They're not treating you differently to other friends, this is just how they are.

Possibility 2. Your friend has an extremely large social circle, making it hard to find time for one on one hangouts

Do you have a friend who always seems to have time to go to a party but never time to catch up for coffee with you one on one? Understandably, that can seem hurtful. Ask yourself whether your friend was always that way or if this is something recent. Is this a recent thing? In other words, if they used to hang out with you one on one but don't anymore, skip this part and move on to possibility 3 below.

On the other hand, if they didn't used to hang out with you one on one, or only a few times, then likely they have a very large social circle and don't have time for more close friends. They might simply not have time to hang out with every friend they have one-on-one once a week or even every other week, for example. Looking at it from their point of view, if you had 20 friends you want to spend time with, you'd probably never be able to do it one-on-one. Between school or work for both of you, it can be hard to line up one on ones with so many people, unless you have literally no hobbies. Even then, you'd still see each person very infrequently if you're trying to get to see 20 people one on one. Therefore, hanging out in groups is a better solution if the person has a lot of friends.

This situation can be difficult for you - it's hard to feel secure when it seems like you're being rejected by them. But understand that it's not personal. Someone with 20 close friends will probably only have time for one on ones with 1 or 2 best friends. If they've never or rarely hung out with you one on one, they probably literally don't have to time to add another best friend - whether it's you or anyone else.

But rest assured, if time is the only problem, they'll still enjoy getting to see you in group hangouts and parties.

What to do about the friend that doesn't have time to hang out one on one

This person may likely never become a close friend to you, but you'll both enjoy getting to hang out in the company of other friends in a group setting.

If you're looking for a best friend to hang out with one on one, you'll need to look elsewhere. But this person is still part of your friendship circle, and you should still enjoy seeing them in group settings. Think of them more as an acquaintance than as a close friend. If you're insecure in groups, use these tips for socializing in a group.

Possibility 3. A misunderstanding happened between you and your friend

Read this even if you think it doesn't apply to you! It's entirely possible a misunderstanding happened between you and your friend, even if you don't think it did. One way to test that is to ask yourself if your friend used to hang out with you one on one in the past but has stopped now.

If your friend used to hang out with you one-on-one before but has stopped, this could mean there is some problem. Often it's a simple misunderstanding. But sometimes it can be more than that. Some possibilities besides a misunderstanding are:

  1. They have hurt you, they're aware of it, and they feel guilty. Instead of fixing it by apologizing they are instead avoiding you
  2. You have hurt them or lost their trust, so they don't want to hang out with you one on one to protect themselves
  3. For whatever reason they have changed, or you have changed, and you have less in common. The friendship isn't as strong anymore so they see you as more of an acquaintance

What to do if you think there is a problem between you and your friend

Ask them what happened. Obviously, this is not going to be straightforward if they're not wanting to hang out with you one on one. But you can at least message them to ask if they are OK and if you've done something that has hurt them. Even if this turns out not to be the case, they will at least appreciate you making the first move and they will hopefully meet you halfway.

The worst case scenario is that they will say there is no problem but still won't hang out with you. In which case, you're no worse off than you are now but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you did everything you could. At least there was nothing left undone by you that you could have done. You've tried everything.

But hopefully your friend will get back to you and reply with something constructive and helpful, and you two will get the friendship back on track.

Possibility 4. Not all friends want to hang out one on one right now

If none of the above 3 options seem to be the right fit for you, then you've arrived at this final possibility, which is that either:

  • It's the wrong person for one on one hangouts, or
  • The right person, wrong time

I'll expand on these below.

Wrong person: Even if you feel like you click, it takes 2 to tango. This person might like you just fine as an acquaintance or casual friend, but not a close friend to hang out with one on one. That is OK! There's nothing wrong with you, it's that you're looking at the wrong person for a close friend.

Right person, wrong time. A friend might be struggling with other unknown things (health issues, a messy breakup etc) and for whatever reason might feel more comfortable in a group setting - for now. Just be patient, let them know you're there for them, and don't feel bad that they only seem to want to hang out in group settings. This is something that will likely change with time as they sort out their other issue. If they are grappling with a big problem or dilemma, they may realize they want your input and advice.

What to do

If you you suspect it's the wrong person, just enjoy seeing them in a group setting. They won't become a close friend, but they're still happy to see you. It's a good idea to get closer to others instead if you want someone to hang out with one on one.

If it's the right person, wrong time, let them know you're there for them if you want to discuss anything. They may share what's going on, or they may not, but either way they'll be grateful to you. If it's a big problem they might seek your input when they know you care. Either way, they most likely will go back to wanting to hang out one on one.

A solution that works for all situation

In all cases, one helpful thing you can do is to put the ball in their court by indicating interest in hanging out one on one like this. "If you want to catch up for coffee or shoot hoops 1 on 1 sometime, let me know". This lets them know you're interested, but you don't come across needy or pushy.


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