Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to be a responsible person: RSVP properly

Most of the ideas for the articles of my "How to be a responsible person" series come through my observation of people's common behavior. One thing that many people fail to do is to RSVP properly.

This actually surprises me quite a lot because it's so easy to do that it's completely unworthy to not do it and hurt your reliability and reputation.

Why RSVP in the first place?

Before talking about how easy it is, let's explore why the annoying host insists on receiving your reply to his/her invitation.

Let's say you are holding a wedding dinner. Usually, you would like to group people who know each other or share the same background in one table so they have common topics to talk about. In order to to do that, you need to know which of the invitees is coming first. If a guest who did not respond to your invitation suddenly shows up, you may have to seat him/her at a table with a bunch of strangers. This situation can be easily avoided if the guest responds to the invitation on time.

There are many other reasons why a host needs your RSVP. For example, if you are holding a birthday party at a decent restaurant that requires reservation, you need to know exactly how many of your friends are attending. If someone arrives unexpectedly, you may not even have a seat for him/her.

Not convinced yet? Alright, another example. You are holding a BBQ gathering at a park and you are the one who prepares the food. How much food should you prepare? Well, you need to know the headcount, at least approximately. If there are more people than expected, you don't have enough food to serve; if there are fewer people than expected, you may end up wasting food (and thus money).

So, if a host asks you to RSVP, don't question and assume that s/he has his/her reasons why s/he needs it.

Steps to RSVP properly

Is it really easy to RSVP properly? Of course it is. Let me show you the steps on how that can be done:
  1. Your friend Valentino invites you to his housewarming party. It will be held on next Saturday from 6 pm to 10 pm at his new home in Beverly Hills.
  2. First, ask yourself this question: "Do I want to attend?" If you don't like Valentino as he always shows off how rich he is, you shouldn't attend even if you happen to be free that Saturday night. Just say "Thank you for your invitation. I regret that I am not able to attend your party. Have fun though!" You don't have to tell him that you don't like him. In fact, you don't even need to give any excuse if you don't want to.
  3. If you do want to attend, check your calendar (I suppose you use one now, do you?) to see if you're free that night.
    1. If you are free, great! Just tell Valentino that you will attend.
    2. If you already promised Leonardo to fix his computer that night, too bad. Well, you can ask Leonardo if you can do it the day after instead. If he needs to go to church on that Sunday and only has time at Saturday night, you still have to live up to your promise and give up Valentino's wonderful party.
  4. Whether you're attending the event or not, make up your mind right away and send a reply. Yes, some invitation may say "Please RSVP by 5/15" so officially you can wait until 5/14 to give them a reply. But, why wait? You already know if you want to go and you've checked your calendar, so you've all the information you need to make the decision. If you wait, you may just forget to reply at the end. In regard to modern social etiquette, it's just rude not to reply to an invitation.
  5. If there is a real emergency (no, "don't feel like going" isn't an emergency) that prevents you from attending, notify the host as soon as possible and say sorry. They may be able to make some last-minute arrangements; the important thing is, however, that you show you care about what you promise.
Can you do the above? I bet you can.

That "Maybe" option...

Many online invitation (like evite and Facebook) service has a third option an invitee can choose beside "Yes" and "No": "Maybe". Honestly, I don't understand why those software engineers would create such an option because this "Maybe"
  • sends the host little useful information on how they should prepare for the event (alright, you have 1/2 chance of attending the event, should I reserve 1/2 seat for you?)
  • gives people a chance not to make up their decisions at all (how many times did you see people changing a "Maybe" to "Yes" or "No"? They've probably forgot that they've to make a decision after a few days)
So, please do not choose that "Maybe" even though it's tempting. Just make up your decision and hit that "Yes" or "No" right away :)

Previous article: "How to be a responsible person: Use a calendar"