DEAR MISS MANNERS: I understand that “We’ll have to get together sometime” is a conventional phrase not to be taken literally. But at what point does a “Let’s make plans” comment become a binding promise?
I say that mentioning a specific activity and date (”I’d like to show you my favorite picnic spot while you’re in town – maybe next Tuesday?”) obligates one to follow through as spoken, and that the other party has a right to initiate further inquiry if more specific details are not confirmed on “schedule.”
Others in my family say that everything is to be taken as a “maybe” until the original party volunteers a specific hour and address, and that if they don’t, it’s rude to ask – that politeness requires letting the whole idea evaporate without comment.
GENTLE READER: We are at a sad moment in society when enthusiasm is mistaken for rudeness.
Miss Manners assures you that either party has the option of making vague plans more firm – or suggesting options – without it being deemed pushy. “Let’s get together” can be politely followed by, “Yes, let’s. My schedule is open next week. Which date works for you?”
If someone does not make an authoritative move, the game of making plans will otherwise go on forever – and that is before all of the inevitable canceling and rescheduling begins. Miss Manners applauds – and certainly does not wish to scare away – any party who is willing to put down stakes. She invites the others in your family to do the same.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a polite way to respond to people who want to know the RSVP deadline after receiving an invitation that does not name one?
I tried saying that I would start calling in a couple of weeks if I did not hear back, and then, when pressed again, I asked if the inquirer needed more time to decide.
Now I’m getting accused of being rude for not giving a deadline. Please give me an alternative; I’m tempted to send them one of your columns, which I know Miss Manners would not permit me to do.
GENTLE READER: Why? Do you think that Miss Manners writes this column in order to practice her typing?
You are indeed correct that giving a deadline to respond to an invitation should not be necessary. For that matter, neither should any specific request for a reply, such as “RSVP.”
What else should one do with an invitation if not respond to it? Frame it?
Miss Manners has long lost that battle, however, and therefore allows requests for reply. But it is not rude to omit a deadline. On the contrary, including one treats adults like high-school students – almost daring them to wait until the last minute.
It would all but tempt Miss Manners to exclude anyone who does not reply, if she had not witnessed the chaos that brings. Still, if you are prepared for a few extra people to show up, it might be a way of making your point. She would rather take that chance, than give up on civilized life.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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