RSVP is a Verb
Répondez s'il vous plaît
In the context of social invitations, RSVP is a request for a response from the invited person or people. It is an initialism derived from the French phrase Répondez s'il vous plaît, literally "Reply if you please" or "Please reply".
This is what you learn when you type into Google, “What does RSVP mean?” Ahem, I know what it means but I wanted to get it from a trusted source and I tend to trust Google more than I’ve ever trusted a human being in my life (j/k) but really…hmm, that’s probably a topic for another post.
Anywho, let’s talk about something that’s been grinding my gears lately, and yes, that is a Family Guy reference. I enjoy big belly laughs while watching that show and I could care less if that changes your opinion of me.
To remind you, I work at a Top 15 university and part of my job includes developing educational programs for undergraduate students. 95% of my time, I really love my job and the students are the best part of it all. However, what I began to notice within the 18-22 set and have continued to observe in the beyond 22 crowd (I’m 32 and doing it well.) is that people no longer show any respect for the RSVP. It has fallen into the pile of things that are heavily underutilized. That pile also includes signal lights in Tennessee, the phone to actually make calls, the ability to ask people out on dates, and razors during No Shave November.
What I have found is that people respond to an invite with an enthusiastic, “YES!” or not at all. Now, I haven’t really tested this in the paper realm of things but when it comes to electronic invites, we are really slippin’ on our RSVP game. I blame all of this on Facebook. Thanks Mark Zuckerberg! I’m an OG on Facebook joining in 2005 and back then the event feature didn’t exist. Now, we all have the power to create events and invite selectively or just your entire “friends” list to your birthday party, opening, fundraiser, watch party, baby shower, donor drive, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, happy hour, gender reveal party, the day you woke up on time, that one time you escaped work without banging your head against the wall, your prison release celebration and so on and so forth. So what happens? People get an invite and feel special and while still on that dopamine high that one experiences upon receiving social media notifications, they eagerly hit “Going”. Congratulations, you’ve just RSVPd “Yes”. The person on the other side of this event, the person who is expending psychological and financial resources on this event just became really excited because you, their “friend”, just agreed to support them at this event. Hell yeah! This person, is coming and I won’t be there all by myself. Praise Him or Her or whatever you praise when you get excited.
Let’s fast forward to the actual event. Person B, event creator, is expecting you to be there along with the other 50 folks who hit “Going” with more enthusiasm than people ever show in voting booths. “This is going to be rad”, thinks Person B, “50 of my woes are coming to this event.” And guess what, at the end of the event perhaps 15 of your woes have rolled into the scene. You planned for 50, you paid for 50, you’d gotten your heart set on 50, you’d promised the club owner 50, and you got 15. WHERE IN THE HELL WERE ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE? Oh, wait, there they are over on Instagram at other events having the time of their lives. Dagger! Dems fighting words or rather pictures.
The other response is “silence” which signals, “I’m ignoring your invitation and don’t even care enough to reject this opportunity.” --Avoidance is always the right answer, amirite?! Oh, and I'm lazy. Ick.
Have we all simply become commitmentphobes?
Obviously, I took this question to the precious pumpkins that I get to have in my life aka college students who simultaneously make me feel 19 and 89.
“What’s up with that?”
A few responses—
“I mean, I say that I’m going on Facebook because it shows that I support my friend and the event. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m actually going to go.” –This is when I begin to feel 89. The ultimate form of support would be to, oh I don’t know, ACTUALLY ATTEND THE EVENT! The other, way more mature thing to do would be to honestly RSVP and then send your friend a note (text, email, stationery for all my adorable ones who leave me cards on my desk and under my door –love!) explaining that you can’t attend because other parts of your life are occurring at the same time along with statements, like and such as, you’re awesome and I’m so happy you’re having this event. Let’s get together soon and celebrate (whatever was happening at the event) OR let me know how I can be a part of the cause in another way.
Just my two cents. I’ve only been in the game for 32 years.
“I would have gone but I didn’t know anyone else who was going.” –Okay, I get it. Everyone isn’t an extroverted loner like myself who will literally do anything she wants all.by.myself with the same chest beating zeal of Celine Dion singing the same words. BUT at some point in your existence, I’m going to just need you to get gussied up and put your friend making pants on! I know this sounds nuts, but try meeting a new person. I know, I know I feel a little naughty even suggesting it to you. What I’ve found is that people don’t actually mind meeting other people. You were invited to the same event so there’s got to be some commonality that you’ll find within your network even if it’s just that you go to the same school or both know the host. Smile, say hello, ask a good leading question, and watch how it all unfolds. I have met a crapload of people in Nashville by just showing up and being my sweet southern sarcastic smart successful self. I thought of some other words that begin with 's', but this is LinkedIn.
The last most common response grouping—
“Krystal, I fully intended to go but…
--another event was happening at the same time and I thought I could do both but it just didn’t happen.
-- I was too busy with something else.
-- I mean, I just didn’t feel like going.
For #1 and #2 --You’re doing too much. Just like Drake in “Hotline Bling”, I’m not mad at you for doing too much because you could be doing too much awesomeness, but I need you to become aware of it and act accordingly. Don’t let it have a negative impact on your ability to commit and in the process frustrate others. Essentialism by Greg Mckeown has changed my life. He talks about the power of the graceful “no”. “Remember that a clear ‘no’ can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal ‘yes’. I’d much rather you say no instead of committing dishonestly and halfheartedly by saying yes? <--The question mark is supposed to be there. Read it again with emphasis on the question mark. McKeown reminds us that we live by the inherent assumption “I can do both” and this lead us to a lack of understanding or embracing that in life, there are tradeoffs. By saying yes to something, we are saying no to something else. If you click yes on a gender reveal party, you’re signaling that you’re saying no to the happy hour. You’re also being a damn good friend because I’m not sure I would make the same decision. Doing both is not going to lead to full commitment of you physically or psychologically. That doesn’t seem fair to you or to the hosts. By figuring out what’s essential to your life, focusing not on how to do “more things but more of the right things” you’re going to live a more fulfilling, clear, and purposeful life. You’ll also retain the respect of your peers and not burn bridges that could lead you somewhere essential later in life.
Seriously, read Essentialism. I'd be totally cool if you stopped reading this and read that instead. I believe in it just that much. I'm also pretty confident that you're not going to do that.
#3 –Don’t should yourself to death. Check out this Buzzfeed video. If you don’t want to go, just say “no” and let that be okay. You ain’t got to lie, Craig. That was a Friday reference (excuse the language in the clip). Everything isn’t going to appeal to everyone. You can gracefully decline. Just please, don’t say “YES” and give people the wrong idea. No one actually deserves that in the same way that you don’t deserve having to endure an event that you find to be just awful. Rid your life of FOMO and just enjoy the limited amount of time that you have on this planet. If you want to smooth this over with the host then see that thing about a note that I wrote earlier or when you see them again in the flesh just push that awkward elephant out of the room and apologize for your absence. Unless, there’s actually an elephant in the room and then by god you just enjoy being in the presence of that beautiful creature. Also, probably ask why there’s an elephant in the room and how he/she got there in the first place?
What I know for sure is that life happens and when it does, it can get in the way of your plans. What I don’t get is how we’ve become so immune to the feelings of other humans that when we acknowledge that my life happening impacted their life happening that I can’t even take the time to send a 1 line text, “My apologies. I fully well meant to attend but [insert life happening here]. Then scratch that one off your “Things I feel guilty or awkward about list” or the “Things I was a total jerk about list” and move on with all of the other things occurring in the world.
My office and students plan programs all the time and it can take a great deal of courage and energy to plan an event and invite the world to attend. Your name is on something and the most superficial level of success can only be achieved if there are butts in seats. When folks don’t honor their commitment, it can simply be hurtful. Why would you want to do that to someone?
Advice for the Hosts: The philosophy that was taught to me a long time ago by TJ Sullivan was to “celebrate those who come”. No matter if 2 or 200 people are in the space, show those folks the best time possible. Achieve your event outcomes with those two people and know that you’ve had an impact. Those 2 who had a jolly time will tell 2 more people and when you talk about that event, you let people know that we did it real BIG and you missed it. You always play to a crowd of 1000 even if there’s 1 person in the stands.
All of these words to say that we’ve got to get our RSVP Game back in order. It’s just a basic sign of respect for people in the world who are working hard to make great things happen and plan your social calendar. People want you to be at places—that’s really cool. However, don’t be so overtaken by that rush of happiness that you screw them over in the process. It’s pretty simple, YES or NO. If things change, you often have the opportunity to commit at a later time or uncommit.
Take a moment out of your day to go back through all of those Facebook Invites and update your attendance status. Send notes of regret to those people sweating behind the scenes. Mark some things off your calendar or to-do list and engage in a sigh of relief. Release yourself and others from expectations. I'm not perfect at this but I'm getting better everyday because I know that these events matter. If not to you, then someone else and that's enough for me to start caring and acting like I care.
The RSVP is a powerful tool. It represents not only something that you have in the form of an opportunity and a choice but also something that you do. It calls you to respond. JUST SAY YES or JUST SAY NO (that one’s for you, Nancy Reagan).
Thanks for reading.