Make us your home page

Say yes to friend and friendship even if you say no to activities

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Say yes to friend and friendship even if you say no to activities

"Better Plans": I've found lately that when I call friends and say, "Want to get together?" the question becomes "For what?"

I am seeing more and more that people expect friends to be some sort of cruise director and hook them up with the sexiest plans. If they get better ones, they cancel. Many wait until the last minute to accept an invite in case something better comes along.

It's one thing if it's a group meeting up for happy hour, but going to dinner, or going to someone's home where planning comes into play — how is this considered acceptable?

If you ask someone to hang out and they say, "Well, what are you doing?" is it wrong to feel offended? I do. I feel that they should want to spend time with a friend, not be entertained.

Am I being too black-and-white?

Carolyn: I've been getting a lot of complaints about this lately — as if our consumer-mindedness has jumped the borders of commerce and into relationships. (And oh, my, look what it has done for commerce.)

I think instead of going straight to offense, you might try stopping off at a midpoint and seeing how the other person responds:

You: "Want to get together?"

Friend: "Well, what are you doing?"

You: "Idunno, spending time with a friend?"

In other words, give a jiggle to see if that's enough to get them off the rude course and back to a civil exchange. If that doesn't work, it might just be the friend isn't much of one.

Clearwater: Asking what a person is doing may not be rude; it may just be a poorly worded response. The real question may be: "How much will it cost, because I can't afford to shop/go to movies/spend money on anything right now."

Carolyn: How about: "Yes, I'd love to see you. What did you have in mind?"

Then you're saying yes to the friend and friendship, even if you ultimately say no to the plans. You're also completely entitled to say, when the person suggests something out of your price or interest range, "I'm too broke/I get sleepy in late movies/(whatever), how about X instead?"

It's also worth mentioning that there's often some electronic enabling involved, since better gadgets allow more last-minute reversals. Not to blame technology for maturity problems.

Anonymous: Boy, I'm feeling terrible. If a friend calls and asks if I want to get together, I'll often ask what they want to do. I'm not trying to evaluate the entertainment value, but rather whether I want to go.

Example: I have a friend who wants to get together on Friday evenings. If she wants to go to a movie or hang out at either of our houses, cool. But she often wants to add making dinner and going out for drinks, making it more than I can handle after a long workweek. What's wrong with that?

Carolyn: Nothing, depending on the way you frame it. The yes-to-the-friend-and-then-no-to-the-plans approach, above, is a way around making your friendship contingent upon making desirable plans. There's a significant difference in the unspoken message you send.

Say yes to friend and friendship even if you say no to activities 10/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 5:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours