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SOMEWHERE

An interested party says:

I am so annoyed when people ask me if I “want to do something sometime”.  Something sometime?  Yes, I want to do something sometime.  What?  When?  It’s an open ended invitation that doesn’t tell me anything.

LISTEN:

While it must be a huge burden for you to deal with, all these social inquiries stretching endlessly into an unforeseeable future, I do hope what I tell you lift some of that load.

I agree that the state of communication between people, countries, my dog and the squirrels outside, can be fraught with mixed messages – the open ended invitation is a rare bird.  It communicates hesitancy, but desire.  It’s like flirting – you can’t really tell that it’s happening, or what’s happening, because you don’t come right out and say it.

Diplomacy is the same thing – the choice of a word can have international ramifications.  The use of “regret” as opposed to “saddened by” – the former assumes more responsibility than the latter.  Does the dog want to play, or does it want to eat me?  I regret to say it’s the latter.

But flirting is a little bit of each.  If you know for certain their intention, then it’s not flirting, it’s picking up.  If you can’t tell there’s more than a passing interest or vague pleasantry, then it’s too subtle or you’re too dull.  But if the whole interaction leaves you flustered, then you’re on the right track.

In that situation, just like in your heartbreaking case of inadequate invitational prowess, a simple phrase should do the trick.

“What did you have in mind?”

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