Be a Man About It: Handling RSVPs

by Michael on February 25, 2010 · 0 comments

Worth skipping class for, sure, but what about your best friend's hiking trip? Okay, that too.

Worth skipping class for, sure. But what about your buddy's hiking trip? ...Okay, that too.

You’ve seen this: someone organizes an event and requests RSVPs. When event time rolls around, someone no-shows. Maybe a lot of people no-show. The worst is when it’s an event with limited space – you look at empty seats and maybe think about the friend of yours who really wanted to come along, but the event was full. Sometimes the host waits to start, just in case some laggards are running late, but the laggards never show up and you’re now the ones who are running late.

Or on the other side of the coin, you’ve signed up for a class or a group event, and it’s getting close. The afternoon of the event, you feel a little sick. Or that girl you’ve been after calls and invites you for a drink. No big deal, life happens, you can go to the next one, right?

An RSVP is a Commitment

Any time you’re invited and you accept the invitation, you’ve made a commitment. Obviously some commitments are bigger than others – if your best friend asks you to a basketball game and buys tickets, you would probably feel a responsibility to show up. But if you respond to a forwarded Facebook invite to a huge blowout hosted by someone you don’t even know, who’s even to know if you just decide to not go?

No matter the size of the event, your commitment comes with implied responsibility. People do notice when you say you’ll be somewhere or do something and then aren’t there, even sometimes in the largest events. The host of that blowout may have been looking forward to meeting you. A seminar or class might have a waiting list, with people who would be grateful to take that empty chair.

No-showing, or “flaking,” shows disrespect to those who invited you, and in some cases to the other attendees. Enough no-shows and you might expect to become dis-invited to future parties or events.

Manage Your RSVPs

The first step to avoiding no-shows is not to commit to something you’re not sure you’ll attend. I get invited to dozens of events a month – many more than I can realistically make time for – so I only agree to attend what I really want to attend. Everything else I decline. If I decline a personal invitation, I normally add a short note reading something like, “Unfortunately I have a conflict that night. Thanks for the invitation.”

It’s important to respond “yes” or “no” to all invitations, and to do so within a reasonable amount of time so that the host can plan appropriately. Many online RSVPs include a “maybe” button – the best idea is to ignore it. Most people respond “maybe” because either they’re afraid to say “no” or because they’re waiting to see if something better comes along. Instead of a “maybe,” wait to respond when you’re sure you can or can’t make it. You should either commit or decline in a timely manner, period.

If the invitation is handwritten or e-mailed, your response should be sent the same way. If the invitation is second-hand, it’s still a good idea to respond – that way the host may be inclined to invite you directly in the future.

When Something Comes Up

Everyone has had to cancel plans at the last minute. Cars break down, people get injured, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities come up. It’s how you handle these life issues that demonstrates your character.

If there’s still a reasonable amount of time, you can simply change your RSVP. Make sure to include a note apologizing for changing your response, explaining that something has come up, and thanking the host. If time is short, however, you’ll have to contact the host directly. Within a day or two you can safely send an e-mail message explaining the situation, but on the day of the event you should phone. Do this at the earliest possible moment: it’s critical if the host has to do any planning based on the number of guests, or your absence would free up an opening for someone else to attend. And make sure that you have the phone number with you as you drive to the event, in case you have car trouble or are called upon to make a roadside rescue (it could happen).

If the event is a class, seminar or another type of function where you must register, contact the organizer or instructor as soon as you know you can’t be there. This could enable someone on the waiting list to attend, and if you had to pay for the event it might even get your money back.

How You Treat Commitments Defines You

Reputation is cumulative. As a man, you build your reputation by honoring commitments, communicating when there’s a problem, and making the confident, bold move. No-showing is definitely not a bold move. Do it enough and you’ll be known as a flake, and the invitations will stop coming.

If you communicate well, you’ll be well-regarded by friends and strangers alike.

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