Social etiquette – “I don’t know yet”

Child on phone

I most certainly don’t claim to be an expert on most things social, but the following is something I’ve noticed.  The situation usually goes something like this:

Ty:  “Hey, friend.  Do you have plans Thursday night?”

Friend:  “Hmm… you know, I don’t know yet.  I’ll let you know later.”

On its surface, it seems like a pretty average exchange between peers trying to set up a social outing.  I believe a closer look may reveal unintended messages and patterns.

We all occasionally forget commitments we have, but unless one is truly bad at maintaining a personal calendar, he usually knows if a particular night of the week is booked or not.  Since it’s not common to forget standing obligations or special plans, what could a friend mean when he says, “I don’t know”?  If one is unaware of an existing commitment, is his schedule not open at the time queried?

This is where I could be wrong, but if I don’t have anything planned, I consider my schedule open.  From this perspective, someone saying he doesn’t know if he has plans can seem like a bit of a sleight.  The message received can be, “No, I don’t have any plans, but nor do I want to commit to plans with you; I may find something better to do.  If I don’t, you can be my backup.”  A simple rejection may almost be better, in my opinion.

It’s possible the friend may even just be looking forward to a restful evening, not wanting to plan anything social.  As an introvert, I completely respect that, and I would be glad to have a friend tell me that rather than putting me off.  He may also have tentative plans which he doesn’t want to discuss, lest he feel pressure to invite along the one inquiring.  Perhaps there is some other situation which may require attention that night.  There are many possibilities, but clear and honest communication could almost always eliminate sending the wrong message, unless that message is “you are my backup plan.”

I understand my particular social perspective is limited, which is one reason I write.  Am I off base in how I interpret this situation?  Is it mostly a problem of communication between differing personalities?  Or is my generation’s culture of social commitment broken?

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