DEAR MISS MANNERS: I don't understand when someone asks, "Are you busy tomorrow?" or "What are you doing Friday?" If you say "no" or "nothing," it's like you're automatically free to do them a favor. I find this very rude.
If I want to ask for something, I always say, "Are you busy tomorrow? Because I need a ride to the doctor" or whatever.
How do I counter the assumption that since I'm not busy, I want to do something for them? Sometimes I just want to do nothing.
How can I politely tell someone I don't want to watch their kids or go shopping with them?
GENTLE READER: Your complaint is valid, but for consistency, Miss Manners suggests you revise your own script when you are doing the asking. Opening with "Are you busy tomorrow because ... " is what we are trying to stamp out, even if your construction gives the recipient a few seconds to think up a prior commitment.
The answer, when you are asked about your own schedule, is "Why?" -- which Miss Manners instructs you to deliver with a winning smile, not a suspicious sulk.