“I’m sorry, I just couldn’t ignore my neighbor! I didn’t know I’d run into her!” my good friend A. said as she ran into the cafe one hour after our scheduled meeting time. I’d traveled 200 miles to visit her in her hometown and had pulled out a book a long time ago to wait.
“She might even call me in a moment, so I’ll have to answer,” A. added, pulling her phone out and putting it on the table between us.
“Uh, what if you call her when we’re done hanging out?” I suggested, feeling frustrated that a phone call was more important than me.
A. looked at me in horror. “She’ll get mad at me if I do that! She’s my neighbor, so I can’t blow her off. Besides, I really like her.”
Is A.’s story familiar? Do you ever over-book yourself, or have trouble saying that you are busy, because you want to be friends with everyone?
Are you worried about not being able to hang out with people that you really like, because you are worried they’ll stop liking you? Do you have trouble telling your friends, “Sorry, I can’t make it”?
Here is your mini-guide to help navigate this situation.
Step 1 – Express excitement for the invitation.
“I’d love to hang out….”
“Thanks for the invitation….!”
“I’m so happy to see you!”
Step 2 – Draw a clear time boundary
“I’ll be free after [ insert time ]….”
“I can hang out until [ insert time ]….”
“I’m free between the hours of……”
Step 3 – Try to figure out an alternative time to hang out if nothing works.
“What if we meet on Wednesday then?”
“Can we hang out some other time next weekend?”
“Can I call you later?” [then – DO IT!]
Let’s look at how this could have worked with A.:
[Step 1] “Hey, neighbor! I’m so happy to see you!”
[Step 2] “I’d love to talk, but I’m running to meet my old friend. I haven’t seen her in a year! …..Can I call you after 3pm?”
[Step 3] “Oh, well, if you’re not around after 3pm, I’ll give you a call anyway and leave a message so we can get in touch soon.”
DOs – how to keep and appreciate your friends
* DO follow-through. If you say you’ll call, then call them.
* DO acknowledge all the invitations you get with a “thank you.”
* DO suggest an alternate hang-out time/date. Be specific so people know you are serious.
* DO invite them to a different event if you turn their invitation down.
DON’Ts – the fast way to lose friends
* DON’T ignore an invitation just because you’re scared of saying “I can’t make it.”
* DON’T get defensive while you turn the invitation down. You’re making it into a bigger deal than it really is.
* DON’T let your ego get in the way of contacting your friend in the case that you forgot to call them back soon enough. (“Ohhh, I want to hang out with her but I’m afraid she’s mad at me because I didn’t call her back!” — get over it.)
Finally, the bottom line is — always suggest an alternative, whether it is in the moment, or in a later phone call.
Your friend will get the message – you really do want to see them, but you happen to be unavailable at that time.
It’s easier than ya think. You can do it!