There are some circumstances when you want to know someone’s birthday, and you don’t know how to approach that person.
Perhaps it’s a very important person, or maybe he/she is a difficult person about releasing personal information – or simply you’re a pretty timid person and you doubt if it’d be a good idea to ask them.
The most obvious advice to get the information would be: Go to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever social network, and find out that info there.
But what happens if your target person has a private profile or the person didn’t fill that field of info?
You ask a friend or relative of that person!
But what if they don’t know either or they don’t want to tell you? The only chance you’ll have is to obtain the info directly from your target person…
To ask someone for their birthday be aware of your level of trust, open a conversation with some jokes and stories about birthdays and just bring up the question when you feel it suits in the flow.
The Three Main Rules
First things first. Asking someone to tell you their birthday is different from asking them for a favor; they won’t give you anything, but they’ll expose something that is probably valuable for them in terms of sentiments.
This is because a birthday can have different meanings for everyone, either a sad meaning or a happy meaning.
That’s the reason why it’s key to consider the following before asking someone to give you that information:
1. Measure the type of relationship you have
Or consider the level of trust. This is important because it can affect the type of questions, you’ll need to make to obtain the info you are looking for.
If you have enough level of involvement with your target person, like in the case that you want to know the birthday of an old friend of yours, for example, you can be more direct in the way you approach that person.
On the other hand, if you don’t have enough involvement with that person, like in the case of a coworker or even your direct boss, you’ll need to use some tricks in your questions to avoid sounding rude.
2. Make questions with tricks
Depending on your purposes, you might need to use some psychological tricks to reach your goal.
You could make use of the “pratfall effect” for example. According to studies, people will feel more confident in your presence if you show your flaws sometimes.
This means that you must show that you aren’t perfect, so making the other person feel that you don’t represent a “danger” to them.
Depending on the situation, you could speak about your last birthday party and some anecdotes that happened to you that day – even if it’s just a small light lie – that made you look ridiculous.
The idea is to tell the story from a funny perspective, just to smooth things out and achieve the other person speaking about their own birthday anecdotes – then you ask them about the date you’re interested in.
3. Wait for the right time
Be careful when you ask a question that has to do with sentiments. You need to be a good observer or to be a sensitive person for this.
Don’t ask for someone’s birthday when you know that your target person is living through a hard circumstance, like the death of a relative; neither if they recently had a strong discussion with someone else. These circumstances will make things hard to access the person.
It’s a better idea to wait for things to get calmed down before trying to obtain the information – this can prevent you from getting a negative in the present and in the future.
OK, now let’s practice some techniques and try to grab that birthday info.
In Your Workplace
I can remember a job I had some years ago. I was new in the company and it was a good place to work because it had good vibes all over there. The oldest workers had the custom of making a small birthday celebration for each coworker. There was a celebration each month, with some cake and sodas.
So, one day the secretary just came to my place without knowing too much about me and my preferences, and she simply told me:
“Hey, I need your birthday date because we organize celebrations for each coworker on our own.”
So, I had to accept and give the info because “they put me in a situation where I couldn’t say no”, or I could look way too unfriendly. But she also made the petition in a formal context because it was our workplace.
Apply the same trick. Give a reason and use the right context and the right time to ask for the info you need.
One variation from this method would be to involve your target person in a group conversation. Be sure there are several coworkers, and subtly force them to speak about their birth date.
For example, at lunchtime. You can start a conversation about some trivial personal matters with your coworkers, then start speaking about some anecdote that happened to you at your birthday party. This is with the idea of breaking the ice.
Once you’ve told your story, ask about an anecdote from another coworker.
Continue this way carefully observing the reactions from your target person, until you feel it’s the right time to ask them for an anecdote. At that moment, you hit them with your question about their birthday.
They’ll feel they must participate, or it’ll look like they are unfriendly people.
When You Have Little Time to Know a Person
When you have just recently met a new person – and let’s suppose you feel some attraction – you can ask them directly about their birthday. Of course, you must try first to befriend them!
For this, you can use some psychological tricks like trait transference. It says that when you compliment people, they’ll do the same with you, so it’ll be easier to make friends.
Once you’ve gained enough trust from the other person, try to keep a simple conversation with them about some trivial and personal things.
Once you’ve perceived it’s the right time – you know, when there are tons of laughs – just simply tell them:
“And speaking about everything a little, when is your birthday?”
Do you see? It can be really easy.
Another similar but more subtle method you can apply in case you don’t want to ask so directly would be to start speaking about your birthday. After telling them some of your funniest anecdotes, you can ask them about theirs.
You can initially just ask about the station or the month and gradually push them into a more detailed answer. But if you don’t feel enough trust or you just feel some resistance from the person, don’t be too insistent; wait for a better time.
When You Forgot the Birthday of That Old Friend
And what happens when you have some time without seeing that old friend (cough, cough) for whom you feel something more than friendship? You are both having a nice re-encounter. Suddenly, they say their birthday is getting closer, and Ups! You forgot the exact date!
Oh well, you have thought about asking their relatives, but you want to give them a surprise. But what if their relatives give you away? Better forget about it…
In this particular case, a good idea will be to start speaking about your birth date, then ask them if they remember that special date of yours.
If the answer is “NO”, then honesty is the best option for you. Just go and tell him/her that you also forgot that special date of theirs, but always keep an innocent smile on your face, just in case you’ll be using the mentioned “pratfall effect”, but in an inverse way.
But if you don’t want to see that expression of surprise and sadness on the face of your loved one, and you neither want to hear a phrase like: “Oh! So you forgot my birthday?!”, then better try a different method.
Try speaking about some good moments you enjoyed together in the past, then mention something related to your or their birthday, for example:
“Do you remember when we were in XXX place and all the nice things we did on there? Was it close to…”.
Depending on the context, you say here:
Wait for the answer and then ask:
“Speaking about that, your birthday is in…”.
Say a tentative date/time/station here and finish,
As you can see, is not so hard to get some information that you want from a specific person. It’s just a matter of applying the right techniques and being persistent. Good luck!
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.