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In my experience, living by the motto, "I don't just hang out," is easier said than done. Sure, there are some brave souls who will ask me out on a date, but typically relationships begin with some kind of unclear variation of hanging out.

You know how it goes: You both know it's more than friends, but he isn't verbally committing to that. But then again, neither are you. Giving a guy a chance typically requires me to acquiesce to some kind of lingering question mark.

It can feel like if I don't give a guy the noncommittal space he needs, I may miss the chance to convert him into actual relationship material. And hey, plenty of women have done it!

The truth is, no matter how much we bemoan the crises of gumption among single men, as long as we are going along with the status quo, we are contributing to a dating culture that has ditched clarity and intentionality for ambiguity and a total lack of direction.

Luckily, we don't have to choose between hanging out and being single forever. Here are five tricks for introducing clarity and magically turning a hangout into something more like a date.

01. Take it public.

As I'm sure you have experienced, the "let's hang out at my place" tactic, unfortunately, did not die in college. That's right, twentysomething and even thirtysomething men still think the best way to assess a potential mate is to invite her over to his place to "watch a movie." Sigh...

Meeting a guy at your place or his before you have clearly established what the heck is going on is the trademark of a hangout and the gateway to a hookup. If he suggests that you come over and watch some TV (like old buds—even though you know it's more than that), suggest going to the movies or grabbing a drink at a bar instead. This maneuver is a gentle reminder that you want things to be a bit more formal, and it encourages helpful conversation.

02. Set a schedule.

Another hallmark of The Hangout is a lack of schedule. On a date, you know exactly when you are meeting; you aren't waiting for your date to show up or text when he is ready.

To help nudge a hangout toward a date situation, don't settle for an undetermined start or end date. If he suggests "sometime this evening" let him know you need an actual time because you have a life outside of waiting around for him. OK, maybe don't say exactly that, but that is the intended message. Having a schedule helps keep your meet-up intentional and cuts out some elements of the ambiguity.

03. Don’t get physical.

The only thing worse than walking into a hangout wondering if you are on the same page is walking out of a hangout after making out and wondering if you are on the same page.

Spare yourself the added confusion and skip the physical stuff. If you’re not having the "I had a really nice time..." conversation as he drops you at your door or walks you to your car, chances are whatever just happened between you wasn’t really a date.

04. Ask to clarify.

Sometimes a guy you have known for a while will text you and ask if you want to grab a drink. It's completely normal to wonder if this is a friend thing or a date, and it's not being awkward or pushy to get a little clarification before you agree.

The way he asks can shed some light on this question, so listen closely first before you ask. "Hey, want to grab a drink sometime this week?" has the telltale hangout ambiguity, whereas something like "Can I take you out for a drink on Saturday night?" has much more detail and can safely be assumed to be a date.

05. Leave the ball in his court.

The noncommittal guy is an expert at putting the ball in his admirer's court. Letting you pick the time and the place makes his interest in you so much less obvious. Which works out for him, in case it turns out he isn't.

I have been there, and I know it is all so much easier to just take matters into our own hands. But, turning a hangout situation into something much clearer means showing him that you can play ball, too. If he suggests hanging out and asks where you want to go, tell him you would be happy with whatever he picks—and leave it there. Finish with a solid and definitive pass pack, "Give me a call when you have figured out when and where! Looking forward to it."

I know these tips might feel insignificant, but they are big steps forward when it comes to having an actual date and sending men the right message on how to proceed.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Chung