When did saying “I already have plans,” become a “bad” thing? Why are so many people responding “maybe” or not responding at all to an invitation when they actually mean no?
Does the following scenario seem familiar?
“Let’s hang out? Are you free Friday?”
“Sounds fun! I’m not sure if I’m free, but let me get back to you.”
“Did you find out if you’re free Friday?”
“I may be free.”
“Are we hanging out?”
“Please let me know about dinner plans for tomorrow.”
“What’s happening tonight?”
“So sorry, I can’t hang out tonight.”
A recent article described flakiness as a “modern affliction ruining our friendships” and I wholeheartedly agree: this has to stop! In an age when we have so many ways of communicating from social media, to texting to calling to emailing, why has it become so difficult to give a straightforward answer to a simple yes or no question?
I’ve found people are usually flaky for mainly two reasons. Maybe you can relate?
You’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.
Saying “no” can seem a bit harsh, but your friend will probably survive a declined lunch date.
Honestly, what’s probably more frustrating is your lack of response. She just wants to know if she has plans on Saturday night or how many people to make the reservation for or if she should save you a seat or buy your ticket for the show.
If you really are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, you can always soften the blow by explaining further why you can’t attend: “I’ll be out of town,” “I’m having lunch with my parents,” “I have a date,” etc.
In my opinion this is completely unnecessary since “having plans” is an explanation in itself, but if providing a detailed explanation makes you (or your friend) feel better, go ahead and do it.
But, don’t make up a reason because you may end up hurting your friend’s feelings if you’re found out. If you already have plans to watch Netflix all day long (which are legitimate plans) just say that you’re busy.
You can also offer to hang out another time…and actually do it! Scheduling a rain check only works if you go through with your plans so make sure you find a time when you’re both free.
I know sometimes it might be hard to remember that your bestie has other friends, but she probably does. She’ll be okay with the fact that you’re busy and will move on and make plans of her own.
In some cultures, saying “no” indirectly is a part of being polite, but typically in Western culture, we’re pretty straightforward. In fact, according to etiquette books the polite way to decline invitations is to say that “you already have plans” or that “you’re busy.”
You can’t commit.
Maybe the reason why you keep saying “maybe” or never respond is not because you just can’t commit.
If that’s you, bite the bullet…and commit already! It’s not a marriage – it’s dinner, lunch, a concert, [you fill in the blank]. You can commit to a lunch. I have faith in you.
And if you’re not committing because you want your schedule to remain as flexible as possible so you can be free if a better opportunity comes along, that’s just a bit mean to your friend. By not committing you’re giving her a false sense of hope that you might hang out…only to say that you can’t at the last minute, leaving her stuck with no plans. While it may not be intentional, in practice your actions are showing that you think your time is more valuable than your friend’s.
Of course, you’re allowed some time to consider an invitation, but don’t hold out to until the last minute. At some point you really should RSVP, especially to one-on-one invitations which are literally personalized and created for your convenience. We have cell phones…how difficult is it to text back “Sorry. Can’t.”?
But what if I really do mean “maybe”?
OK. Fine, sometimes you might really want to go to a movie, but you’re not sure if your work project will be done on time. Just explain the situation fully to your friend so they understand they can’t rely on you to be present. And then when you do know if you can make it or not, let them know as soon as you can.
In general, I think “maybe” should be a rare answer…since it’s rarely true. If you make “maybe” the exception rather than the rule, your friends will likely be more understanding rather than annoyed by your response.
Remember, it’s OK to decline and say you already have plans. There’s no reason to feel guilty – you didn’t do anything wrong! Not responding at all is worse!
So please, RSVP to those invitations and don’t leave your friend with nothing to do this Saturday.