#1140: Setting boundaries with a coworker moving to my neck of the woods.

Hello Captain,

I live in the ‘burbs with an hour+ work commute to the city. I enjoy the flexibility to work from home several times a week make my own schedule, which also varies due to the needs of the tech world. I enjoy separating my work and social life, which means keeping relationships at work professional, with minimal interaction outside of work.

My coworker is planning to move in with their partner soon, who happens to live in my town, down the street from my house. I gave Coworker a handful of rides to/from work several months ago, since they do not own a car, public transit is not close, and it was technically on my route. Now that cohabitation plans are in order, Coworker is casually asking lots of questions about my work schedule and how I feel about carpooling more often when they move (asking me during work, which is awkward). This is coupled with suggestions to hangout/do non-work stuff together.

I really don’t want to commit to being Coworker’s source of transportation, or non-work friend, for various reasons that I don’t want to share with Coworker, but I feel like a jerk for saying no and/or not committing to anything. Anticipating the pending questions of, “Hey, can you give me a ride to work X times a week? And, wanna get dinner after?”, what scripts do you have that will help me navigate this conversation, and say no/put firm boundaries in place, without seeming like an asshole, and needing to continue interacting with this person on a regular basis? Also, do you think I should be the one to initiate the conversation (since I am 90% sure it is coming), or have Coworker take the lead?

Thank you!

Introvert In the Suburbs

Hi there!

The person is asking you how you feel about carpooling, so, tell them how you feel about carpooling:

“You mentioned carpooling the other day, so I want to follow up – I’m probably good to share rides, like, once a month. Beyond that, I really like to make my own schedule, so I wanted to make sure you’re not counting on me as you plan your new commute. Good luck with your move!”

Then, once a month, maybe follow up and invite them to grab dinner on the way home. That way it’s not hanging over you & you can be in control of how & when.

You are not a jerk, you just like privacy and a flexible schedule, and you are giving them information that they can use to make good decisions.

Will this person be disappointed? Probably.

Were they trying to factor you into their plans to move? Definitely.

Should they buy a car or live somewhere public transport is an option or make another plan? Certainly.

Is that your specific problem? Nope!

Also, listen, there is no perfect way to deliver news that someone doesn’t want to hear that makes them feel great about it. If this coworker responds in a negative way to the above script, it doesn’t mean you were a jerk or that have to give them rides now.

My prediction is that they will try to pretend that they weren’t planning to depend on you for rides in the first place and you’re being presumptuous by assuming that, the same way a person who was obviously wanting to ask a coworker out gets embarrassed when the coworker is like “Let’s just keep it professional, Kyle” and pretends that was never what they wanted. If that happens, you can respond with a cheerful “Oh, that’s great to know! I’m sorry if I presumed, it seemed like you were sounding me out the other day and I just wanted to make sure you had good information. See you at work!” If they avoid you for a little bit, that’s a win. It means the boundaries are working.




134 thoughts on “#1140: Setting boundaries with a coworker moving to my neck of the woods.

  1. I could be reading the letter wrong, but I get the impression that the LW doesn’t want to go to dinner/hang out with the coworker outside work at all, even if they do give their coworker an occasional ride.

    LW, I’ve been in the same shoes, particularly when working jobs that were particularly draining for me. One script I’ve used goes sort of like this:

    Extrovert Ellie: Hey, want to get dinner at Joe’s after work?
    Me: Thanks, but honestly, I like my quiet nights in over going out. You have fun though!

    I’ve found that if it’s said in a calm, cheerful tone, it tends to deter argument. ‘I prefer’ is hard to argue with; if they push, I tend to repeat “I’ll pass, but thanks!” If you can use a calm, friendly, matter-of-fact tone, I personally find it tends to take the sting out because it feels more like you’re making a statement about your own preferences and not about their worth as a person to hang out with.

    1. Two caveats though—and they’re not reasons not to do this, but just things you should probably be aware of.

      First, be aware that if you do this a few times, especially to more than one person, you tend to become known as someone who doesn’t like to go out. And that’s fine, but it sometimes means you don’t get invited to things you might have wanted to go to because people assume you won’t want to go.

      Second, just bear in mind that choosing to separate work and personal life so much can sometimes affect your career trajectory. People are often more likely to refer/connect people they feel like they know personally as well as professionally. This effect can be more pronounced if you happen to also be a female-presenting person (because people are more likely to read this as ‘standoffish’ or ‘not good at working with others). That doesn’t mean you can’t do it! Just be aware that there might be some trade-offs.

      1. The second, while true, often comes to saying “no” at all. That’s how it played out in three prior employers for me – because I was only willing to go out for drinks no more than once per week and not have any more involvement, specifically not have coworkers at my house or go to theirs, it was seen in a negative light at work. I don’t think there’s any good answer here because it really does become, “if you want a promotion you have to let your manager and coworkers invade your personal space.”

        1. I’m sorry that was your experience! It may vary based on person (and based on privilege) and it DEFINITELY depends on how functional your workplace is.

          I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve found that an occasional outing (even while leaving early) has been enough to satisfy people. I also have a had a lot of luck with coffee, which I personally find more tolerable because it tends to be short and quieter than going out for drinks/dinner/etc.

      2. This is true, most definitely! But just not true in this context. LW isn’t turning town *groups*. They are turning down one person who wants to connect not as colleagues, but as it sounds something much more personal. Turning down individuals at work rarely will ever be a problem – unless that is your boss and that is a big UNLESS it is like a business lunch. The problems can come into play when it is group type things are business related after work drinks. Ride-sharing one of one can get really personal really fast as well as one on one interactions with a coworker. LW will be fine politely bowing out of this request for interpersonal space invader requests (otherwise known as offering a friendship).

    2. This was my read as well, and I suspect any outside work hangouts will encourage coworker to befriend LW. I’d suggest setting the boundary, offering ride occasionally when LW wants to, and otherwise holding firm. Eventually the attemps should peter out.

      1. Yeah I was a little surprised at this answer, like OP should go out with this coworker at least once a month. I think the number of times OP *wants* to go out with this coworker is zero, ever, so once a month is probably too much for them. Once a year might be a reasonable compromise (like, after the holiday staff party only), or something more along those lines.

  2. If the LW isn’t used to giving a polite refusal, this carpooling request is a really good place to start. It sounds to me like the coworker isn’t actually being all that disrespectful—asking how the LW would feel about carpooling regularly is different from saying, “Can you please drive me to and from work every day?” It leaves lots of room for the LW to say, “[I’ve been thinking about it, and] I probably can’t give you a ride more often than once a month, and even then, it’ll be because our schedules happen to align that day, rather than something that can be planned in advance as a regular thing.”

    The LW’s erratic schedule (even if it isn’t actually that erratic) can also be the reason they won’t be free to hang out outside of work either, when both LW and the coworker both happen to be free and willing. The LW can decide how often they’re free (and plans to sit at home alone and binge on Netflix count as being “busy that day”).

  3. Regarding carpooling, I would mention the need for decompression before/after work, how you *need* (not want) time alone to think/plan your day, etc, and how driving with someone else just doesn’t work well for you. It should be delivered in a matter-of-fact tone as well.

    1. That may in fact be part of LW’s calculation, but bringing that up risks inviting “discussion” of a stated boundary. Cap’s “I want to set my own schedule” seems more neutral to me and therefore less inviting to negotiation.

      1. Agreed. Also, even if the coworker is trying to be respectful and accept boundaries (which seems like a total possibility based on what we currently know; no reason to assume they’re going to be a jerk about it) then the whole thing is still likely to be easier if it’s a ‘just the facts’. Thinking about what it would be like to be the coworker asking for this favour, I think getting a ‘I can do X but not Y and Z’ or even a ‘I’m afraid I can’t help; good luck with sorting something’ would just feel like a ‘oh, well, that’s a pain but good to know and I’ll take it from here’ moment, whereas getting a long and somewhat apologetic and/or defensive explanation of all the reasons why the person can’t help just makes it weird and awkward.

        1. Absolutely. The more immediate and straightforward the answer, the less it becomes weird. And the LW has already been asked directly ‘how they feel about carpooling more often’, so I can’t see any reason to string it out and delay an answer. It just seems coy or something, which is an extreme way to answer a pretty simple question.

          1. I agree. “I have an unpredictable schedule so I prefer not to commit to carpooling at all, thanks for understanding” is the way to go here IMO

      2. and I think I’d just say, “I don’t want to carpool. It doesn’t work for me.” Why? “It just doesn’t.”
        You gave me a ride before! “That wasn’t carpooling. I don’t want to carpool.”

    2. I agree with cavyherd, reasons (no matter how true) might be taken as an invitation to negotiate. Besides, I’ve met very extraverted people who hadn’t spent much time with introverts and didn’t understand things like “I need time alone to plan my day” at. all. To them it sounded like I was saying “I’m an antisocial jerk and I dislike you.” We have no reason to think this coworker would react like that, but why invite it by offering reasons at all? The LW’s reasons are her own.

      1. Just wanted to add, I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m criticizing extroverts in general or think miscommunication between extroverts and introverts is the extrovert’s fault. Not at all! Just that sometimes, people who grow up in a family/environment that’s very strongly one way and haven’t spent much time with people who aren’t that way, find it hard to understand.

      1. though, maybe “I like to talk to myself in the car, and I can’t do that with an audience.”

        or no?


        1. Not even that. Any reason sounds like the beginning of a discussion/negotiation. It’s better to go full Bartleby. “I prefer not to.”

    3. “I don’t always go straight home. Sometimes I have things to do, private things, so sharing a ride just won’t work.” “Gonna have to pass on the movie/happy hour/dinner/etc. I already have plans, but thanks.” <—rinse, repeat until they stop asking.

    4. I’ve made quite a thing about how much I need my alone time on the way to/from work at my current job, which has then given me the pre-established understanding to be able to say “actually I’ll make my own way to ~more distant thing~ when I needed to Not People or didn’t want to ride with someone who smokes, etc. Being known in advance for loving that in-car alone time is an excellent foundation!

      1. So, so smart of you.

        Likewise I am pretty vocal anout being an introvert and ***needing*** alone time/not being available for X, Y, Z, etc. pretty much ever.

        Few people ever ask me to do stuff, then again I rarely ask in the other direction.

  4. How presumptuous for Co-worker to plan to move somewhere without independent means of communication to work!

    Are they really young and just assume “OP gave me a ride a few times, of course they’re looking to carpool”? Any chance they’re going to tell their partner “It was too difficult to commute, so I’m quitting”? (I dated someone like that.)

    1. That seems like a harsh read of the coworker here. You have no idea if they’ve been able to plan out a way to get to work if LW says no. Coworker doesn’t even seem to be asking for a ride every day, so presumably they have a way to get to work for all those other days.

      Coworker is probably just thinking the other plan is far more annoying for them than carpooling would be, and when it works out they could get a ride, and LW could get help from coworker for gas money. Like… Win-win! They just don’t have the information that LW would dread this arrangement, because it hasn’t been given to them yet.

      1. I agree. Maybe they just think carpooling is a good idea in principle, and/or think “keeping LW company” or somesuch would be a net positive
        LW doesn’t feel that way and gets to set that boundary, but it doesn’t mean asking is inherently horrible or implies a total lack of alternative plans.

        1. Ooo, not to mention in my city there’s a carpool lane and the difference between getting to use that lane and not is often 30+min off your commute!

      2. Some people like carpooling. I’ve had a co-worker volunteer to give me lifts. So, I don’t think there’s a problem with asking.

        1. This is true. I personally intensely dislike carpooling. I hate having to make small talk, and I hate having to work around someone else’s schedule. Car time is decompression/thinking/singing along with the radio time for me. But some people really enjoy carpooling – they might like having company on an hour+ commute (a thought that, as an introvert, makes me shudder), or they might just think it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do, or would be convenient/cheaper since they’re both going to the same place at the same time(ish). But there’s nothing inherently sinister about the coworker asking “hey we’ll be living close together – want to carpool?”

      3. This is ask culture/guess culture here haha. Some would find the inquiry rude, since it puts the burden on OP to refuse. But others would think it’s reasonable to ask, as long as you’re okay getting a no. OP may be struggling with this same divide, but either way the answer is just to say no and not feel too bad about it.

    2. There is nothing to suggest that they don’t have a way to work, in fact that seems _extremely_ far fetched.

      A lot of people prefer to carpool. It’s way more environmentally friendly, cheaper for both of you, and in some cases, faster (if public transit is slow, or if your city has carpool lanes which make it faster than taking two cars).

      1. No car and public transportation is not close suggests they don’t have a way to work. It’s not that far fetched.

        1. Public transportation not close doesn’t mean none, and there are such thing as taxis to get you to the train, not to mention the ability to buy cars, etc. There is always a way for people. They are going to have to do groceries and things too.

          I think basically it’s assuming moron-like levels of poor judgement to assume that someone would move somewhere they will be literally completely incapable of living… I am sure it would be very nice for them to carpool but it’s a big jump from that to having to quit their job or move (which are also reasonable options people make all the time, and which are presumably on their list of possible long term plans).

          There are people at my work who take two hour bus rides from other cities, people who get an uber every day, people like me who ride a bike partway and then get on a train, people who move after they get a new job, and people who didn’t buy a car until they had a particular job where it made their life easier.

          There’s no reason to assume someone is incompetent or malicious just because they ask a (very normal, ordinary) question. You can just say no and move on.

          1. I was going to write basially this.

            I suspect some people think that, on some level, an adult with no car should be presumed incompetent for that reason alone. I suspect this because of ample past experience. It’s not a good look, but car-centric gonna center cars.

          2. I didn’t say anything about the person being incompetent. I just said them moving with the hopes the OP would carpool isn’t far fetched at all. But the coworker can fix her own problem easily by taking a taxi or buying a car. It isn’t OP’s problem if the coworker really doesn’t have a way to work.

        2. No car and public transportation is not close is the *current* situation, and yet the co-worker has managed to show up to work with only a handful of rides from the LW some months ago. So it’s extremely far-fetched to that they don’t have a way to work, since they’ve been showing up regularly enough to satisfy work requirements for months.

          We don’t know that co-worker is moving to a place where public transportation is as far away or further for them than it currently is. We don’t know that the person co-worker is moving in with doesn’t have a car. Given that it’s possible that access to transportation resources has increased, and that even when access to transportation resources was inconvenient the co-worker was showing up, maybe let’s stop assuming they’re stranding themselves.

          1. I am reading it the opposite way – No Car and public transportation is not close is where they are moving to. And the OP gave the coworker a ride a few times when she stayed with her boyfriend. I am reading it that way because she said the boyfriend lives in OP’s town just down the street.

          2. It’s a stretch to assume that along the hour-plus commute between LW’s home and work, the only place that the co-worker could possibly have been staying that would be “technically on LW’s route” is in a house on the same block as the LW.

          3. except that the boyfriend lives on the OP’s street so it isn’t a stretch to assume that the coworker is staying with her boyfriend. She didn’t have to be staying there but it is the most likely place for her to be staying.

          4. Yeah it makes sense that she is staying in her place most of the time but the post says the coworkers boyfriend lives down the street from the OP and the OP has given her rides a few times and now that the coworker is moving in with the boyfriend the coworker is asking about carpooling. So it makes sense the rides happened when the coworker was staying with her boyfriend.

        3. That describes my situation relative to my work–it’s a 90 min three bus trek. I didn’t start carpooling until a year in, when I discovered that some coworkers already carpooled from within a few miles of my house.

          I think it’s probably safer (and kinder on one’s hypothetical ulcer) to assume that they have a way to get to work even if it involves walking for over a mile in terrible weather in a suburb that doesn’t know what to do with pedestrians.

      2. I agree. My reading of the situation is that maybe Coworker has another way to get to work, like maybe their partner drops them off/picks them up at a public transit station, but likely this takes longer and/or isn’t as convenient for Coworker’s partner.

        I don’t have a car and I have a couple of friends who I carpool with to events (I don’t need a car to get to work). When I’m committing to an event beyond the reach of public transit, I’ll often try to arrange rides beforehand. I prefer committing to things I can get to myself, though sometimes it’s nice to get a ride because it’s late or I just missed the every-half-hour bus or things like that.

      3. As an introvert who doesn’t drive carpooling just seems weird. I’d want to unwind on my way home not have to make polite conversation with someone who’s doing me a favour. I would walk, take the bus, or relocate to somewhere with better public transport links. I might accept a lift for leisure activites but I’d be really uncomfortable depending on a colleague to get me to work.

        1. I have seen an Introvert Carpool that had written rules, please do not chat, stick to your book! Not to push carpooling on introverts with that anecdote, but it was nice to see that set up.

  5. An answer like “Nah, I’m really not interested in carpooling,” is a good start here. Frown a little and shake your head emphatically. You don’t need to justify it.

    However, the coworker has not explicitly asked yet. Are they likely to? Or are they likely to hint around this and ask for rides and so on? Because you can ignore the hints and say “No, sorry, I can’t!” to the requests for rides. And do not extend “once a month” or “dinner afterward” hopes if they really do not appeal to you, LW. “Once a month” is likely to creep to a couple of times a month and more and you will feel like a big jerk for saying no at that point and you will feel imposed on and seethe quietly. Not worth it.

    Disclosure: I had a roommate who worked in the same building of the same department as me, and we didn’t carpool.

    Good luck!

    1. LW, also, if you want to head this off, next time Coworker asks about your schedule or personal life, stare at them and ask “You’ve been asking a lot of personal questions about how I use my time lately. Why?” Which may give you the opportunity to say no to carpooling and also stops any hinting and wishing and assuming.

      1. This is VERY aggressive wording for a work relationship! I think you can ask “Why do you ask?” cheerfully but egads. I would only use language that severe in the workplace if it was a very serious boundary violation (like a dude creeping on me) but for something as mild and harmless as this.

        1. Yeahhhhh, at least in my office that would be bridge-burning talk, like good luck saying that in response to such a mild question and not being known as The Extremely Rude One for the rest of your time at this job (which might be fine with OP for all I know! But I am also a person who keeps her work life and home life fairly separate, and you can do that perfectly well without tanking your reputation at work) – if Coworker was being super invasive then sure, but nothing in the post indicates they’re being inappropriate enough to warrant overreacting like that. A cheerful “Why do you ask?” would be grand if OP wanted to take that route, I wouldn’t go harsher unless Coworker really crosses a line.

        2. “I don’t know, I vary my schedule a lot week to week.” would work great if it was true.

          1. Or even if not true! If your coworker begins tracking your movements to ensure that you actually are a spontaneous person, they’re the one being inappropriate. (Sometimes a half-truth or a little white lie is necessary in the workplace. Like saying “yes” when someone asks “did your [opposite-gender partner] make that for you?” if you bring a fancy lunch to a job you can’t be “out” at but it was actually your same/nb-gender partner.)

            If you absolutely feel you owe your coworkers complete honesty, “I like to keep things flexible” or “I prefer keeping my personal life out of the office, thanks” can also work.

  6. Doubling down on these suggestions as someone who used to live “in the boonies”. Even as an introvert, having such a long commute to do ANYTHING (It was 20 minutes to run basic errands; being without a car was not an option) was a pain. There is definitely a thing where people force friendships/interactions because there simply are not that many people around. Those are the vibes I’m getting from LW’s coworker. “Other than my partner, LW is the only person I know out there. Therefore we need to spend time together!” It’s a combination of a convenient solution to not owning a car and sensing they will want someone to hang out with.

    If it were me, I’d never extend car pooling OR dinner dates with this person, because when you’re in an isolated area it becomes a “give and inch and thy take a mile” situation pretty easily.

  7. Regarding non-work activities, is there a chance coworker is looking for local couple friends now that they’re moving? Still say no, but might change the flavor of your refusal a bit if that’s their angle.

    1. That might be a good way to redirect some of the hints about socializing. “If you’re looking to make friends in the neighborhood, I know that (insert thing you never do here) is really popular.” The coworker is probably just looking for connections and if you can point her in the right direction (away from you), she’ll probably leave you alone.

      1. I was thinking that suggesting alternatives might be a good way to both reinforce the boundary (I’m serious when I’m saying no, which is why I’m going to the trouble of suggesting another option) and soften the refusal (I bear you no ill will, which is why I’m going to the trouble of suggesting alternatives in an area I know better). A popular event or gathering place is a good redirect for the social side, and maybe something like the nearest car share service could be a redirect for the transportation side, if it’s more conveniently located than public transit options.

        Realistically, Coworker’s partner is probably also aware of options for coworker, so the point isn’t actually to troubleshoot coworker’s transit or social needs, just to demonstrate there’s no hostility.

  8. Your coworker is not asking about car-pooling since she does not have a car.
    She’s asking for a huge favor and offering to take you out to dinner in payment because she can’t reciprocate by giving you a ride.
    Don’t bring it up first. Let her bring it up so she owns the awkwardness.
    Your schedule is too erratic to make plans ahead and giving her regular rides is simply not possible.
    Then drop it. Only answer questions you are actually asked. Don’t give out fodder for the but..but..but cannon.

    1. Maybe it depends where you live, but I have always used and heard ‘carpooling’ to refer to driving together and paying for gas. Occasionally there is turn-taking, but more often it just means paying for gas.

      Maybe the word is used differently in different places, I don’t know.

      1. I mean I probably would say no to regular carpool too, but it’s hardly a rude or weird thing to ask about.

        1. I’ve heard of situations like this where the non-driver pays *very* generously for gas. And occasional coffees and what not.

          1. Yeah, when we are planning weekend trips my car-owning friends tend to contact _me_ and ask if I want to carpool, since it saves them so much money. And for me it’s still cheaper than a bus in most cases, so it pretty win-win.

        2. Yeah some drivers see it as a real win, if they’re paying out of pocket for gas and parking and that’s breaking the bank. Some people like to have company on a long drive in. But OP doesn’t / isn’t / won’t, so they should just pass.

      2. I’ve always figured that a “carpool” was a group of people who took turns driving, but maybe that’s because our carpool for ballet class as a kid had parents taking turns. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if some ongoing carpool setups only have one driver. It’s probably worth asking for clarification, if someone asks about carpooling, whether they intend to switch off or if they’re hoping to hitch a ride and pay for gas.

      3. Yes, I know many people who would welcome this arrangement. There isn’t anyone wrong with the coworker. They’ve been really polite so far. There isn’t anything wrong with LW either. Different strokes for different folks.

    2. Yep. I take frequent road trips with friends that don’t drive, so I always drive, and they pay for gas. And I’m fine with it. I feel like it’s also a little crappy for the coworker to couple those with invites to hang out, as though getting to have a beer with her/him is your reward for driving them 2 hours roundtrip.

  9. I think this person is definitely sounding you out (in a friendlyish way) as a source of future rides/companionship. And that it’s (probably – depending on their reaction) possible to reply nope-thanks on the same friendlyish level, without any future hard feelings.

    One way of doing this (that worked for me when a neighbour began working close to my workplace ) is to talk enthusiastically about some aspect of your commute that depends on being alone – singing in the car; diverting off to the library or movie whenever you feel inspired; whatever. This (for me at least) was accepted as a tacit “no” without any grudges. Possibly partly because I liked my alternates so very much. So if you’re willing to share in a positive & happy tone of voice something like that it might work for you too.

    I’d also suggest not saying “once a month” or any definite timings – but possibly “sometimes – in an emergency as your plan b until your plan c fires up” making it clear you expect them to have those plans.

    1. I like this approach. You could also start talking about how much you love being so far away from work, so that you can keep your home life really separate from your work life.

    2. Interesting, I actually would lean towards saying “once a month or so” or whatever range the LW can actually be truly okay with, just so it’s clear taht sometimes doesn’t mean once a week. Also, LW, it’s fine if you try giving rides one a month or so and have to change your mind later. It’s okay to say “My schedule has become really erratic, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to give you rides anymore.”

    3. “…in an emergency as your plan b until your plan c fires up” making it clear you expect them to have those plans.”

      IME “plan c” never materializes.

      Personally I don’t like the offering alternatives of what I might do. Then you are stuck with not going straight home. I want to go to/from and not feel like I need to hide out because I fudged something.

  10. As an introvert with a 2+ hour commute for almost three years that I just escaped from, I had people try to carpool a couple times. Twice my parents even tried to set it up. But I loved the alone time I had on my drive, since it was the only real “alone” time I had. My response, which seemed to work, was alway “sorry, but my hours aren’t predictable, and I can’t commit to a carpool.” If they insisted, I usually followed with “I appreciate the offer, but I’d end up leaving you hanging several times a week, if not more.” Usually if they still continued I’d mention how much I value the reading (audiobooks) time I got, since four hours in a car per day could get you pretty far in a book. If they (my parents usually) still didn’t get the “no”, I’d just say I prefer to control my own commute and worry about another person stressed me out. That last one is pretty blunt though, so I don’t recommend it unless you want to burn bridges. I would wait until they ask outright though. Until then, don’t offer. Sometimes politely evading the implied question was answer enough.

    As for mixing work and friends, a polite “sorry, can’t” a couple times usually cuts down on requests.

    Best of luck, LW.

    1. “prefer to control my own commute and worry about another person stressed me out. That last one is pretty blunt though, ”

      … That’s funny, I would have started there, as that is something my parents would understand right away. Cut to the chase.

  11. It’s almost crazy to me how imposing that would be to me. But I’m pretty introverted and need a good deal of alone time to charge, so carpooling with others on my commute is just not an option. I’d just say “sorry, I usually run errands/have other stuff to do/leave at weird times” or whatever. Don’t entertain further conversation about that – if the coworker presses after you say that, then they’re the ones making it weird.

  12. My read of the letter is that the coworker hasn’t been particularly upfront about her needs/desires regarding carpooling and is kinda sorta hoping that the LW will step in and provide a (free!) solution to her transportation needs. There are two ways of dealing with this – play dumb, offer nothing, wait until she either directly asks or fucks off and figures out her own transport. Or, be confront her hinting etc and straight up tell her that you can’t schedule your in office days around her schedule and she needs to figure things out on her own. If she is relying on you for transport she needs to actually ask, instead of hoping you’ll offer. I don’t have much of a solution to the problem of her wanting to socialize outside of work, hopefully she will take a hint and not be too pushy about hanging out.

    1. I don’t think that asking what the LW thinks of carpooling more often when she moves is indirect at all. And there’s really no indication that’s she’s relying on the LW for rides. It sounds like she’s trying to sound out the LW to figure out what her options are, which seems very reasonable to me. LW just needs to indicate that she’s not up for carpooling or outside-of-work socializing.

      1. Yeah, she has asked pretty directly. And so far there doesn’t appear to be anything to suggest it’s anything more than a question, or that she wouldn’t take a no just fine.

      2. Also, OP might *want* to carpool and split gas, for all Coworker knows. It sounds like Coworker asked to feel things out. Some people would jump at the chance to have company and less expenses. Ditto with non-work hangouts, some people would love that. I personally prefer to have friend-friends and coworkers, but everyone is different! I think Captain is right-on with how to respond above.

    2. It sounds like LW’s coworker is already to the ‘asking directly’ stage. The playing-clueless strategy can be pretty useful when someone is pressuring you by dropping hints around a subject, but I don’t think that’s the scenario we’re looking at here.

      1. I feel like people are ascribing unkind motives to the coworker here (and I say this as someone who would never carpool). It sounds to me like they’ve Used Their Words and asked how OP feels about carpooling, and it’s not a crime to wonder if carpooling might be a win-win for both of them. If OP declines and the coworker gets huffy you’d have a case that they’re a jerk, but I think everybody’s behavior is above-board here.

        1. Right! There’s nothing wrong with asking the Letter Writer – “would it be possible to carpool” or wanting to carpool! It doesn’t make the coworker a bad or even an annoying person. So the LW can just answer the request freely.

          1. Agreed, on the surface there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

            There are some people (::raises hand::) who prefer that people simply do not ask…ever. Not so much because we have to say “no” (there is that) but because it makes us feel imposed upon, feel bad for saying no, etc., etc., etc. Some of us prefer that people just take care of their own stuff, not ask favors (or carpooling), and we will do likewise.

            So I don’t think anyone is really thinking the coworker is being nefarious, just that maybe some of the other commenters are a little like me in this regard, maybe even OP, and just prefer to not be asked in the first place, which is generating this reaction that seems hostile to the coworker. If that makes sense…

        2. Agreed! I don’t see anything particularly under-the-table about asking a coworker “Hey, I’m going to be living near you soon–how would you feel about potentially carpooling together?” That’s a straightforward question, which is great because LW can give a straightforward answer.

        3. Yeah, I don’t think this is, like, a sinister plot to exploit Letter Writer’s car. Coworker asked if LW wants to carpool and hang out more, LW doesn’t really want to, LW needs some words to politely turn Coworker down and set a boundary without cutting Coworker off completely. Unless there’s a lot about Coworker that LW hasn’t mentioned, there is nothing malicious or even complicated going on here.

  13. Eh, maybe I’m old and cranky, but I’d just say “Oh, no thanks! I don’t like carpooling!”, and not explain further. You might get some “But whyyyyyyyyy”‘s in response, which you can say “I just don’t like it/It doesn’t work for me”, and repeat/subject change/walk away as often as it takes to get the point across.

    It’s ok to say no to requests that other people find Perfectly Reasonable. I’m wondering if that is why you feel like an asshole for not wanting to befriend and drive your co-worker because their request seems “Perfectly Reasonable”. They just want to be friends! That’s Perfectly Reasonable! And friends give rides and meet for dinner, which is Perfectly Reasonable!

    There’s no rule that says you must do things that are Perfectly Reasonable if you don’t like those things. You can just…not do the things, even if they come up with a dozen Perfectly Reasonable Reasons for why you should stop declining to do their Perfectly Reasonable thing.

    My own example of this is that I do not stay overnight at other people’s houses. Being a houseguest is Perfectly Reasonable, but I hate it, so I don’t do it, no matter how strongly people emote about it. “But we’d love to have you! It’s no trouble! Hotels are so expensive! We have a guest room all set up! I don’t see why you have to drive alllll the way back home when you could stay here! So-and-so stays over all the time, and they have X kids and Y pets and Z job responsibilities and live Q miles away and they stay over and so should you, so just stay!”

    No thanks!

    “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!?!”
    Answer: I just don’t like staying at other people’s houses.
    “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!?!”


    Wash, rinse, repeat.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

  14. I think asking if you’re up for carpooling more often is a perfectly reasonable and perfectly friendly question, and saying you don’t think it would work well for you is an equally perfectly reasonable and perfectly friendly answer.

    Basically I think the LW is way overthinking this. Which I can understand, as I am sometimes an overthinker myself and it’s easier to say ‘don’t overthink this’ than to do it.

    But basically I think you should just tell her you don’t think that would work well for you, and then move on to another topic.

  15. I would not want to leave this open at all, not once a month or when it aligns or sometimes we’ll go to dinner. Especially not with someone moving in down the street. I don’t want to be their back up plan whenever their partner is busy or if they have a fight or something. I don’t want them “popping by”. I don’t want them trying to piggyback on my schedule and potentially making it difficult for my manager to keep giving me the same flexibility. And I don’t want them in my car talking to me for an hour.

    I wouldn’t initiate the conversation myself because I’d be hoping they’ll shut up about it. But if (when) they brought it up again, I’d say ‘yeah, I don’t carpool. It doesn’t work for me.’ and ‘That’s nice of you to ask, but I don’t mix work and social life. I won’t be offended when you guys throw parties and don’t invite me.’ Aiming for pleasant but distant.

    And honestly, I’m very touchy about this because of past bad experiences, but someone asking a lot about my schedule puts my shoulders to my ears and would probably get a very flat ‘i don’t know.’ or an ‘i prefer to play it by ear’ along with the frozen smile that says you are in dangerous territory, back away slowly. That seems to be what people interpret it as, at least. No one needs to know my schedule except my immediate supervisor. No one needs to know my schedule in order to arrange a meeting or get something accomplished. They can tell me when they’re available. They can tell me this is due by x date or they can ask me if I can have it done by y date. Clearly that isn’t true for all jobs and situations – which is why I don’t have those jobs in those situations, and I recognize how lucky I am to have managed that.

    LW, might be my own warped perspective, but to me it didn’t sound like you’d consider being this person’s friend if they weren’t a coworker, and you don’t want to set up monthly dinners. So don’t.

    As Audrey Hepburn says in Funny Face “You don’t have to be friendly to work together. Acquainted will do.”

  16. Just say No! …or whatever works for you.

    I love Captain Awkward. But sometimes I see posts like this that make me CRAZY.

    What’s the problem? What’s the question?

    LW has straight-up said their co-worker ASKED.

    When someone ASKS you a question, just ANSWER it. The End.

    wtf? ?????

    1. Um…people vary? A lot of people tend to feel the emotions around them very strongly and have to put effort into not doing so and need support for that. A lot of people are socialized to always try to make everyone around them happy and it can be a hard pattern to break, so guidance is useful.

      1. Also it’s assuming the coworker will be okay hearing a “no.” Some people aren’t, and that means OP has to deal with the pouting or professional backlash at work. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still say NO but it’s not always that easy depending on the personality and power differences at play.

    2. If the co-worker is senior to / outranks LW, power dynamics may come into play. This makes it difficult for LW to say no.

    3. There’s a great post on Metafilter about Ask Culture v. Guess Culture. Say an Asker and a Guesser both want something (say, they’d like to visit a friend in a distant city, and stay overnight in their house). Askers will bluntly ask the friend if they can come over, and accept that “no” might be the answer. Guessers will suss out the friend’s emotions, make calculations, quietly drop hints, and if they’re doing it right, the FRIEND will invite the Guesser over themselves. The Guesser would never ask directly if they thought that “no” was a possibility, and they determine that by a careful reading of the other person.

      LW sounds like a Guesser – she’s trying to carefully and politely avoid hurting Coworker’s feelings by anticipating possible issues and planning accordingly. That’s not a bad thing; sometimes Guessers need to be told that it’s okay to be upfront about boundaries instead of living life like it’s a Game of Thrones RPG (and, conversely, sometimes Askers need to learn tact).

      1. I get how that works, and I can definitely see good points to both cultures. I think the thing that tends to annoy me is if someone is trying to use Guess/Offer culture to feel me out and hint, and I can tell they want something but can’t tell what, and I feel tense. Or if I think they might be hinting at something, but it’s something I don’t want to do, so I want the hints to stop, but because it’s all indirect I don’t know how to make it stop.

        1. Thanks bemusedlybespectacled! I’ll have to look for that on metafilter. I was aware of this dynamic but didn’t have terms for it.

          This has been a BANE of my Existence! I was born in an Ask culture, then at aged 11 was moved to a Guess culture. I still hate the Guess culture and Never learned the “rules,” even when I tried. Surreptitiously, of course; god forbid you ASK! (Yeah, I’ve got sarcasm too. Oh, they loved me, there!)

          I just moved away to another Ask culture as soon as I could, ha ha.

          And Kacienna, yes. That’s how I felt in the Guess culture. I think it’s interesting that your reply to my post made it seem like you’re more of a Guesser, but your response to bemusedlybespectacled reflects more how I feel when someone is just hinting around and I don’t know for what. Tense!

          As for what you first said about people feeling the emotions of others strongly: I do! But, as an Asker, it also bothers me that people want to leave things unsaid, and you’re not supposed to ask, but then you’re supposed to worry about their emotions around it.

          Even if it’s just a simple question.

          Want to carpool?

          Frankly, given the original question, I’d probably say: No, don’t count on me. I only go to the office once or twice a month, sporadically. I’ll tell you if that changes.

          Because I DO care about people’s feelings. I just want to say where I’m coming from and I expect them to do the same.

          Mutual respect. Mutual understanding.

          If you JUST SAY IT!

          1. I’m more Ask Culture by nature and also really sensitive to the emotions around me and yet also as subtle as a brick. It’s a really fun combo 😛

          2. Yeah, having things unsaid and having to guess what other people want would feel really disrespectful to me, and make me feel constantly anxious. Being clear in your communication is to me a sign that you respect me.

          3. Kacienna & TO_On — well, we’ve threaded off so much that there’s no Reply button under your posts, so I’m “replying” to the last button I see, under my own last comment.

            TO_On Yes! well said and succinctly. I’m going to try that explanation with the next Guesser I meet.

            …because tho I try not to be, sometimes

            … “I’m subtle as a brick.”

            Ha ha ha, that’s great Kacienna.

            I usually do try to at least smooth the way for Guessers, but sometimes I flip, a la subtle as a brick:

            I thought of a friend, a few months after I had met him (a few years ago). We already had had some Asker/Guesser issues which we had even talked out a bit. And then one day he stopped by and I had some desserts I’d been given to take home from a dinner party the night before. So I had 1 slice each of a few pies and cake. When he would not say which he preferred, I started yelling at him: JUST SAY IT! Just SAY what YOU WANT! JUST SAY IT!

            Yeah, I don’t do that usually, but boy do I wish I could right away whenever I meet another Guesser. Ha ha.

            Thanks for some good ideas and a laugh, guys!

  17. They asked if you’re up for carpooling. The answer is no (as a general rule, at least), and it’s entirely fine to tell them that! You can offer an excuse (such as “I keep an irregular schedule, so I’m not a reliable ride” or “I really rely on my alone time in the car to decompress”), but you can also just say no thanks. There’s no social obligation to carpool with people just because they live near you, after all–it’s totally fine to politely turn it down!

    I personally think that worrying about them trying to socialize a lot is probably overthinking it at the moment. This coworker hasn’t actually invited you to do a specific social thing with them yet, have they? They’ve only hinted that maybe you can hang out. “Let’s hang out sometime!” is the kind of comment that…well, it can be sincere, but it’s often more of a social glue thing, where people say it to be friendly and show goodwill towards someone without necessarily intending to ever make concrete plans. If it stays vague like that, you can probably answer with a smile and assume it won’t happen. If they do actually make a more solid invitation, you can follow the same strategy as above–either make your excuses (“I’m crazy busy this weekend!”), or just say no thanks. “I prefer to keep work and home pretty separate” is a reasonable boundary to set here.

    1. I agree. So many people feel this way about work vs life separation that it’s not strange at all to just say “Sorry carpooling won’t work for me or my schedule”. And with the length of your commute that would = spending 2+ hours a day alone with a colleague! And then to additionally do dinner or hang outs on top of that? Honestly that seems so unreasonable to me. I wouldn’t want to spend that much time with a friend of my choosing let alone a colleague.

      In short- a simple, polite ‘no’ here is completely fine!

    2. “This coworker hasn’t actually invited you to do a specific social thing with them yet, have they?”

      Possibly: “This is coupled with suggestions to hangout/do non-work stuff together.” That could be either the general suggestion you’re imagining or specific asks like, “Would I be able to ride to/from work with you next Tuesday? We can get dinner together afterwards!”

      Either way, LW can set that boundary, as you note.

  18. “Feel like a jerk for saying no.”

    There it is in a nutshell. You almost don’t need the rest of the letter. The universal advice is: Don’t feel like a jerk for anything. (Maybe for intentionally inflicted cruelty, but I hardly think not becoming the regular taxi service for someone who has made a rash decision qualifies.) (And I do think moving without having a plan for how one will get to work is a rash decision. I did it once and am still shaking my head at my naivety or stupidity or something 30 years later. Your co-worker will work something out and learn better as I did.)

    I wonder if we’re seeing another example of ask culture/guess culture here. Co-worker may be feeling out the situation before asking. LW would be providing a service by directly saying no before the question is asked.

    1. Also when you do favors for people solely because you don’t want to tell them no, it can make you resent them and impact your replationship.

      1. So so so true. It’s really not the fault of the asker, but as a reformed people-pleaser, I would love for people to never ever ask anything remotely presumptuous of me—if I see the option to perform a favor, I’ll offer if I want to and I’ll stay quiet if I don’t.

        If I don’t offer, it usually means I don’t want to do it, not that I was unaware of the asker’s dilemma.

        1. The flip side of this is that as a Ask-culture absent-minded nerd, it’s quite enough for me to keep track of My Stuff, and I expect other people to keep track of Their Stuff and let me know if they could use some help.

          I am, in fact, usually oblivious to the asker’s dilemma. It would get neatly filed under “Not My Problem” (and then subfiled under “entertaining stories” or “trash/forget”), assuming it was brought to my attention at all. Subtle hints, indirect mentions, and things merely happening in my general vicinity are usually background noise in favor of whatever is actually occupying my brain, like the historical non-fiction I happen to be reading or the logistics of my latest home improvement project.

          I’m quite happy to help with a wide range of things! But they’ll have to ask, and be specific. Preferably with dates and times and once details are agreed-upon they should be written down. And be prepared that as several people have mentioned, sometimes the answer will just be “No, sorry, can’t help you with that.” So I’m on the side of “Coworker has, in fact, asked, OP just needs to say a clear ‘no’ without any guilt and move on.”

      2. Yes, as someone often ascribed with a strong personality, I’d much rather someone tell me directly that they don’t want to do something than say yes and resent me (or say yes, keep making excuses, and leave my guessing at their feelings). The kindest thing here if giving coworker a direct, tactful answer.

  19. Dear LW, I have encountered a problem just like this, too. When I began my studies in the local university I got to know this woman of my age. I was somewhat older than the other students since I was changing careers at the time, just like she was and we did have many things in common. I did not mind hanging out with her in the university at all, the problem was that she would have wanted to talk with me in the phone every single evening for like an hour – and I HATE talking in the phone (there are a few exceptions to this rule, mainly a couple of really old friends and a few older relatives, but she was not among those). I do like interacting with people but I also desperately need my own time and I also want to focus to the things at hand; when I am studying I want to focus on the studies, when I am at home I want to focus on my family, continue studying or working with one of my other projects. I am not an introvert, but definetely not an extrovert either, so an ambivert, I guess?

    Your way of organizing your time sounds just like my way, too. You are sticking to your boundaries which gives you an opportunity to be well and recover from the work day in the peace and quiet of your home. That does not make you a jerk but exactly the opposite: that makes you a person who cares about their wellbeing and performance at work.

    Still, I cannot really blame this Coworker, either: they clearly like you, which is in itself a good thing. Still, The Captain is right and the advice and the scripts she has given are great. You are doing the right thing when sticking to your boundaries; you know you need to rewind after work.

    In your shoes I might leave it to the Coworker to approach you about the subject, but have the answer ready. In my opinion you can just tell them the truth: that you are an introvert and that you need your own time. Well, of course this is easy for me to say; I live in a corner of the world where being introvert is very much appreciated and it is almost the norm; I have understood things are very different in the US.

    Perhaps, if you want to begin letting the Coworker down easy beforehand, you can start to emphasize your workload and your need to work from home quite often, unexpectedly. Depending on how closely you work together you can even exaggerate how much your current project/a new project taxes you, no matter how much you enjoy the project. Just nip this thing in the bud.

    Keep enjoying your YOU time; I am doing exactly the same thing here. This is one of my last days of my vacation and I love it that I am spending it in my own room (I am so priviledged to have a room of my own) with two of my cats, silently purring in the background. Yay for chosen solitude.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  20. As a Guess Culture-raised, introverted, work-vs.-home-firewall-building, car non-owner, I would just like to apologize amidst my cringing. This is exactly what I try not to be. We are not all like this. #notallnondrivers?

    I get a lot of “so why don’t you just ask for a ride?” from people with cars. (“You took an hour-long walk/bus ride for our offsite meeting? Why?” Because cars don’t grow on trees and don’t get me started with Uber’s business practices? Perspective, what’s that?)

    Anyway, THIS. That’s why I believe that one should not ask for rides unless you have a legitimate disability preventing you from being mobile on your own. That’s fine, of course. Not mentioned here, so I assume that is not the case.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. Ask-ish Culture, introvert, strong work-home boundaries, car-haver here 🙂 I would be okay with being asked clearly and directly “Can you give me a ride to this [one-time] thing?” or “Would it be possible for us to carpool x days per y?” and then giving whatever answer I wanted to give. I think what would make me uncomfortable in the LW’s situation is the sense, intentional or not, of being felt out, of the coworker trying to figure out the LW’s availability instead of just asking. It would make me feel like the coworker was trying to cut off my escape routes, though I can see how for others it might look like the coworker was politely trying to figure out if it would be okay to ask.

      I think the fact that the coworker has indicated a non-reciprocated desire for friendship also makes it feel awkward. Doesn’t really affect what the LW needs to do to enforce their boundaries, but it is definitely awkward when someone wants a closer relationship than I do. It’s a sort of awkward that’s an inevitable part of life, I think, but it’s still awkward.

      Of course, that absolutely doesn’t mean you need to ask for rides if you don’t want to!

      1. “It would make me feel like the coworker was trying to cut off my escape routes…”


    2. I’m getting off the topic of the original LW and on a bit to ask culture/guess culture. I hope to help Apple Tree feel a little less like cringing. I’m absolutely Ask Culture. Over the years I’d sometimes be annoyed with someone who seemed to me to be vague and weird about favors and invitations. When I learned about ask culture/guess culture (from this blog), my reaction was NOT “my way is right and their way is wrong.” My reaction was “that explains so much!” It was like understanding for the first time that I speak English and English feels very natural to me, but I would never say that people who speak French are doing it to annoy me. I understand that it’s a different language, that’s all. And sure there will be moments when some clarification is in order to avoid misunderstandings, but knowing that there are different languages is a huge help. So if you feel like cringing, you don’t have to. Guess Culture is completely legitimate if you’re with a bunch of people who all speak it, just the way speaking French with a bunch of other French speakers is the right way to go.

      1. Totally agreed on how the communication styles feel. If I’m *offered* a ride, I will take it. I will not ask, nor resent anyone for not offering. I figure if they wanted to, they’d offer.

        I kind of feel like it should be Ask Culture vs. Offer Culture. But memes are memes.

        But. Yes. Off-topic.

      2. The analogy with languages works to a point… But I don’t think it’s actually truthful to take as given that every single tradition or custom in every single subculture is equally valid. Some things are just disfunctional, and you can acknowledge there may have been historical reasons why a custom developed without pretending it works equally well.

        I don’t know if this example is particularly extreme or the best example of this, but I don’t believe, much as I’d like to, that these are always equally functional ways of communicating (or of deliberately not communicating, as it sometimes turns into).

  21. I vote for just telling them carpooling would not be possible. I had a coworker that moved to my neighborhood and then just started showing up at my house asking for rides to places, but not work. It was like she had a way to work but if she wanted to go to town on Sunday morning, she would walk over to my house and knock until someone came to the door (I sleep in on Sundays and this would be at like 8am). I started hiding my car in the garage and letting her knock for 20 or 30 minutes (seriously) before finally giving up. After a few months of this I sat her down at work one day and told her that she had to quit coming to my house at all hours, asking for rides and knocking on the doors for so long. I told her that I wouldn’t be giving her rides to work and she needed to stop because it was disturbing my family life. She got upset but she quit doing it.

  22. I would shut down the idea of carpooling with a quickness. The coworker may very well have mentally been banking on carpooling with you, which is not your fault, and shouldn’t have factored into their decision to move to your neighborhood.

    I feel like carpooling would be really hard to walk back to if you agreed to it – as in, what if you start carpooling and you find out they’re chronically late? What if they’re a chatter during car rides and you just want to read your audio book? What if they dawdle while leaving the office? And personally if I had a flexible schedule I just wouldn’t want the idea that someone else is depending on me for rides dangling over my head.

    Also, I think it’s a little in bad faith for the coworker to be casually asking you about your schedule. If they want to ask you to carpool, they should just ask, instead of putting the onus on you to figure out what they’re asking and then offer.

    1. The LW definitely doesn’t have to carpool if they don’t want to, and it sounds like they don’t. But it’s absolutely fine to pull out of an arrangement that isn’t working. “Coworker, carpooling isn’t working for me; I’m going to be commuting on my own, starting [date]”

      1. I totally agree – I’m just saying, I think the potential for awkwardness/hurt feelings is higher if you agree to a carpooling arrangement and then want to end it versus never starting it in the first place.

    2. They did just ask, though, according to the letter. They asked how the LW felt about carpooling more often. That’s a pretty direct question.

  23. LW,

    I’m a disabled non-driver. Some years back, when my disability was new, a friend (who was also a neighbor and coworker) ended up being my informal ongoing carpool to a set of appointments I couldn’t easily reach by bus. After many months of this, she pulled back, explaining to me that she didn’t mind driving me for specific events, but she was uncomfortable knowing that she part of a regular transit infrastructure upon which I relied.

    While I admit it took me several years to truly understand her reasons, I was _so_ grateful that she just told me what her limits were, instead of leaving me to guess. In fact, there were other aspects of friendship boundary-drawing about which she was not so clear, and the guessing process was painful and left a distance that, many years later, still lingers. But the carpooling conversation was straightforward, and that was wonderful.

    I’ve been burned so many times by people who cheerfully said “oh no, it’s fine!” until suddenly it wasn’t, and I discover after the fact that I’ve been apparently imposing for months or years. I’d always rather know in advance.

    If your coworker is anything like me “I don’t mind giving you a ride once a $TIMEUNIT if there’s a specific need, but I can’t be part of someone’s regular commuting schedule” is a fine thing to say. Of course it will likely be awkward in the moment, because that’s hard to avoid, but it shouldn’t be awkward in the long run.

    Good luck!

  24. Let me address the dinner part of the question.

    I remember in my awkward no-car days I asked a friend for a bi-weekly lift to a hobby group we were to attend. I straightforwardly offered to pay for gas. She straightforwardly said she’d rather I just took her out now and then. Because I worshiped her (long story), I was sure she knew everything about every etiquette situation, that her way had to be right, and that I’d committed some horrible faux pas in offering to pay. It didn’t occur to me that she was just stating her personal preference and wasn’t speaking to the One Right Way.

    If were just feeling out if a co-worker might be amenable to giving me a lift to work regularly, I’d want to make the initial bid as flexible as possible. Remember that at this point, co-worker is thinking that LW might love the idea. Co-worker doesn’t know that the answer is no. So Co-worker suggests in a subtle way some possibilities. Co-worker is thinking maybe LW would be insulted by being offered cash for each ride. Maybe LW could be miffed at the idea of being used as a taxi service and would rather be thought of as a friend who gets taken for dinner instead of a strict payment.

    This doesn’t change the advice just to say no. Maybe it changes the (possible) perception that Co-worker is wrong for asking.

    1. I watch too many Judge shows but I would not accept money for rides. It can give you liability issues and your insurance carrier can get cagey should you have an accident with a paid passenger.

  25. I’m hoping that the co-worker will ask in a respectful way that makes it easy for LW to decline. Like, “I would be interested in carpooling if you would, but I’ll also totally understand if that’s not your thing.” That’s the way I would ask, at least.

  26. I am very extroverted and friendly, and I can see myself doing this, so maybe another perspective might be helpful? My thought process would be along the lines of:

    “I got a ride with LW a few times and it was nice! Why not arrange something that’s nice AND convenient for both of us! Also, we are going to be neighbours, so maybe if I find a good coffee shop/happy hour/other activity, LW would like to join me sometimes!”

    To me, stating interest in hangouts with a new neighbour would be a friendly thing to do. If LW stated disinterest, or didn’t reciprocate/solidify attempts to hang out, I’d stop trying. I wouldn’t need a reason and would actually find it very weird if LW gave me a long list of reasons beyond “I like my alone time/like to keep work separate.” If I ask someone to hang out it’s usually because I like their vibe and also coffee and why not combine the two?

    TBH I’m surprised at how people are ascribing semi-nefarious motivations to the LW. Obviously if Coworker won’t hear no, whines, gets hostile at work etc, all bets are off. But it could also be that they like the LW and wouldn’t mind cutting their commute time down. Maybe there are some details I’m missing, but it seems odd to me to assume Coworker is looking to like, hustle the LW because they got a feel for a carpool arrangement and suggested getting food.

    1. I appreciate that you would just stop trying. I don’t speak for all introverts of course but everything you mentioned is making me hyperventilate with anxiety just reading it. IME lots of extroverts *dont* stop trying.

      Your “friendly” thing to do (I get that) is my “oh god I wish she would stop asking me to hang out/give her rides/do stuff together. Now I have to say no again. Why does she keep asking me/putting me in the position to need to say no?”

  27. Choking over “a person who was obviously wanting to ask a coworker out gets embarrassed when the coworker is like ‘Let’s just keep it professional, Kyle’ and pretends that was never what they wanted.”

    …because my coworker Kyle DID ask me out and I accepted, and when it went poorly and I declined to further the relationship and attempted to keep it professional, he had a tantrum in my text messages about how he never just wanted to f*** and I was a terrible person for making assumptions and blah blah blah. (A coworker-friend later shared with me how Kyle was talking about me and it was blatantly disrespectful — nice obvious cover-up there dude). Hopefully you get the polite embarrassed rather than the tantrumming embarrassed!

  28. I am surprised by the number of posters who assume that carpooling = conversation. I’ve had several carpooling arrangements over the years, and in all of them the expectation–never explicitly discussed–was that we would turn on a selected-by-the-driver radio station and keep our mouths shut beyond a simple, “Good morning, thanks for the ride.”

    There are lots of perfectly valid reasons not to want to carpool, starting with the most basic: “I don’t want to.” But I wouldn’t assume it’s an activity only suitable for extroverts.

    1. Interesting! I would actually find that really uncomfortable. I’m an introvert, but if I’m with people I know, I feel weird not talking with them, unless we’re together for at least a couple hours.

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