When I talk about invitation, I tend to focus primarily on the responsibilities of the person doing the inviting. The reason for this is that they tend to have most of the power in this conversation, so they have most of the responsibility.
There are other people in this conversation, though, and they also bear some responsibility. Like all relationships, the host-invitee relationship is two-sided.
Today we are focusing on what it means to show respect as the person invited.
It basically boils down to two things:
- Having responded, be true to your word.
Regarding response –
RSVP. Do it. Yes or no. It’s just not hard. Here’s the process:
- You receive an invitation. Congratulations! Someone wants you around for something!
- You answer the question – “Do I want to attend?” Be honest. If your answer is “meh” or some deep-seated feeling of dread, go ahead and say no unless it will ruin this relationship to do so (and you also care whether or not you ruin the relationship). If you are already feeling wishy-washy in what is probably that first, most-enthusiastic-you-are-ever-going-to-be-about-it moment, go ahead and decline so that you are not tempted to back out later (i.e., flake – see below).
- You answer the question – “Am I able to attend?” Pull out the calendar (and the budget, if necessary), and see if you are available. All the desire to attend in the world is moot if you cannot feasibly make it happen. For example, I might really want to go to my friend’s baby shower in Seattle, but I probably cannot afford the airfare. Or I have a wedding that same weekend in Dallas. So the answer (sadly) is that I must decline.
- Answer yes or no. I know that Facebook provides a maybe option. And I confess that I have been guilty of using it. But from the host’s perspective, maybe is a useless answer. That tells them nothing. You have basically said, “I see your request for a response, and I am intentionally not responding in any helpful way.” If the answer really is maybe – i.e., you have to check on something and get back to them – it’s probably better to leave it blank until you can confirm a real answer. Please do so as quickly as possible.
It really is that simple. Yes or no. Make your choice, and the earlier you can make it (so that they’re not having to scramble to go to the store when you suddenly say yes the day before), the better.
After you have made your choice, stick to it. We have all been on the receiving end of a flaky friend, so we all know how much that experience sucks. Respecting the host means trying not to be the cause of that experience.
First, let me be clear on what flaking is not.
It is not flaking to call and say, “I have to cancel. I’m sick.” This is presuming, of course, that you are actually sick. Otherwise, not only are you flaking, you are also lying. You’re flyking, which is the worst possible way to flake.
It is not flaking to text and say, “I have to cancel. ______ is throwing up blood, so we’re going to the ER.” That is an emergency. Please skip my dinner party to take care of that. Also, when you get a chance, text to give me updates, because I’m a worrier. Also, don’t text and drive [/end PSA].
Depending on the event, I would even go so far as to say that it is not flaking to OCCASIONALLY say “I am sorry. I had the worst day at work today, and I cannot be around other people one second longer.” Because there are some people who insist on rigidly sticking to a schedule, even though they come into it knowing that they will have a terrible time, and these people often ruin the good time others could be having with their obvious sullenness. Don’t be that person. You get a pass. Go have a nap or a beer with your TV.
You do not, however, get a pass every week. Frequent flaking inevitably sends a negative message. The message might differ slightly depending on various factors (e.g., type of relationship, length of relationship, etc.), but it ends up sounding something like, “You are not important to me, and I do not respect your time.”
[Aside – frequent declining might also give this impression. If you want to avoid that, but you really cannot fit their specific plan into your schedule, propose a counter offer. Pick another time to hang out so that they know that, while you can’t make their specific event, they are still important to you.]
Basically, the encouragement to not be a flake comes down to respecting your host and respecting yourself. Decide who you want in your life and behave accordingly. If you are making plans out of obligation rather than desire, please reassess your decision to do so. Contrary to popular belief, it is not nicer to string someone along, making and canceling plans with them until they magically pick up on the hint that you really don’t like spending time with them. Some people will never get that message, and the ones that do will resent you for it, because in the long run, it’s really a jerk move. It’s better to make a clean break, even though it might not feel better at the time.
What tips would you give to the person on the receiving end of an invitation?